Closing arguments were presented in court Thursday in the trial of a former RCMP intelligence director who says he communicated classified information with the subjects of international criminal probes while on a mission to help, not hurt, Canada.
A defence lawyer for Cameron Ortis, Jon Doody, addressed the jury in the Superior Court of Justice, saying his client was acting to better situate the country, and Five Eyes partners, through actions that he took and that he had the authority to do what he did.
Mr. Ortis, who had access to highly classified Five Eyes information, is facing a total of six charges, including four related to allegedly breaching the Security of Information Act. The other two include a computer-related charge and an allegation of breach of trust.
The Five Eyes are members of an intelligence pact among Canada, Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
At the outset of his trial, Mr. Ortis pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Mr. Doody told jurors Thursday that Mr. Ortis’s goal was simple – his client was trying to get targets of investigations to start using an e-mail service, known as Tutanota, that would allow for an unnamed foreign agency to, at some point, be able to intercept communication, which may have been put back into the Five Eyes system.
Mr. Ortis is “quite possibly the first Canadian required to testify in their own defence without the ability to tell the jury” the full story, Mr. Doody said, adding that the former RCMP civilian was “impeded by a number of limits on that testimony.”
Throughout the course of Mr. Ortis’s weeks-long trial, prosecutors have rejected that the former, high-ranking member of the national police force had the authority to communicate with the targets of international criminal probes.
The Crown also called a series of RCMP witnesses, including Mr. Ortis’s former boss, assistant RCMP commissioner Todd Shean, who said that he would never have authorized the sharing of classified information with police targets.
In her closing arguments to jurors, Crown prosecutor Judy Kliewer said that the kind of information that was shared by Mr. Ortis was not the kind used to “nudge” individuals to use an e-mail platform.
Instead, she said, that the information shared was designed to enable the individuals and to allow them to change their behaviour. This information would not be considered proper bait, she added.
Ms. Kliewer also told jurors it is not in dispute that Mr. Ortis shared special operational information and that he was permanently bound to secrecy.
Mr. Ortis had no authority to communicate this special information, Ms. Kliewer said, as she argued that testimony presented in court from Mr. Ortis does not make sense.
She said Mr. Ortis’s testimony is a story designed to make jurors believe that his criminal and self-motivated acts were aimed at some lofty and secret purpose.
Mr. Ortis’s evidence cannot be believed, Ms. Kliewer added. She is expected to finish closing arguments to jurors on Friday.
The Crown has pointed to e-mail evidence showing contact between Mr. Ortis and Vincent Ramos, the chief executive officer of an encrypted phone company, Phantom Secure. The e-mails to Mr. Ramos culminate in a request in May, 2015, for a $20,000 payment in exchange for full copies of classified documents. The jury has heard that the RCMP found no evidence of a payment to Mr. Ortis.
Mr. Ramos was later sentenced to nine years imprisonment after he pleaded guilty in the United States to providing Phantom Secure devices to assist in the distribution of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine to Canada, the U.S., Australia, Mexico, Thailand and Europe.
Additionally, Mr. Ortis faces charges for communicating with Greater Toronto Area businessmen Salim Henareh and Muhammad Ashraf and attempting to communicate with another individual, Farzam Mehdizadeh.
The agreed statement of facts in the Ortis trial says Mr. Henareh, Mr. Ashraf and Mr. Mehdizadeh and their companies were subjects of investigation in Canada. Court has also heard about investigative work focused on money-services businesses in the GTA.
Mr. Doody told jurors that Mr. Ortis was a dedicated, talented, driven, high-ranking member of the RCMP. He also called on members of the jury to use their common sense in their deliberations.
Mr. Ortis is not an enemy of the RCMP, nor the country, Mr. Doody said, adding that his client was acting on information acquired by a foreign agency, which Mr. Ortis cannot disclose.
Mr. Doody said his client had been advised that members of organized crime had the ability to intercept information inside law enforcement and came to the conclusion that the threat simply could not be ignored.
Outside of the courtroom, the e-mail service, now known as Tuta, recently issued a statement that allegations made by Mr. Ortis in court are “completely untrue” and that the company is not owned or operated by any secret service, nor is it a “storefront.”
The company said it is not acceptable that Mr. Ortis “can throw Tutanota under the bus, without disclosing any evidence that we participated in the behaviour from his testimony, and also without disclosing which ‘foreign intelligence’ agency may have been providing this access or information.”