A former RCMP officer who was leading an investigation into alleged Canadian associates of an international money laundering syndicate says reporting the targets could have jeopardized an international investigation.
Retired Sergeant Patrick Martin is testifying for the second day in the trial of Cameron Ortis, the former top RCMP intelligence officer who now faces six charges, including four counts of violating the Security of Information Act.
Ortis, 51, is accused of sharing special operational information “intentionally and without authorization” with Salim Henareh and Muhammad Ashraf. He also faces a charge of attempting to share special operational information with Farzam Mehdizadeh.
RCMP intelligence reports presented as evidence during the trial show that the RCMP was investigating those three men and their money services businesses for possible links to Altaf Khanani, who was suspected of laundering money for terrorists.
Martin told the jury that the US Federal Police and Australia were interested in investigating Khanani. He said the RCMP was leading an investigation into Khanani’s alleged connections in Toronto, an investigation dubbed Project Oryx.
A Project Oryx investigative report that Martin wrote has become a key piece of evidence in the Crown’s case against Ortis.
According to an agreed-upon statement of facts, a copy of the report was recovered from a USB flash drive in Ortis’s apartment.
In the report, Martin wrote that “Khanani uses the services of individuals/companies in Canada who coordinate and reconcile transactions with him.”
The Crown alleges fragments of that report and other police intelligence information were sent as part of a package to Ashraf.
“This is not a gimmick,” says the package’s cover letter.
“I do not work for any law enforcement or intelligence agency, as evidenced, I believe, by the attached documents. However, I do have the ability to access a wide variety of information.”
The Crown alleges it was Ortis who sent the package.
Under questioning by Crown attorney John MacFarlene, Martin said he had no idea his report had been sent.
“If subjects know that they are being surveilled by the RCMP or investigated by the armed security police force, they may change their tactics, they may stop doing what they are doing altogether. And it would certainly affect our investigation,” he said.
“I could shut it down completely.”
And not just in Canada, he said.
A ‘domino effect’
“It could jeopardize an ongoing investigation, in this case with the Australian Federal Police, with the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] in the United States,” he said.
“It may have a ripple effect on other ongoing research globally.”
Ortis has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. His defense argues that he had the authority to do everything he did.
His lawyer Jon Doody, who began questioning Martin on Thursday morning, asked the former police officer if he had ever heard of an online sting operation.
Ortis is also accused of leaking special operational information to Vincent Ramos, director of a company accused of selling encrypted phones to criminals, including the Khanani network and drug cartels. He also faces two Criminal Code charges: breach of trust and unauthorized use of a computer.
Henareh’s lawyer said he “has been thoroughly investigated by the RCMP and has been completely exonerated.” CBC attempted to contact Ashraf through his company but has not yet received a response.
Khanani was arrested in Florida in the fall of 2015. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.