Crown prosecutors have spent the past five weeks laying out their case against Cameron Ortis in an unprecedented trial.
They allege that he used his position as director of a highly sensitive unit within the RCMP to try to sell intelligence information collected by Canada and its Allies of the Five Eyes to police targets.
Ortis, who pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, also began telling the jury his side of the story.
His defense team says he was acting with authority.
Here are some of the highlights of the trial so far.
Ortis acted based on information from a foreign agency: defense
In one of the biggest bombshells to drop in the case so far, defense lawyer Mark Ertel told jurors earlier this week that Ortis was protecting Canada from “serious and imminent threats” and was acting on information sent by a foreign agency.
Ertel said Ortis not only acted with authority, but did so to protect Canada.
“His actions were largely the result of secret information communicated to him by a foreign agency,” he said.
“Cameron Ortis is not an enemy of Canada.”
Ertel also said Ortis will be limited in what he can share with the court due to security concerns. He also said his client does not have access to her old work emails.
“He has one hand tied behind his back,” Ertel said.
RCMP monitor suspected money laundering ‘agents’
Redacted intelligence reports explaining Canada’s role in investigating a multibillion-dollar international money laundering ring have been shown to jurors.
Around 2015, the Five Eyes alliance (an intelligence-sharing network made up of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) had identified a common international threat: Altaf Khanani.
The US government claims Khanani’s network laundered illicit funds for organized crime and terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and the Taliban.
According to intelligence reports submitted as evidence, the RCMP “identified several Canadian subjects acting as Khanani agents” in the Toronto area.
The jury heard that Salim Henareh, Muhammad Ashraf and Farzam Mehdizadeh and their respective companies were subjects of investigation in Canada. Ortis is accused of sharing operational information with Henareh and Ashraf and attempting to share information with Mehdizadeh.
A report showed FINTRAC, Canada’s financial transactions intelligence agency, flagged more than $3.5 billion in financial transactions from Henareh’s Persepolis company to the RCMP.
Another document seen by the court said that over the course of 10 years, Mehdizadeh had been the subject of 48 suspicious transaction reports from financial institutions related to various indicators of money laundering and terrorist financing.
One of Ortis’ colleagues, Walter Mendonca, said he believed Mehdizadeh was working with “the biggest money launderers in the world.”
Henareh and Ashraf have not been charged. Henareh’s lawyer, Barry Fox, told Breaking: that the allegations against his client “have been thoroughly investigated by the RCMP and he has been completely exonerated.” Ashraf has not responded to CBC requests.
Mehdizadeh fled the country before his planned arrest in 2017, according to the statement of facts agreed upon at Ortis’ trial.
Ortis allegedly asked for $20,000
Ortis is also accused of approaching Vincent Ramos with information detailing the RCMP’s interest in his company Phanom Secure, which sold encrypted phones to organized crime.
Emails found on Ramos’ devices after his arrest in 2018 alerted the Mounties that someone within the organization had sent him special operational information. The recovered emails also form part of the 500-page statement of facts agreed between the Crown and the defence.
“I assure you that this is a business proposal. Nothing more. It is not risk-free, of course, but the risk-reward ratio will be more than acceptable,” reads one of the emails the Crown alleges he sent Ortis.
The Crown says that, using the email handle ‘See All Things’, Ortis approached Ramos on February 5, 2015 and told him he had information about a multi-agency investigation targeting Phantom Secure.
The sender of the email sent fragments of FINTRAC reports, a criminal intelligence assessment conducted by the RCMP, and a document summarizing other Western intelligence and law enforcement information about the company.
The jury heard that the sender asked for $20,000 in exchange for the unredacted documents.
Leaked information “endangers lives”
The jury has heard from multiple RCMP witnesses that the confidential information Ortis is accused of leaking could have jeopardized police investigations and put lives at risk.
One of the emails Ortis is accused of sending to Ramos implies that an associate of Ramos “met someone friendly” while undergoing a secondary border services agency inspection at the Vancouver airport. The jury heard the individual was an undercover officer who met with Kapil Judge, who also worked at Phantom Secure.
The Crown says other documents found on Ortis’ devices suggest he was preparing to tell Mehdizadeh not to trust anyone in his organization.
Retired Deputy Commissioner Todd Shean testified that unauthorized disclosure of such information “endangers lives.”
“You could be signing someone’s death warrant and I’m not trying to exaggerate,” he said.
“It’s so reckless to put that person’s life at risk.”
Who is Cameron Ortis?
While the trial has largely focused on what Ortis is accused of doing, the jury also heard something about the man at the center of the case.
According to his former boss, Ortis was viewed as a rising star by higher-ups and was destined to rise through the ranks as a civilian member of the RCMP.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a Cam fan,” Shean said.
“Cam is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.”
Shean said Ortis oversaw an “extraordinary” operations research team, which provided “meticulous” reporting. Shean suggested other RCMP national security units were not held to the same standard.
Dan Morris, who served as Ortis’ second-in-command in the operating room, said his boss was an intelligent, detail-oriented person who often worked long hours. Morris said Ortis tended to work alone and rarely got involved in the details of his team’s intelligence projects.
SEE | Former RCMP chief was trying to sell secrets to police targets, Crown alleges
Morris also said Ortis had a friendly relationship with the top Mountie at the time, then-Commissioner Bob Paulson.
The Crown asked Ortis’ colleagues about his running habits.
“At one point, he told me he ran about 9 miles a day, and that he would do it for about 14 days straight and take a day off,” Morris said.
Another operating room colleague, Greg O’Hayon, said he remembers “being amazed at the speed.”
“I feel sick to my stomach”
Some of the most emotional moments of the trial so far came from Ortis’ former boss, Shean, after the Crown showed him emails Ortis is accused of sending to targets of the investigation.
“My stomach hurts from what I see here,” he said earlier this week.
“I’m shaking because I think it’s the irreparable damage this has done to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.”
Shean said he often met with Ortis, sometimes over a beer, to talk about work.
His voice shaking with emotion, Shean repeatedly told the jury that he would not have agreed to Ortis sending special operational information to the people police were trying to surveil.
“So criminal, so reckless,” he said.
Canada was under ‘pressure’ from Five Eyes allies
The case has also revealed – slightly – Canada’s position in the Five Eyes alliance around 2015.
According to retired RCMP Sergeant Guy Belley’s testimony last month, Canada’s allies were disappointed that Canadian police were unable to stop companies from selling encrypted phones to transnational organized crime operations.
The RCMP was trying to go after Canadian company Phantom Secure as part of an investigation dubbed “Project Saturation.”
Belley said the RCMP was under “international pressure” to take action.
“It was well known, obviously, that our Five Eyes partners and perhaps other partners were very disappointed that Canada was not able to move further on Project Saturation,” Ertel said.
“I think that’s a fair assessment,” Belley responded.
Shean also testified that Canada’s inability to crack down on encryption was an “embarrassment to us.”
Ortis has begun testifying behind closed doors. Redacted transcripts of his testimony are expected to be made public next week.