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Alleged RCMP mole Ortis claims he tried to stem massive Canadian bank laundering by China, Russia, Iran
Ortis: "It was money laundering that was threatening the integrity and the fabric of the Canadian financial system.”
In testimony barred to Canadian media, Cam Ortis — the former RCMP intelligence director accused of leaking secrets to Hezbollah’s global money laundering networks — has claimed he was attempting to disrupt massive floods of money laundering through Canadian banks from enemy states including China, Iran and Russia.
“I saw some unique reporting … that explained, described, and outlined, a threat to Canada and the banking system,” Ortis testified last Thursday — “an extraordinary amount of money that was being laundered through Canada and its closest partners.”
"It was money laundering that was threatening the integrity and the fabric of the Canadian financial system.”
Asked by his lawyer to explain the networks involved in abuse of Canadian banks, Ortis haltingly answered: “hostile state actors — well should I be saying this? Iran, Russia, China, several other countries.”
Ortis’ testimony has continued for days and will resume next week.
Only his first few hours on the stand, responding to questions from his own lawyer, have been made available to media in a redacted transcript.
Thus far in the trial — believed to be among the most sensitive in Canadian history — Ortis’ lawyers have implied he used intelligence from Canada’s more powerful allies to disrupt an Iranian terror financing network laundering billions of drug money through Toronto currency shops and Canadian banks.
For the first time last Thursday, Ortis added China and Russia to the list of nations the RCMP believes is using Canada in state money laundering operations.
Underlining the sensitivity of the classified files he claimed to be acting on, Ortis added: “There were a number of connections to a number of hostile state actors … including named individuals in foreign governments that were participating in it.”
Ortis says he believed his superiors mandated him to act on what his lawyer called “serious and imminent threats” to Canada’s security, using secrets from a foreign agency that Ortis cannot identify.
Ortis has pleaded not guilty to the six charges against him that include breaching Canada’s security of information laws, by seeking to contact the Toronto agents of an Iranian drug trafficking and terror financing network, as well as the CEO of a secure communications company in Vancouver, that provided “uncrackable” phones to Mexican Cartel bosses and gangsters worldwide.
As The Bureau has reported, the trial has seen evidence that one of the Iranian-Canadian currency traders Ortis leaked secrets to, Salim Henareh, was allegedly used to facilitate offshore transfers through major Canadian banks for terror financiers in Dubai.
And Henareh alone, was connected to a stunning $3.5-billion in Fintrac reports.
Last Thursday, Ortis said sensitive intelligence showed the “entities that were involved” in using Canadian banks to launder funds, “included hostile state actors, high-level transnational organized crime individuals. And the nexus or the big piece of that threat as I read it, was here in Canada, and operating in Canada.”
Operations Research and Skyfall
The jury heard that after 2009, Ortis developed a new approach to RCMP national security policing under the guidance of former Commissioner Bob Paulson, at that time, a fast-rising RCMP executive who had built his career tackling the Hells Angels in Vancouver in the early 2000s, around the same time that Ortis was studying at University of B.C., specializing in Asian banking and Chinese transnational crime’s exploitation of cyberspace, and the threats this presented to Western governments.
After Ortis was recruited to the RCMP, while both men were working out of headquarters in Ottawa, Paulson encouraged Ortis to build Operations Research (OR), a secretive, small intelligence agency buried within the sprawling national force, which started to access sensitive files from Canada’s Five Eyes partner agencies, including the CIA and NSA.
The objective was to get ahead of imminent and emerging threats by using global intelligence, and finding criminal prosecution opportunities against hostile state and crime networks operating in Canada, the jury has heard.
To do this, Ortis and several of his hand-picked intelligence analysts started to produce large infographic maps that would quickly give RCMP decision-makers high-level understanding of dangers to Canada, which was a risky innovation requiring access to sensitive information the RCMP had not traditionally understood or even tried to grasp, Ortis testified.
“One of the criticisms … was that the RCMP was not yet — how do I say this? As sophisticated as it could be, in making decisions about what was happening in foreign countries, where often times the threat was coming from,” he said.
While OR initially focused on countering terror threats, after 2011, Ortis’ unit launched a file called Skyfall — based off of ultra-sensitive signals or “high-side intelligence” from Five Eyes agencies — looking into transnational organized crime’s threats to national security via infiltration of Canadian banks.
“The first project that sketched out what we were seeing on the high-side, in terms of transnational organized crime, and the nexus to national security … was specifically about the operation of [Canada’s] banking system,” Ortis explained.
“And was it perceived by you that the Canadian banking system itself was in jeopardy by this money laundering?” Ortis’ lawyer asked.
“It was,” he said.
The Canadian banking threat OR was focused on from 2011 was Iran’s use of organized crime in Toronto to fund terrorism, the jury heard — which Ortis’ lawyers have connected to the current war between Israel and Hamas.
“It seems from what’s being reported generally in the media, it is commonly accepted that Iran is funding Hamas in the Israel-Hamas war,” his lawyer continued, last Thursday.
“Correct. Open sources,” Ortis answered.
Ortis says he made an infographic map to brief his commanders including Paulson on the Canadian banking threat revealed in Skyfall, a file that was later renamed Dominion.
“I briefed it up the chain of command. This was right on the RCMP’s mandate in terms of high-level organized crime carrying out money laundering that at least in my experience had a scale and scope that I had never seen before,” Ortis said.
“When you briefed up the information,” his lawyer asked, “did you have the impression it was something that they wanted you to continue to pursue?”
“Correct,” Ortis answered. “I was told, I can paraphrase, ‘Get on this.’”
Last Thursday, Ortis continued to explain a related threat to money laundering that Canada’s allies became very concerned about.
This was because Canadian criminal networks were responsible for distributing uncrackable Blackberry devices used by transnational drug dealers, money launderers and terrorists, to evade law enforcement.
“Unfortunately, the innovation in both — the criminal space using secure communications technology all came from Canada,” Ortis said. “It was Canadian companies that started to use encryption on top of Blackberrys. I think all of those encrypted Blackberrys that we were seeing in our intelligence reporting at the time, were from a number of Canadian companies.”
Ortis is accused of leaking RCMP investigation plans to Vincent Ramos, the CEO of one of these Vancouver-based companies, Phantom Secure.
In the first few hours of Ortis testimony released to Canadian media so far, he hasn’t explained how his leaking of Five Eyes operational plans to Phantom Secure and Hezbollah agents could possibly have assisted Canada and the Five Eyes in disrupting the national security threats revealed in the trial.
The trial continues next week.
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