Alleged RCMP mole researched Brit spy "Kim Philby" while leaking Five Eyes intel to Hezbollah
Federal prosecution attack Cameron Ortis claim of running a sting operation with a foreign agency
A Canadian prosecutor tore into alleged RCMP mole Cameron Ortis in cross-examination, accusing Ortis of weaving an elaborate fable to cover his crimes of leaking RCMP plans to Hezbollah money launderers in Toronto — but bumbling during his plotting — Googling the infamous British spy Kim Philby, as well as how to “receive money anonymously.”
According to trial transcripts released to media Friday, Ortis claimed to a jury that a foreign intelligence agency that Ortis could not name, contacted him in late 2014 with a plan to “nudge” some of the world’s most dangerous and wealthy criminals into using a mocked-up encrypted email service.
This service was supposedly controlled by the foreign agency, Ortis told the jury, so the agency could gather intel and watch criminal plots unfold.
Ortis claims the foreign intelligence agency insisted Ortis could not share any of the information with his RCMP superiors, and Ortis executed his one-man undercover sting alone, because he feared moles within the force could get wind of his sensitive operation.
In a statement issued Monday, after this story was published, the foreign email company that Ortis named said they are not linked to any intelligence service, calling his claim false and slanderous.
The trial, one of the most sensitive in Canadian history, involves a large cache of evidence agreed upon by prosecution and defense, that is damaging to Canada’s global reputation, essentially indicating Canadian police have been deeply penetrated by organized crime and the nation can’t prosecute multi-billion dollar money laundering networks linked to foreign states.
Ortis doesn’t deny that files discovered in a raid of his Ottawa apartment in 2019 show that he used encrypted email accounts in attempts to share Five Eyes investigation plans, Fintrac money laundering reports, and undercover RCMP operational plans, with three currency traders in Toronto involved in global criminal financial networks that flooded Big Five banks with billions of dollars that endanger Canada’s financial integrity.
Ortis also doesn’t deny that he shared Fintrac files and an RCMP undercover plan with Vancouver encryption company CEO Vincent Ramos, who provided “uncrackable” phones to some of the Hezbollah money launderers that Ortis contacted, and an Iranian-sponsored criminal mastermind named Altaf Khanani that Ortis also wanted to sell secrets to, the jury has heard.
However — building his defence from all of this agreed upon evidence — Ortis is asking the jury to believe that his secret communications with at least four RCMP targets or their associates, were part of his undercover sting plan: “Operation Nudge.”
Ortis claimed that one of the men, Iranian-Canadian currency trader Salim Henareh, already had deep insight into the operations of a number of Canadian police forces, which is why Henareh had been able to evade many years of investigative efforts in Canada, running billions through Canadian banks.
Asked to describe what he knew about Henareh before sending him hundreds of pages of Fintrac money laundering files in early 2015, Ortis said: “The RCMP and the Five Eyes community had lengthy, years long reporting streams on the activities of Salim Henareh in the Greater Toronto Area.”
“He was involved in money laundering, proliferation of technology, human smuggling, and he had connections to Iran.”
Crown prosecutor John MacFarlane then asked Ortis why he was interested in two other Toronto currency traders, Muhammad Ashraf and Farzam Mehdizadeh.
“Mr. Ashraf was a large-scale money launderer,” Ortis answered.
“He had direct connections to terrorist groups, and was involved with two global money laundering organizations, one of them being Altaf Khanani.”
And Farzam Mehdizadeh, another alleged Iranian-sponsored criminal using Canada to launder drug money, also ran a company trading “specialized ceramics, plastics and metals,” Ortis said.
“What would be the use for those?” MacFarlane asked.
”The primary use of those technologies is in weapons development programs,” Ortis answered.
MacFarlane pressed Ortis to acknowledge the connections between these RCMP targets and their global bosses.
“So the Khanani money laundering network, including his Canadian counterparts, were also working for transnational organized crime. Correct?”
“And ties to terrorists.”
“They had ties to terrorists.”
“And we’ve heard that Mr. Ashraf, Mr. Henareh, and Mr. Mehdizadeh, were part of the Khanani network. Correct?”
“Sir, what you were doing when you sent the messages to Mr. Henareh, Mr. Ashraf, was not trying to disrupt them,” MacFarlane charged.
“You were enabling them. Sending them RCMP information so they could avoid detection from the RCMP. Isn’t that right?”
“Operation Nudge was simply designed to nudge them,” Ortis shot back. “It was simply an intelligence operation to nudge them towards a secured e-mail provider.”
“Okay. So, when you sent the FINTRAC documents that we’ll walk through, to Mr. Henareh in March , you knew that not only did RCMP O Division have an investigation into Mr. Henareh,” MacFarlane continued, “but RCMP’s National Intelligence Coordination Centre was also looking at him. Correct?”
“Both failed,” Ortis answered, on the Henareh investigations.
“I mean you see, it’s almost a billion dollars over a number of years. And multiple efforts to try and stop that. But all had failed.”
“I had knowledge that was provided to me about Mr. Henareh’s visibility on both FINTRAC data and RCMP information,” Ortis continued. “As well as a criminal investigation project OSAVAK where he had compromised a Toronto Police Service wire room. In Salim Henareh’s case, very little of this information would assist him in any way.”
“I had sensitive information from multiple sources,” Ortis added, “that each of the subjects had compromised or penetrated Canadian law enforcement agencies.”
But MacFarlane — sometimes nodding “Sure” and “Okay” sarcastically to Ortis — suggested his story of a one-man clandestine sting beggars belief.
“You didn’t approach your boss, Todd Shean, and say — without discussing the details of what you talked about with the foreign agency — ‘Well this is a good idea, Todd. Maybe we, the RCMP, can create an encrypted communication platform and try and get criminals to start using it so we could intercept their conversations?’”
“There are strict limitations on what law enforcement can do as opposed to what the intelligence community can do,” Ortis answered. “And no, I did not have that conversation with Todd.”
“Okay. And you say there was this caveat this foreign agency placed on you. That you were told you couldn’t share with anybody, and not even anybody within the RMCP?”
“Specifically the RCMP,” Ortis answered. “Correct.”
MacFarlane also pressed Ortis on his decision to tell Ramos that the RCMP planned to have an undercover officer approach Ramos’ technical director, a man named Kapil Judge, at Vancouver International Airport.
The court has heard Ortis asked Ramos for $20,000 in cash for sharing volumes of information to help Ramos evade RCMP and DEA investigations that targeted the Vancouver company’s global servers.
“You put this undercover officer’s life at risk, as Todd Shean testified, right?” MacFarlane charged. “You’d agree with me sir, by saying, ‘Distance yourself and Judge from the individual that he met at Vancouver International Airport,’ was putting that undercover officer’s life at risk?”
“No, I would not agree with that,” Ortis responded.