RCMP mole Ortis guilty on all six charges in Canadian terror financing trial
Ortis possesses dangerous knowledge and should go to jail for 20 years, Crown says
Wednesday in Ottawa a jury of 12 found former RCMP intelligence director Cameron Jay Ortis, 51, guilty on all six counts in a national security case which has “irreparably harmed” the RCMP and betrayed Canada’s intelligence partners, according to testimony.
Ortis faced six charges for sharing or attempting to share RCMP plans with four transnational crime suspects, including three Toronto-based members of a multi-billion-dollar money laundering and terror-financing network, which was targeted by the Five Eyes in late 2014.
Ortis’ lawyer had argued that he communicated with the Toronto agents of Altaf Khanani, a Dubai-based money launderer with links to Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, in a one-man sting operation.
The jury took several days to deliberate on evidence this week, and rejected Ortis’ story.
While evidence showed that Ortis either asked for cash, or suggested long-term business relationships for sharing secrets, an RCMP insider threat probe called Project Ace never proved that Ortis received funds.
The trial heard weeks ago, however, that RCMP has only partially decrypted evidence seized from Ortis’ electronic devices in 2019, in a raid of his downtown Ottawa bachelor pad.
As Ortis sat in court Wednesday the lead juror stood, and one by one, declared him guilty of sharing Canada’s national security secrets with Vincent Ramos, Salim Henareh, Muhammad Ashraf, and attempting the same with Farzam Mehdizadeh.
The Crown and Ortis’ lawyers agreed on the danger represented by all four men.
“Ramos, the CEO of Phantom Secure,” in Vancouver sold “encrypted Blackberry devices to members of organized crime around the world,” Ortis’ lawyer Jon Doody said last week in closing arguments.
Evidence produced in court, as The Bureau has reported, indicated Toronto currency trader Salim Henareh — an alleged Iranian-state linked money launderer — was cited in over $3-Billion in Fintrac reports.
Henareh served as a bridge between smaller Toronto currency shops involved in terror-financing and Canada’s Big Five banks, according to RCMP investigation reports filed in court evidence.
Ortis sent hundreds of pages of Fintrac records on these transactions to Henareh in early 2015, which could have alerted Altaf Khanani’s global network of Five Eyes investigations, an RCMP officer testified.
Ortis, on the other hand, claimed he was only proving his bona fides to Henareh, in efforts to “nudge” him onto a secure email service that Ortis claimed was secretly controlled by a Canadian intelligence partner.
“Salim Henareh. He was involved with his company Rosco Trading in money laundering in the GTA, and had connections to the proliferation of weapons technology,” Doody summed up, to the jury last week.
And “Muhammad Ashraf,” was principal of a Toronto-area money service business, “that was responsible for large-scale money laundering with connection to terrorist groups,” Doody said. “He was connected to both the [Altaf] Khanani and Polani money laundering groups.”
Farzam Mehdizadeh — a Toronto currency trader that fled to Iran and evaded RCMP charges in 2017, about two years after Ortis emailed to his son at University of Toronto — was involved with Altaf Khanani in large-scale drug money laundering and weapons production proliferation, the jury heard.
Federal prosecutor Judy Kliewer told the jury that Ortis’ story of attempting to lure these men or their associates onto a secure email platform was pure fiction.
“The story that he told you about why he did, what he did, doesn’t have the slightest grain of truth, or make sense,” Kliewer said a week ago. “My suggestion is the story is nothing but an attempt to have you believe his criminal, self-motivated acts in 2015, had some lofty purpose. My submission to you is that his evidence can’t be believed.”
The jury agreed, standing one by one on Wednesday afternoon, and affirming Ortis’ guilt.
The Crown will be seeking a sentence in the range of 20 years, Kliewer said.
“He is not only a flight risk, but an asset,” she argued, asking the judge to revoke Ortis’ bail. “He has so much information. This is not a usual case.”
Lawyer Mark Ertel shot back, saying Ortis had been strip-searched hundreds of times in several years of pretrial detention and walked through so many X-rays that he faced cancer risks, before he was freed on bail.
“The suggestion that he has any more information or that he poses any danger to the public, has not been borne out anywhere in evidence, nor did the Crown even allege that he had a motive either to assist organized crime or make money or anything else,” Ertel said. “I was there in the bail review. He could have stuff hiding on a cloud someplace — all kinds of things thrown out there, none of which were borne out, and they weren't even part of the Crown's theory.”
“Bail is revoked,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger ruled. “The presumption of innocence is gone.”
Maranger said sentencing hearings are expected the first week of January.
Editor’s Note: This breaking news story was updated several times the afternoon of Wednesday, November 22.
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