Canada intelligence official guilty on spy charges

Canada intelligence official guilty on spy charges
# 23 November 2023 08:43 (UTC +04:00)

A jury has found a former civilian member of Canada's national police force guilty of leaking intelligence to suspected criminals, APA reports citing BBC.

Cameron Ortis, 51, shared government secrets with organized crime figures, the eight-week trial in Ontario heard.

Ortis had denied all charges against him, claiming he was working secretly to prevent "a grave threat to Canada".

The case was the first time that Canada's current espionage law had been tested at trial.

Ortis was arrested in 2019 and charged with six counts, including violating national security laws.

At the time, he served as the director general of the National Intelligence Coordination Centre - a branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) described as a "clearing house" for internal intelligence and sensitive information.

He had gained a high-level security clearance since beginning work for RCMP in 2007 as a civilian member of the force.

Prosecutors said Ortis used his role in 2015 to leak sensitive information to three members of an international money-laundering ring and a man named Vincent Ramos.

US authorities previously connected the mobile security company that Ramos ran to drug traffickers and members of organized crime.

Ortis asked Ramos for C$27,429 ($20,000; £16,000) in exchange for sharing information on police operations, prosecutors said, though there is no evidence he ever received payments.

During his trial, Ortis claimed he had received a tip from an unnamed foreign intelligence agency in 2014.

He testified - behind closed doors to protect sensitive information - that he launched a secret mission to use the intelligence to lure underworld targets into adopting an encrypted email service that gave backdoor access to their communications to security agencies.

He also said he was told police targets that he was tracking had moles within Canadian law enforcement agencies, which prevented him from sharing the information.

He was acting "to confront a grave threat to Canada that could not be ignored", his lawyer said during closing arguments.

But prosecutors alleged he deliberately shared the information without approval or notifying his superiors.

They said there was no record in RCMP archives of his mission.

"His story was nothing but an attempt to have you believe that his criminal, self-motivated acts were aimed at some lofty and secret purpose," prosecutor Judy Kliewer said.

The case was seen as a test of Canada's ability to prosecute espionage cases.

George Dolhai, with the Public Prosecution Service Canada, said in a statement that the verdict "clearly indicates that cases involving the most sensitive types of information can be tried in an ordinary criminal court".

"No-one, no matter how important, is above the law when it comes to putting at risk Canada's security interests."

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