Canadian security official offers to sell top secrets

A shadowy Canadian company that sold encrypted mobile phones to criminals set off a chain reaction that led to the arrest of a Canadian security officer in possession of highly-classified documents, reports revealed Tuesday.

Investigation of Cameron Ortis, a top Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) official who was arrested Sept. 13, began when an FBI investigation in 2018 found he had contacted Vincent Ramos, a key figure behind Phantom Secure Communications.

The company specialized in selling encrypted mobile phones so that international criminal organizations could skirt police.

Canadian officials said Ortis offered to sell Ramos "valuable information."

Ramos was sentenced in May to nine years in prison in the United States.

Further investigation led to Ortis, who was arrested with classified material that the RCMP said he planned to offer to a foreign country or terrorist group.

Ortis served as the Director General of the RCMP's National Intelligence Coordination Centre and "had access to information the Canadian intelligence community possessed," the RCMP commissioner said in a statement.

"He also had access to intelligence coming from our allies both domestically and internationally," said Commissioner Brenda Lucki.

"We are aware of the potential risk to agency operations of our partners in Canada and abroad," the statement said, adding that the investigation is ongoing.

Lucki did not specify which foreign organizations may have been exposed to the theft of secrets, which allegedly took place between 2016 and 2019, though Canada is a member of the "Five Eyes" intelligence alliance with Australia, New Zealand, Britain and the United States.

Ortis had access to material that could cause a "high" degree of damage to the country and its allies if released, CBC reported, citing a report prepared by Canadian intelligence services.

"Analysis of the contents of the reports could reasonably lead a foreign intelligence agency to draw significant conclusions about allied and Canadian intelligence targets, techniques, methods and capabilities," the report said.

"This type of information is among the most highly protected of national security assets, by any government standard and goes to the heart of Canada's sovereignty and security," it said.

The Globe and Mail reported Saturday that Ortis's arrest was linked to a major investigation into the laundering of stolen Russian funds.

Ortis, 47, as recently as August was said to be overseeing a probe into whether some of the money was funneled through Canada.

According to the Globe and Mail, the corruption investigation was looking at a $230-million fraud scheme allegedly run by senior Russian interior ministry and tax officials.

Ortis, who has worked for the RCMP since 2007, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the five charges brought against him under Canada's criminal code and its Security of Information Act.

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