Former Mountie tells court he was unaware of secrets sent to investigative targets
October 12, 2023 By The Canadian Press
Oct. 12, 2023, Ottawa, Ont. – A former RCMP investigator who worked on a money laundering probe says he was unaware at the time that someone had sent secret information to people who were of interest to authorities.
Disclosure of the material in question could have tipped off suspects or even jeopardized the safety of police, retired staff sergeant Patrick Martin testified Thursday in the trial of Cameron Jay Ortis, a former RCMP intelligence official charged with breaching Canada’s secrets law.
Ortis, 51, has pleaded not guilty to violating the Security of Information Act by allegedly revealing secrets to three individuals in 2015 and trying to do so in a fourth instance.
The Crown alleges that Ortis anonymously sent secret information to people who were of interest in the money laundering investigation, including Salim Henareh and Muhammad Ashraf.
Ortis’s lawyers have said they will argue their client had the authority to take the actions he did.
Martin, who was involved in the probe known as Project Oryx, told the jury on Thursday he did not know in 2015 that a package of classified material was mailed to Henareh, nor that secrets had been sent via email to Ashraf.
Under questioning from Crown prosecutor John MacFarlane, Martin said it was important that the subjects of the investigation not realize they were under police suspicion.
If individuals know they’re being watched by the RCMP, or any police force, they might change their tactics or stop what they are doing altogether, Martin said.
“And it would certainly affect our investigation. More than that, it could fully shut it down.”
In this case, it would have endangered an ongoing investigation with counterparts in Australia and the United States, he said.
Because police sometimes don’t know much about their targets, including their capacity for violence, knowledge that police are watching could “have a serious effect on the safety” of an officer conducting surveillance, Martin added.
A statement of facts filed in court says Ashraf told police he only became aware of emails sent to his company’s email address in response to police inquiries in 2019. Police obtained the email messages through a production order.
The statement of facts says Henareh told police he had received a package in March 2015 containing a cover letter, an 11-page disclosure summary from the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada as well as a DVD containing more documents from the anti-money laundering agency, and gave it to his lawyer, Clayton Ruby. He consented to police retrieving the package from his lawyer.
Martin said the kind of material that was mailed to Henareh would have certainly let him know he was being scrutinized by the anti-money laundering agency.
Such information might prompt an investigative target to alter their practices, perhaps by not writing everything down or changing how transactions are reported, Martin suggested.
Ortis became director of the national police force’s Operations Research group in 2013, according to a detailed job description filed in court. The unit had the task of assembling and developing classified information on transnational criminal networks, terror cells, cybercrime actors and commercial espionage.
The job description says the director was expected to manage a high-risk program that provides actionable packages of information to senior RCMP executives.
MacFarlane questioned Martin about the practice of disruption, when police take calculated steps to interfere with the networks and routines of suspected criminals to put them at a disadvantage.
Martin agreed with MacFarlane that disruption efforts would involve protocols of due diligence such as note-taking and the filing of reports.
In cross-examining Martin, defence lawyer Jon Doody asked whether offices within the RCMP working on the same file might have different levels of need-to-know information.
Martin conceded he was not present for every meeting on Project Oryx.
“So you agree that (at) a meeting you weren’t present for, information may have been shared that you did not have the need to know about?” asked Doody.
“It’s possible,” replied Martin.
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