The investigation that uncovered an alleged mole in RCMP headquarters initially targeted a broad number of officers before settling on the head of the national intelligence co-ordination centre.
Sources told Global News that many RCMP members came under suspicion after highly sensitive operational police documents were found during an investigation of a Vancouver-based company.
The documents turned up during police searches of Vincent Ramos, the CEO of Phantom Secure, a company that sold encrypted phones to transnational crime groups.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told reporters on Tuesday that the Sensitive and International Investigations Unit was not even certain at first the leak had come from within the ranks of the police force.
“At the time when the documents were discovered, we had no information specifically as to if it led back to the RCMP or if it got through some other source, so it took some time to go through the investigation to get to the point of the arrest of Mr. Ortis.”
According to sources, the compromised investigation of Phantom Secure was such an “elite, huge intelligence file” — with targets including terrorists and international drug-traffickers — that Canada’s Five Eyes allies, Australia in particular, could suffer severe damage from this ill-fated case alone.
The arrest of Ortis in Ottawa last week came years after the RCMP started to work together with the FBI in 2015 on an undercover sting of the company’s employees and Ramos.
A source said that because the Phantom Secure case was a top Five Eyes priority, investigation files were being sent to headquarters in Ottawa every few days. But it wasn’t until after the RCMP raided Ramos’ home in Richmond in early 2018 that an RCMP corruption probe was launched.
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Ramos’ company sold 20,000 phones to criminals worldwide so that they could conduct drug and money laundering transactions, and cartels were also using the phones for “planning hits,” according to sources.
Although Ramos made tens of millions, he was seen as a low-level facilitator for the major criminals that used his service, sources said.
The RCMP probe produced large amounts of data that showed that the company’s clients included not only some of the most elite drug traffickers in the world, a source said, but terrorists, too.
Australia had 10,000 Phantom Security phone users, according to the FBI. These clients included extremely high-level targets that were seen as the “ones and twos” in drug-trafficking syndicates, a source said. The concern in Australia especially is that high-value targets have been able to escape because of corruption in the RCMP.
A source said that Ortis had access to all major RCMP investigations and it’s possible other compromises have occurred.
Ortis faces a number of charges, including one that alleges that in 2015 he did “intentionally and without authority, communicate special operational information” in violation of the Security of Information Act.
Last Thursday, the RCMP arrested Ortis in the national headquarters building near Ottawa. He faces seven charges, including obtaining information to pass to a “foreign entity.”
Ortis was director general of the National Intelligence Coordination Centre. During 12 years as a civilian member of the RCMP, he had worked in Operations Research and National Security Criminal Investigations.