The shock arrest of a high-ranking Canadian intelligence official could be the jewel in the crown of a covert operation involving Australian authorities that has already netted a Californian cocaine kingpin and the head of an encrypted phone company.
Cameron Ortis, 47, a director-general with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's intelligence unit, was arrested last week on several charges.
The arrest sent tremors through the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network - Australia, New Zealand, US, Britain and Canada - because of the sensitive information Ortis had access to and could expose.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki described the allegations against Ortis as "extremely unsettling".
"By virtue of the positions he held, Mr Ortis had access to information the Canadian intelligence community possessed," Commissioner Lucki said in a statement on Monday.
"He also had access to intelligence coming from our allies both domestically and internationally."
A joint Australian, US and Canadian covert operation into the Canadian-based encrypted phone company Phantom Secure led to Ortis after it was discovered sensitive RCMP information had been offered for sale, Canada's Global News reported.
Phantom Secure's chief executive, Vincent Ramos, was sentenced in a San Diego court in May to nine years' prison after pleading guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge.
Ramos did not know the identity of the person allegedly brokering the RCMP information, but Canadian investigators reportedly persevered and traced it to a list of suspects.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, citing an assessment by Canada's Communications Security Establishment cybersecurity agency, reported Ortis had allegedly reached out to Ramos.
"You don't know me. I have information that I am confident you will find very valuable," one email, contained in the CSE documents, said, according to the CBC.
Phantom Secure phones were desired by criminals, particularly in Australia, because of their perceived ability to thwart authorities.
The FBI estimated of the 20,000 Phantom Secure devices in service around the world, 10,000 were used by Australian criminals.
Australian law enforcement's role in the complex investigation into Phantom Secure began in early 2017 following an exchange of intelligence with the FBI and RCMP.
The Australian Federal Police said more than 1,000 encrypted phones were seized after 19 search warrants were executed across four Australian states on March 6 last year as part of an international operation.
Owen Hanson, the former University of Southern California gridiron player who was the kingpin of the violent ODOG drug trafficking, money laundering and illegal gambling syndicate, was another significant arrest from the joint Australian-US-Canadian operation.
Hanson was sentenced to 21 years' prison in 2017.
Hanson, who also used Phantom Secure phones, admitted to trafficking "hundreds of kilograms of cocaine" from California to Australia.
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.