HALIFAX – A Canadian naval officer pleaded guilty to espionage Wednesday, five years after a Crown lawyer said he walked into the Russian embassy, offered up military secrets for money and began a relationship that resulted in the sharing of a “vast amount” of sensitive information.
Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle rose before a provincial court judge in Halifax, showing no emotion and clasping his hands together, and acknowledged that he understood the consequences of his plea to the unprecedented charges.
When asked if he confirmed the guilty pleas, the 41-year-old intelligence officer merely said, “Yes sir,” before leaving the court to return to prison as he awaits sentencing in January.
Federal Crown attorney Lyne Decarie outlined the case against Delisle during a bail hearing on March 28, saying he voluntarily approached Russian officials in 2007.
There was a publication ban on evidence and arguments presented at the proceedings in the spring, but the guilty plea means there will not be a jury trial now. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 10.
At the time, Decarie said in court that “following some personal problems, Delisle walked into the Russian embassy in Ottawa and offered his services. He offered to sell information to them.”
She said the officer worked at Trinity — the name for the military all-source intelligence “fusion” centre on the East Coast — which experts have said would provide tactical assessments primarily to Canadian warships and aircraft, both at home and overseas.
Decarie alleged in court that Delisle would have access to the facility’s secure and unsecured systems that contained information from Canada and her allies, and that he shared mostly military data.
But she said it also included material about organized crime, political players and the Chief of Defence phone and contact list — something she described as a “who’s who of military personnel” with email addresses and phone numbers.
The Crown gave a detailed accounting of how it said Delisle transmitted the information from the intelligence centre in downtown Halifax to his home and then on to Russian agents.
Decarie said Delisle was asked to search for Russian references in the past month on his work computer, cut and paste it onto a floppy disc, then copy it onto a USB key and take it to his home nearby.
He would then provide it to the Russians by pasting it into an email program that he shared with his foreign handler, she said.
Decarie said Delisle, a father who is divorced from his first wife, received $5,000 for the first couple transfers and then $3,000 every month.
He came to the authorities’ attention when he was returning from a trip to Brazil to meet a Russian agent in the fall of 2011, Decarie said. He was carrying several thousand dollars and had changed his hotel twice in the community where he was staying, raising the suspicions of Canada Border Services agents.
The Crown said some time after, the RCMP took over the account he shared with the Russians, allowing him to think he was transmitting material to a Russian agent when “it was actually the RCMP opening the email.”
Delisle was arrested in Halifax last Jan. 13 and charged with espionage and breach of trust, making him the first person in Canada to be convicted under the Security of Information Act.
In court at the bail hearing, Decarie read portions of a police statement where Delisle reportedly described the day he walked into the embassy as “professional suicide.”
“The day I flipped sides … from that day on, that was the end of my days as Jeff Delisle,” Decarie read from his statement.
She said he claimed to police that his betrayal “was for ideological reasons” and that he wasn’t doing it for the money.”
But Decarie said Delisle went on to tell officers that the Russians had pictures of his children.
“They had all my information. They had photos of me,” Decarie read from the statement. “They had photos of my children and I knew exactly what it was for.”