A retired officer of Canada’s national police force was charged Friday with foreign interference after spying for the Chinese government and targeting an individual on its behalf, the authorities said.
The retired officer, William Majcher, 60, “allegedly used his knowledge and his extensive network of contacts in Canada to obtain intelligence or services to benefit” Beijing, the authorities said in a statement. The case is likely to heighten calls for a public inquiry into the Chinese government’s alleged involvement in Canadian affairs.
Mr. Majcher, who had been living in Hong Kong and was arrested Thursday evening in Vancouver after voluntarily returning to Canada, also assisted in the “Chinese government’s efforts to identify and intimidate an individual outside the scope of Canadian law,’’ according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or R.C.M.P.
The arrest, following a two-year investigation into what the R.C.M.P. described as Mr. Majcher’s “suspicious activities,’’ came as the issue of China’s interference in Canadian elections has roiled political circles for months. Chinese diplomats and operatives in Canada are believed to have tried to undermine elected officials critical of China’s record on human rights, especially in districts with many ethnic Chinese voters in Vancouver and Toronto.
The Canadian government recently expelled a Chinese diplomat it accused of conspiring to intimidate a Toronto area opposition lawmaker, who spearheaded efforts in Parliament to label China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim community a genocide. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has been criticized by opposition parties for being soft on China, has resisted calls for a public inquiry into China’s activities in Canada. Chinese officials have denied any interference.
Insp. David Beaudoin, the Montreal head of the unit that investigated Mr. Majcher, said that none of the suspect’s activities appeared “linked in any way to interference in Canadian politics.’’
Mr. Majcher was, according to his LinkedIn page, president of EMIDR, a Hong Kong-based corporate risk firm.
Sgt. Camille Habel, a spokeswoman for the R.C.M.P., said that the Chinese government was “one of the big clients’’ of the firm, which specialized in “cross-border financial crime investigations and asset recovery.’’
Inspector Beaudoin said that investigators had so far identified a single individual that Mr. Majcher had helped target, but added that the investigation was still underway. He added that the authorities were “not excluding the possibility to arrest and accuse more individuals in the coming weeks.’’
Mr. Majcher worked at the R.C.M.P. between 1985 and 2007, specializing toward the end of his career at the force in federal investigations in the drugs and financial crimes section, Sergeant Habel said.
Dennis Molinaro, a former national security analyst for the Canadian government who now teaches legal studies at Ontario Tech University, said that someone with Mr. Majcher’s background would have potentially useful information for the Chinese government.
“He would have useful information on how investigations are conducted and the methodologies used,’’ Mr. Molinaro said. “Somebody involved in that sector would also have useful contacts that he could reach out to, and those contacts may or may not even be aware that the person is working for the P.R.C.,’’ he added, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
Mr. Majcher, who appeared in court in Quebec by videoconference Friday, was charged with preparatory acts for the benefit of a foreign entity and conspiracy under Canada’s Security of Information Act. Charges have rarely been laid under the act, which Canada introduced after the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001.