|Disappeared||6 November 2017 (aged 56–57)|
|Education||University of Malta (BA)|
University of Padua (MA)
Queen's University Belfast (PhD)
Joseph Mifsud (born 1960) is a Maltese academic. In 2016, he became involved with George Papadopoulos, an advisor to the Donald Trump presidential campaign, and was later accused of being a link between that campaign and Russia. In 2018, he was described as missing, and an Italian court listed his location as "residence unknown". According to media reports he was in Rome as of April 2019.
Mifsud holds a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Malta (1982) and a master's degree in education from the University of Padua (1989). He was awarded a PhD in 1995 from Queen's University Belfast; his thesis was titled "Managing educational reform: a comparative approach from Malta (and Northern Ireland); a headteachers' perspective".
From 2006 to 2008, Mifsud served as the chef de cabinet of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malta. He later became a principal in the London Centre of International Law Practice (LCILP). In 2008, he was named President of the Euro-Mediterranean University of Slovenia (EMUNI). At least as early as 2010, he began making numerous trips to Russia. He was a professorial teaching fellow at the University of Stirling in Scotland, as well as director of the London Academy of Diplomacy, where he served as director from 2012 until it closed in 2016. The academy was partnered with the University of Stirling. He has also served as president of the University Consortium of the Province of Agrigento in Sicily; in September 2018, an Italian court ordered him to repay the Consortium 49,000 euros ($56,700) in overpayments.
In a 2017 interview, he claimed to be a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), although the ECFR website in 2018 did not list him as a member. He regularly attended meetings of the Valdai Discussion Club, an annual conference held in Russia, backed by the Kremlin and attended by Vladimir Putin. According to BBC, Mifsud was in Moscow in April 2016 to speak on a panel run by the Valdai Club alongside Stephan Roh, the German multimillionaire lawyer and investor described as a "wheeler-dealer" by the BBC Newsnight program. Roh is Mifsud's former employer, he could not be reached for comment by the BBC. Another speaker at the Valdai Club was Ivan Timofeev, who works for a think tank close to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whom Mifsud subsequently introduced to Papadopoulos via email. Mifsud reportedly claimed to his former girlfriend that he was friends with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.
Mifsud denied having any contact with the Russian government, saying "I am an academic, I do not even speak Russian." The Mueller Report, released in 2019, said that Mifsud "maintained various Russian contacts while living in London", including an unnamed person (name redacted), who was a former staff member of the Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll farm based in Saint Petersburg.
Connection to George Papadopoulos
In March 2016, shortly after Papadopoulos was named as a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, Mifsud met Papadopoulos in Rome. They later met again in London, where Mifsud allegedly introduced Papadopoulos to a Russian woman that he falsely claimed was Putin's niece; Mifsud has denied this. At a meeting in April, Mifsud told Papadopoulos that he had learned that the Russian government had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos repeated the information to the Australian High Commissioner in London, Alexander Downer, who later reported to American authorities that Papadopoulos had apparently known about Russia's theft of Democratic National Committee emails before it was publicly reported. Papadopoulos has since publicly declared that he did tell Downer about the fact that he was offered "dirt" on Clinton but he has denied any recollection of communicating this theft of emails with Downer. The FBI then launched an investigation into possible connections between Russia and the Trump campaign. Former FBI Director James B. Comey has described Mifsud as a "Russian agent". Mifsud has claimed "substantial connections to Russian officials".
Volume 1 of the Mueller Report stated that Mifsud travelled to Moscow in April 2016, and upon his return told Papadopoulos that the Russian government had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. It also mentions that Papadopoulos "suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to candidate Clinton". This would appear to corroborate the contact with Downer.
According to Mifsud, he was interviewed by the FBI in February 2017 while visiting the United States to speak at a conference. The FBI has not confirmed that they interviewed him, but he is listed as a featured speaker at the February 2017 national meeting of Global Ties, an event sponsored by the US Department of State. Mifsud left the United States on 11 February 2017. Prosecutors with the investigation into Russian interference in the election suggested, in a 17 August 2018 sentencing memorandum for Papadopoulos, that they might have wanted to challenge, detain, or arrest Mifsud if Papadopoulos had told the truth about their interactions.
Papadopoulos and some critics of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign have asserted that Mifsud was actually a Western intelligence operative who was instructed to entrap Papadopoulos in order to justify the investigation. During Robert Mueller's testimony to two congressional committees on 24 July 2019, Republicans Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes portrayed Misfud as a central figure in what they asserted was an investigation based on false and politically motivated premises, while Democrats tried to frame their assertion as a diversion and conspiracy theory. Jim Jordan asked Robert Mueller why he never charged Mifsud with lying to the FBI while George Papadopoulos was charged for lying about Mifsud.
U.S. Attorney General Barr and U.S. prosecutor John Durham, are reported to have met with Italian intelligence officials in Rome in late September 2019 and the objective of their visit was to learn more about Mifsud and his contacts, according to Reuters. While it was also reported that Barr or Durham may go back to Italy to pursue inquiries further, the U.S. Justice Department has neither confirmed the visit to Italy and has not said if trips to Italy will take place in the future. A former Italian government official told The Washington Post in October 2019 that during a meeting the previous month, Italian intelligence services told Barr they had "no connections, no activities, no interference" in any Mifsud matter; Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte later affirmed this.
During October 2018 congressional testimony, Papadopoulos asserted Mifsud might have been "working with the FBI and this was some sort of operation." A December 2019 Justice Department Inspector General report found no evidence Mifsud was an FBI informant, or that his involvement with Papadopoulos was related to any FBI operation. Related to the Mifsud matter, the report also stated "we also note that the FBI requested information," followed by a redaction of what was requested and from whom.
Connection to Stephan Roh
Stephan Roh, the Russian-speaking German lawyer and multimillionaire with close ties to Russia, has worked alongside Mifsud for years. Papadopoulos's wife, who briefly worked for Mifsud, has described Roh as Mifsud's lawyer, best friend, and funder. Roh owns multiple businesses, many headquartered in Moscow or Cyprus. Roh also is an investor in Link Campus University, holding a 5% stake.[unreliable source?] The university is known for its diplomatic, intelligence and analytical studies, such as the School of Analysis–Security and Intelligence section, and a place where Mifsud taught.
Link Campus University was founded 1999 by Vincenzo Scotti as a subsidiary of the University of Malta, with help from Mifsud, who was then the head of the university’s education department. Scotti was Italian interior minister from 1990 to 1992, when he oversaw the country’s domestic intelligence apparatus. Scotti has been the ″director″ at Link Campus University, while Mifsud was its "director of international relations" and recruited foreign students for Link Campus University.[unreliable source?] After Robert Mueller in May 2017 took over the Trump Russia collusion investigation, Mifsud could not start classes in that academic year. Mifsud lived in university housing until summer 2018.
The Mueller Report made no mention of Mifsud’s longtime association with Italian Ex-Minister Vincenzo Scotti or with the institution that Scotti headed in Rome, Link Campus University.[unreliable source?]
In his book, Roh claimed that he was detained and questioned by investigators on Robert Mueller's Special Counsel team in October 2017.
According to a filing in a U.S. federal court in the case Democratic National Committee v. Russian Federation in September 2018, Mifsud was "missing and may be deceased". Mifsud's whereabouts were unknown and he could not be served with the complaint. He spoke to his girlfriend on 31 October 2017. The next day an Italian newspaper revealed that the "professor" referred to in news reports about Papadopoulos was Mifsud, and she has not heard from him since then. According to CNN, he has "gone to ground" and was last seen on 6 November 2017 at Link University, a private university in Rome where he was teaching at the time. In September 2018, an Italian court described his location as "residence unknown".
According to media reports, Mifsud was in Rome as of April 2019. On October 1, 2019, the Italian newspaper il Foglio published a photo of Mifsud in Switzerland with a copy of the Swiss newspaper Zürichsee-Zeitung dated May 21, 2018, as proof that he was still alive.
Corriere della Sera, Italy’s newspaper of record, said on November 11, 2019, that it received a recording of someone who claimed to be Mr. Mifsud. Voice recognition experts with the U.K.-based investigative journalism group Bellingcat said that, based on tone and pronunciation, the recording matched verified recordings of the 59-year-old part-time professor.[unreliable source?]
On December 5, 2019, the Diário de Notícias da Madeira and Buzzfeed, reported that Mifsud's passport and wallet were found on August 5, 2017, in Câmara de Lobos. According to the news reports the travel documents and wallet were given to the local police who then forwarded them to Cristiano Ronaldo Airport, as this would be the most likely location where these could be retrieved, although this did not happen. Malta's Embassy in Lisbon was only informed of the missing passport on January 24, 2019 who in turn only informed the Maltese Government on October 2019.
- Timeline of investigations into Trump and Russia (2019)
- Timeline of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections
- Trump Tower meeting#George Papadopoulos
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