Joseph Mifsud is a Maltese professor at the Link Campus University in Rome and the London Centre of International Law Practice (LCILP), and represents the starting point of the “Russiagate” investigations. The last sighting of Joseph Mifsud dates back to May 21, 2018, at the offices of his lawyer Stephan Roh in Zurich, a few months after his official disappearance. On September 12, 2018, the Audit Court of Sicily ordered the missing professor to return more than €49,000 ($56,700) to the University Consortium of the Province of Agrigento, a Sicilian institution of which he was once president. The sentencing, however, referred to his “unknown residence”, and how the carabinieri, the Italian State police and the Guardia di Finanza had tried to trace the professor without success. Mr Mifsud was not found either at the Link Campus University in Rome or at his London home.
Where is Joseph Mifsud, or “The Professor”, as Robert Mueller calls him? Why is the key to “Russiagate” in hiding? Is he afraid of someone or something? According to Il Foglio, Mr Mifsud was hiding for several months in Rome, in Via Cimarosa 3, behind the Villa Borghese. The BuzzFeed website writes that the professor’s last contact with his girlfriend was a Whatsapp message on October 31 2017, when the news of his involvement became public, telling her not to talk to journalists. Since then he seems to have disappeared into thin air.
Joseph Mifsud was born in Malta in 1960. He attended university there and then achieved a master’s degree from the University of Padua in 1989. In 1995 he obtained a research doctorate from Queen’s University in Belfast, with a thesis entitled “Managing educational reform: a comparative approach from Malta (and Northern Ireland); a head-teachers’ perspective.” He speaks nine languages: Maltese, English, Arabic, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Slovenian. As the Italian publication Open points out, after having been the chief of staff for the Maltese Foreign Minister, in 2007 he left the University of Malta after taking liberties in managing academic funds.
In 2013 he moved to London, where he was director of the London Academy of Diplomacy until 2016. In Italy, he was mainly in Rome, while in Agrigento he was head of the University Consortium of the Province of Agrigento. The Maltese lecturer, who attended the Valdai Discussion Club in Russia, has important contacts at Link Campus University, owned by former Italian interior minister Vincenzo Scotti: Boris Johnson and Ivan Timofeev (a member of the Russian International Affairs Council) among others. As Il Messaggero notes, he is known to have arrived in Italy, and then at Link Campus University, through Gianni Pittella, MP of the Italian Democratic Party (PD) and former leader of the PES (Party of European Socialists) at the European Parliament, who was a visiting professor at the London Academy of Diplomacy.
As a former senior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Malta, Joseph Mifsud was a key member of the team that negotiated his small nation’s entry into the European Union. In 2014, the Maltese diplomat took on the new challenge of growing the London Academy of Diplomacy (LAD), a prestigious institution located in Middlesex Street in the heart of London, which hosts about 150 students from 50 nations.
“LAD is considered one of the best diplomatic academies in the world. We form part of the International Forum on Diplomatic Training,” explained Mr Mifsud in an interview. “Besides teaching foreign languages, we teach how to be flexible in thinking, how to engage with the business community and how to act at different levels, from the highest level of diplomacy to more mundane people-to-people skills, as well as the ability to think strategically and geopolitically,” he claimed to the Washington Diplomat.
Among other roles, Joseph Mifsud spent five years in Slovenia as president of the Euro-Mediterranean University of Slovenia (EMUNI). He helped train Albanian diplomats in their efforts to gain EU membership and organized panels on the threat of Islamic extremism in Europe. Asked who his role models were, Mr Mifsud named the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whom he called “a fantastic diplomat”, and Martti Ahtisaari, a former President of Finland who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008 for his work in conflict resolution around the world, from Namibia to Kosovo and Indonesia.
According to the official reconstruction, in a meeting in April 2016 with George Papadopoulos, advisor to the Trump campaign, Mr Mifsud stated that he had learned that the Russian government had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton “in the form of emails.” At that point, the President’s former consultant passed this information to the Australian High Commissioner in London, Alexander Downer, who in turn reported everything to the American authorities. From here, on July 31 2016, the FBI investigations into alleged links between Trump and Russia began, accusations that later proved inconsistent. But then, who designed and set up everything with the aim of “trapping” Trump? The American justice system is working on it.
The story of the meeting between Joseph Mifsud and George Papadopoulos is told by Donald Trump’s former advisor in a recent interview published in La Verità. “When I arrived at Link, I attended a meeting between some officials of the Italian intelligence services, members of the Libyan opposition and Vincenzo Scotti (former Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Interior, now president of Link Campus University). The explanation I gave was that at the time the situation in Libya was very specific, and that for historical and geographical reasons Italy had a vested interest in encouraging the stabilisation of the local situation,” Mr Papadopoulos observes. As Mr Papadopoulos recalls, it was Vincenzo Scotti himself who introduced him to Mr Mifsud: “I had the impression that they both knew perfectly well who I was. That same evening, at dinner, we talked about two topics: the energy sector and Trump’s election campaign. Mifsud boasted that he knew many European leaders and had good contacts in the State Department, and said that we should stay in touch.” While Mr Papadopoulos was in London, Mr Mifsud contacted him, proposing to introduce him to Vladimir Putin’s niece. “I immediately thought this was impossible, so I consulted Nagi Idris [co-director of LCILP], who seemed positive about this meeting and urged me to meet the woman. Why Idris lied, and together with Mifsud organised a fake meeting with this person, is currently the subject of an investigation.”
At the beginning of 2017, when he was interrogated by the FBI, Joseph Mifsud confirmed that he knew Mr Papadopoulos and had introduced him into Moscow circles, but denied having spoken to him about emails, espionage, cybersecurity or other controversial issues. In an interview with Repubblica in November 2017, the teacher denied that he had spoken to Mr Papadopoulos about Hillary Clinton’s compromising material: “All I did was facilitate contacts between official and unofficial sources to resolve a crisis. It is usual business everywhere. I put think-tanks in contact, groups of experts with other groups of experts.” Yet his name came up several times during the House Intelligence Committee hearings by former “Russiagate” Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and Republicans are increasingly convinced that the Link professor is a key figure.
In his final report, former Russiagate special counsel Robert Mueller names Joseph Mifsud 18 times, suggesting that the professor is a Russian agent, and reports that when he was interrogated by the FBI in February 2017, Mr Mifsud denied having said anything to Mr Papadopoulos about Mrs Clinton’s emails. However, the name of the Maltese professor was repeatedly mentioned by Representative Jim Jordan during Mr Mueller’s House Intelligence Committee hearing. “The mysterious professor who lives in Rome and London… this is the guy who told Papadopoulos. He is the guy who starts it all, and when the FBI interviews him, he lies three times and yet you don’t charge him with a crime,” stressed Representative Jordan to Mr Mueller, who did not respond. “Is Mifsud Western intelligence or Russian intelligence?” asked Mr Jordan, who again received no comment from Mr Mueller.
In a letter dated 3 May and sent to the FBI, CIA, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Director of the National Security Agency, Republican Congressman Davin Nunes observed, “If Mifsud has extensive, suspicious contacts among Russian officials as portrayed in the Special Counsel’s report, then an incredibly wide range of Western institutions and individuals may have been compromised by him, including our own State Department.” Alternatively, Mr Nunes continued, citing Link Campus University several times in his report, “if Mifsud is not in fact a counterintelligence threat, then that would cast doubt on the Special Counsel’s fundamental depiction of him and his activities, and raise questions about the veracity of the Special Counsel’s statements and affirmations.”
In August 2019, Joseph Mifsud, who was the first (according to the inquiry of the special counsel Robert Mueller) to reveal to Mr Papadopoulos, advisor to Mr Trump’s electoral campaign, the existence of compromising emails by his rival Hillary Clinton, provided an audio deposition to the US Attorney John Durham.
The news of the Mifsud deposition was given live on Fox News by investigative journalist John Solomon in response to Sean Hannity’s questions: “I can absolutely confirm that Durham investigators have now obtained an audiotape deposition of Joseph Mifsud, where he describes his work – why he targeted Papadopoulos, who directed him to do that, what directions he was given, and why he set that entire process of introducing George Papadopoulos to Russia in motion in March of 2016, which is really the flashpoint and starting point of this whole Russia collusion narrative. I can also confirm,” the journalist added, “that the Senate Judiciary Committee has also obtained the same deposition.”
According to Mr Solomon and published in The Hill, “Mifsud was a long-time cooperator of Western intel, who was asked specifically by his contacts at Link University in Rome and the London Centre of International Law Practice (LCILP) – two academic groups with ties to Western diplomacy and intelligence – to meet with Papadopoulos at a dinner in Rome in mid-March 2016.” Mr Solomon obtained this information directly from Professor Mifsud’s lawyer, Stephan Roh. The lawyer is trying to prove to US Attorney John Durham that his client is a Western intelligence collaborator who was asked to introduce Mr Papadopoulos to the Russians.
According to the Daily Beast, when Attorney General William Barr arrived at the US Embassy at Palazzo Margherita, in Rome, he asked for two things: a conference room to meet high-level Italian security agents where he could be sure not to be overheard, and an extra seat for US Attorney John Durham, who had been commissioned by Mr Barr himself to shed light on the origin of Russiagate.
An official of the American embassy in Rome revealed to the Daily Beast that William Barr’s was an unexpected visit. According to the American newspaper, Mr Barr and Mr Durham were particularly interested in what the Italian secret services knew about Joseph Mifsud. The Daily Beast article continued resoundingly, saying that Mr Mifsud allegedly applied for police protection in Italy after having “disappeared” from public life and from the Link University in Rome, where he worked.
Mr Mifsud would provide an audio deposition explaining why “some people” could hurt him. A source in the Italian Ministry of Justice, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Mr Barr and Mr Durham had heard the tape, and there would be an exchange of information between the American prosecutors and Italian intelligence.
As Federico Punzi notes in Atlantic Daily, if Joseph Mifsud was a Russian agent – as Robert Mueller seems to suggest – an incredible number of Western academic, political and security figures and institutions with whom he was in a close relationship could have been seriously compromised, meaning a huge breach in the security of the United States and allied governments. But Mr Mifsud has in fact never been treated a potential threat of that kind, either by the FBI or other Western services.
The same doubts are expressed by the Republican Devin Nunes, according to whom it is unlikely that Mr Mifsud is a Russian agent (as is claimed by former FBI director James Comey): “I have no idea whether or not he is a Russian asset or a Western intelligence asset,” underlined Nunes on Fox News, “but if he was a Russian asset… the FBI, the State Department, the US Congress, all of our allies, NATO… they have all been compromised.” “If Mifsud is a Russian agent, as former FBI director James Comey alleged, NATO countries will spend years assessing the damage. If he isn’t, it is evidence that Comey’s FBI wasn’t probing the Trump campaign – but running a sting operation against it,” writes the New York Post.
Who really is Mr Mifsud, then? His deposition given to US Attorney John Durham may be the key to this incredible spy story.