Since the world learned the name of the professor who introduced a Trump aide to contacts in the Russian government, the media has been struggling to piece together a picture of him.
On Tuesday, the New York Times published a rather sparse profile of Professor Joseph Mifsud, and more recently STV News and the journalist Jon Worth have compiled broader collections of the pieces of information that are scattered around the the internet.
However, nobody has managed to definitively separate facts from untruths in the often contradictory descriptions of Prof. Mifsud that appear on the web, and many questions still exist about the relationships he has with the various people and institutions he is linked with.
The University of Stirling seems reluctant to talk about Mifsud; the Communications Office sent the same one-sentence statement to Brig and major outlets like the New York Times and, as you will see later on, connections between the University and the professor are gradually disappearing from the internet.
Here is the information Brig and others have managed to glean from the internet and sources.
Mifsud and the University of Stirling
The one-sentence statement from the university’s Communications Office concerned Mifsud’s working relationship to Stirling.
It reads: “Professor Joseph Mifsud has been a full-time Professorial Teaching Fellow in the University’s Politics department since May 2017”.
“Professorial Teaching Fellow” is an interesting title – it is not at all common at Stirling. In fact, the only other name that appears when searching for the phrase alongside “Stirling” on Google is Professor Tom Collins, who told Brig he no longer holds that position.
The shorter title “Professorial Fellow” is a little more common. Holders of that title include Sir George Reid, a former SNP MP, MSP and Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.
Mifsud’s links to the University of Stirling go back further than May 2017.
According to STV journalist and former Brig editor Dan Vevers, Mifsud was “taken on as a part-time professorial teaching fellow in 2016, before taking on the same role full-time in May 2017.”
The bio on Mifsud’s private Twitter, which was created in February 2016 and is locked, reads: “Dean, International Development and Diplomacy”. His location is set as the University of Stirling. However, the position of Dean of International Development and Diplomacy doesn’t exist at Stirling – there is no faculty of International Development and Diplomacy to be a dean of.
On April 13 2016, Mifsud gave a public lecture at the Pathfoot Lecture Theatre alongside the aforementioned Sir George Reid. It was titled “Controlled or uncontrolled migration – a fortress EU or a global response?”.
This is the only evidence we have of Mifsud ever lecturing on the University of Stirling campus. Reid told STV News that he believes the Maltese academic is only on campus “two or three days a year”, but Brig has been unable to find anyone who says they have been taught by him.
Going back earlier, a university spokesperson told STV News: “In September 2014 the University of Stirling took over, from the University of East Anglia, the validation of two courses delivered by the London Academy of Diplomacy, in London, of which Professor Mifsud was director.
“This arrangement ceased in September 2016 when the London Academy of Diplomacy withdrew these courses.”
Not much is available online about the London Academy of Diplomacy (LAD). Its former website has been deleted, and it isn’t mentioned on the University of Stirling’s website after March 2016. According to Companies House, it was only incorporated as a private company on January 9, 2015.
The sole shareholder listed on the Companies House certificate is INTO University Partnerships, which also owns the new INTO building on campus. The two company directors are Andrew Colin and John Sykes, founder and co-founder of INTO.
The Guardian found a 2014 article in the Washington Diplomat about the LAD, which states that the Academy was home to “some 150 students hailing from 50 nations”, as well as 36 faculty members. The address given for the Academy on its Facebook page, which has no posts, is 102 Middlesex Street in London, but there is “no sign of it” now.
The deleted LAD website mentioned above claims the Academy has been operating “since 1980”. However, Brig has found a document on the University of East Anglia (UEA) website which says that the “London Academy of Diplomacy” was chosen as an “informal working title” for the UEA’s INTO facility in London in 2011.
On June 30 2016, Professor John Gardner, who retired from the university in March this year, tweeted a number of pictures from a graduation ceremony, including one apparently of graduates from the London Academy of Diplomacy standing beside Mifsud.
This picture also includes the University of Stirling’s Prof. Holger Nehring, Prof. Richard Oram, and Gardner himself. Other pictures from the event show Misfud beside Prof. Gerry McCormac, Stirling’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, and Sir George Reid again. In the tweet with Misfud and Reid, Gardner refers to them as “Our diplomacy A-team”.
In fact, Gardner has another major link to Misfud. Both were listed on the “Our People” page of the website for a mysterious place called the International Academy of Media and Diplomacy. Classes at the IAMD, according to the site, were due to begin in September 2016 in London, Rome and Bahrain. Those classes don’t seem to have materialised.
Both Mifsud and Gardner have since disappeared from the page, and at the bottom there is a gap where “University of Stirling” used to be listed as one of the Academy’s partners.
In September 2014, Stirling held a three-day “away day” for representatives of the London Academy of Diplomacy, which included a “library tour” and a visit to the Famous Grouse Distillery. Guests included Mifsud, former Maltese Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Frendo, and former Croatian Finance Minister Miomir Žužul, who resigned in 2005 after being linked to a corruption scandal.
Brig has learned that Mifsud’s responsibilities at the university in 2016 included “giving lectures and masterclasses as part of the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Politics, International Politics and International Conflict and Co-operation at Stirling”, although no students who studied those courses at that time contacted by Brig had heard of him.
Mifsud’s affairs elsewhere
Mifsud is connected to a number of institutions beyond Stirling, the London Academy of Diplomacy and the IAMD.
He has associations with the University of East Anglia, again through the London Academy of Diplomacy. As mentioned earlier, the Academy was affiliated with the UEA before Stirling. The Washington Post has reported that the Academy notably established a partnership with a faculty of Moscow State University in 2012.
Mifsud visited Moscow State University about once a year between 2013 and 2017 to give lectures, and when Counsellor of the Russian Embassy Ernest Chernukhin visited the LAD on July 10 2014, as seen in the picture above, it was alongside a delegation from this University.
Speaking of the Russian Embassy, Mifsud met with Alexander Yakovenko, the ambassador himself, on May 29 2014, where they discussed “different issues of the Russian-British cooperation in the sphere of international relations, diplomacy, science and education.” Here is a picture of the meeting from the Russian Embassy website:
He is the head of a course at Link Campus University in Rome, where he was recently interviewed by Italian newspaper Repubblica – more on that interview later. Jon Worth has pointed out that Mifsud has a history in Italy. There is a story about him on the website of the Consorzio Universitario di Agrigento in Sicily from 2005.
A biography provided at a European Parliament hearing states that Mifsud was born in 1960 in Malta, and educated at the University of Malta, the University of Padua, and Queens University in Belfast.
That same biography mentions that in December 2008, Mifsud was “unanimously elected” as the President of the Euro-Mediterranean University (EMUNI). Mifsud, however, is not mentioned anywhere on the EMUNI website.
Five years later, a news article appears in the Times of Malta stating that Mifsud owed EMUNI at least €39,000 after taking advantage of expenses and working up a massive mobile phone bill during his time as president. This got him in a bit of trouble with the Slovenian government – EMUNI is Slovenia-based -, the outcome of which is not known.
This article also mentions the fact that Mifsud served, at some point, as the personal assistant of Michael Frendo, the former Maltese Minister for Foreign Affairs who came along to the London Academy of Diplomacy day trip up to Stirling mentioned earlier. An article on a Maltese website says that Mifsud met with a Maltese politician two weeks before he was elected Prime Minister in 2013.
The New York Times has noted that Mifsud was a regular at meetings of the Valdai Discussion Club, which met annually in Sochi in Russia. Another regular at these meetings is President Vladimir Putin. The Washington Post reports that Mifsud told a former assistant last year that he had privately met with Putin, although this meeting is unconfirmed. He has also written approvingly of Putin’s Syria policy.
Internal emails from the university obtained by STV News last night revealed that, in April 2016, a Stirling University official told staff at the politics department about his presence at the “Valdai board meeting” with Putin and the leaders of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. The official described this as Mifsud “‘[flying] the University of Stirling flag’ at high-profile international events”.
Jon Worth – whose blog on the subject is superb, ever-expanding and as close to definitive as we can get at the moment – has also discovered that Mifsud served as a consultant to an international law firm named RoH Attorneys at Law.
This firm is named after Stephen C. Roh, who sits on the board of the Link Campus University Foundation (Link Campus University being the place where Mifsud teaches a course), and who has also attended the Valdai Discussion Club.
Other jobs on the enormous Mifsud CV include a former position on the advisory board of the International Business and Diplomatic Exchange. The Washington Post has reported that he was an observer at the 2015 Kazakh elections that were “sharply criticised by independent groups”. He described them as “consistent with all international norms”.
A page on the Stirling University website from July 12 this year states that Mifsud was one of a number of European experts who “helped to refine the final recommendations which seek to advise Brexit negotiators both on the EU and the UK sides.”
Perhaps most pertinent at the moment is the fact that Mifsud served in various positions for something called the London Centre for International Law Practice (LCILP) in 2016, including as a director for “International Strategic Development”. The LCILP’s director for “International Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Law” from February to April 2016 was a man named George Papadopoulos.
Mifsud in the Papadopoulos Indictment
Much of this is covered, in more detail, in the piece that was put up on Brig on October 31.
On Monday, it was reported that George Papadopoulos, a former aide for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, had pleaded guilty to charges laid out in an indictment from the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
This plea essentially meant that he was happy to agree with the version of events laid out in the unusually detailed indictment, which contains not only a list of crimes, but a timeline of background information to the crimes.
This timeline contains multiple references to a “Professor”, who is not referred to by name. It is now accepted that this man is Joseph Mifsud.
In the interview with Repubblica, referred to earlier, Mifsud states that he did talk to Papadopoulos via email and meet with him “three or four times”, as the indictment says. He says that his role was “to facilitate contacts between official and unofficial sources to resolve a crisis”, and that he proposed contacts from several different areas before “they chose Russia”.
He also claims that the idea that he gave Papadopoulos “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails is “nonsense”, and that he only knows one Russian (Ivan Timofeev, the director of the Russian International Affairs Council, which is based at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – he told The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday that this is the man he introduced Papadopoulos to).
This does not square with the indictment, which says that Mifsud brought up the fact that the Russians had “dirt” on Clinton to Papadopoulos, and introduced him to a “female Russian national”. In fact, Mifsud refers to this woman in the Repubblica article, saying: “She’s just a student, a very good-looking one”, whom Papadopoulos had an “interest” in (“very different from an academic one”).
The meeting where the “Professor” met with Papadopoulos and offered him the Russian “dirt” took place, according to the indictment, eighteen days after the University of Stirling official boasted about Mifsud’s connections to Putin through email.
And just eleven days ago, on October 25, University Secretary Eileen Schofield tweeted this picture of Principle Gerry McCormac meeting Evarist Bartolo, the Maltese Minister of Education and Employment. Joseph Mifsud is tagged.
Brig will keep you up to date with any further developments in this story.