The US impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and the long-running allegations of Russian interference in the US 2016 elections have renewed attention on Joseph Mifsud, a missing Maltese professor and a former member of Link University staff, the Financial Times reports.
The primary reason is the “official visit by US secretary of state Mike Pompeo in recent days and a visit by the US attorney-general last month” in search of answers over Mr Mifsud.
The link between Rome’s role as an intelligence hub and the university itself have been in the spotlight.
Link, established in 1999 as a Roman outpost of the University of Malta, has close ties to the world of Italian espionage, cultivated through its president, the former Italian foreign minister Vincenzo Scotti, and a masters programme in intelligence that has attracted speakers from secret services from across the world. It also has links with key members of the ruling Five Star party. Former defence secretary Elisabetta Trenta lectures on some of its courses.
“I know from my experience there they have a good working relationship with Italian intelligence agencies,” said Stephen Marin, a former CIA agent and director of the intelligence analysis programme at James Madison University who has lectured at the Link Campus. About 2,500 students attend the university each year, with fees for the masters programme close to €10,000.
Mifsud, who has been reported missing since 2017, has been accused of informing the then Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos that Russia had hacked emails from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s server. Some Trump allies have in turn accused Mr Mifsud of being a western intelligence plant intended to compromise the president’s election campaign. They say he was involved in a “deep state” campaign to smear Mr Trump for conspiring with Russia in the 2016 US election.
Papadopoulos wrote on Twitter that he was “an Italian operative handled by the CIA”. Mifsud has in the past denied the allegations made against him. William Barr, US attorney-general, was last week revealed to have made two visits this year to the Italian capital, where he was reported by Italian media to have met with domestic intelligence officials as part of an effort to investigate the sources of the Russia investigation.
In a meeting in September, Mr Barr was accompanied to Italy by US attorney John Durham who is leading Mr Barr’s counter-intelligence investigation into possible foreign intelligence activity directed against Mr Trump. Their focus was Mr Mifsud.