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Maltese Professor Joseph Mifsud was one of several key figures among a complicated cast of characters shaping the Russia election interference probe happening in the states.
In the spring of 2016, according to The Atlantic, Mifsud told a young Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to the special counsel’s statement of the offense against Papadopoulos, who was indicted for misleading federal agents about his conversations with Mifsud.
Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee months earlier, and would soon break into Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s inbox. It is still not clear how Mifsud seemed to know in advance that Russia sought to compromise Clinton’s candidacy.
The lawyer allegedly questioned by Mueller’s team, Stephan Roh, is a German multimillionaire with ties to Russia. He hired Mifsud as a “business-development consultant” in 2015, and is Mifsud’s “partner and best friend” and “the money behind him,” Papadopoulos’s wife, Simona Mangiante, who worked for Mifsud briefly was reported to say.
Roh intersected with Mifsud at two institutions: the now-defunct London Academy of Diplomacy and Link Campus University, a private institution in Rome that Roh co-owns, and where Mifsud taught briefly, claimed the Atlantic back in May.
Link Campus is presented as a private (for-profit) university with accreditation from Italy’s education ministry. There are six Italian politicians on its governing body – two of them former foreign ministers – and it is also reputed to have links with Italian intelligence services.
Link Campus, which started operating in 1999, was described in a Times of Malta report dated 2004 that it was Malta’s University branch in Italy.
In interviews with RealClearInvestigations, Roh and Pastor said Mifsud is anything but a Russian spy. Rather, he is more likely a Western intelligence asset. According to the two authors, it was a former Italian intelligence official, Vincenzo Scotti, a colleague of Mifsud’s and onetime interior minister, who told the professor to go into hiding. “I don’t know who was hiding him,” said Roh, “but I’m sure it was organized by someone. And I am sure it will be difficult to get to the bottom of it.” Roh said Mifsud was afraid when he first went into hiding. “He had been moved to a place far away in Italy. In November and December, it broke him down. He was under so much pressure and cut off from the world. He had no internet or access to communications.” Pastor and Roh, who hired Mifsud as a business development consultant in 2015, write that far from being a Russian spy, Mifsud “had only one master: the Western Political, Diplomatic and Intelligence World, his only home, of which he is still deeply dependent.”
Roh’s wife is Olga Roh, a Russian fashion designer who appeared on the British reality TV show Meet the Russians. Roh is also in the nuclear-energy business: He acquired a small British nuclear consulting firm from scientist Dr. John Harbottle in 2005, according to the BBC, and invited Harbottle on an all-expenses paid trip to Moscow shortly thereafter, Harbottle told the outlet. Harbottle declined the offer because he “smelt a rat,” he said, and was then fired. Within three years, Severnvale Nuclear Services’ turnover went from under $100,000 to $44 million, per the BBC.
In April 2016, Mifsud and Roh spoke on a panel together at the Kremlin-backed Valdai Club—a think tank that is close to President Vladimir Putin and hosts him every year for a keynote address. The club is described in the book as “one of the most influential Russian think tanks in Moscow, maybe even the most prestigious.”
Roh’s name had come up in investigations by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller into alleged links between US President Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral campaign and Russia or other foreign powers. After being interrogated at the airport in 2017 by the FBI and special investigators with the Mueller team, the 50-year-old lawyer said he and his family were “observed, followed and taped” by the FBI during their time in New York.
Back in May, The Local reported that a spokesperson for Robert Mueller refused to state whether Roh is currently under investigation, British broadcaster the BBC reported recently that Roh was suspected of having been the third member of a group that helped connect Trump’s team with Russians. The other members of this group are thought to include Maltese academic and self-styled diplomat Joseph Mifsud and Ivan Timofeev, the program director of the Valdai Discussion Club think tank which has close links to the Kremlin.
Roh’s alleged role in establishing links between Russia and the Trump election campaign – something he strongly denies being part of – is difficult to ascertain.
In 2017, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, said under oath that he had met in March 2016 with Mifsud who Papadopoulos “understood to substantial connections to Russian government officials” according to court documents.
Earlier on Monday: “An Associated Press investigation of Mifsud’s career led to Mifsud’s Swiss-German lawyer, Stephan Roh, say that Mifsud is alive and has disputed almost all the allegations against him, saying via email that the 58-year-old hadn’t committed any crime and that the claims leveled against him are either old, unsubstantiated or consist of what he described as “defamatory departing music.”