The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, as well as a libel suit against a British journalist who exposed Russian influence in the West, have raised the spectre of Joseph Mifsud – the elusive Maltese professor and alleged Russian spy who disappeared without a trace over five years ago and is widely suspected to be under the protection of Russian authorities.
Carole Cadwalladr, an investigative journalist of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal fame, referred to Mifsud earlier this week in a thread about beleaguered UK Prime minister Boris Johnson and his party’s ties with Russian influence peddlers.
The evidence suggests Johnson directly involved in covering up Russian interference. New docs I published yesterday reveal Williamson’s involvement.
This is photo of Johnson in Congress with Mifsud who head of FBI called ‘a Russian agent of influence’ pic.twitter.com/zIVXjAzJTu
— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) March 4, 2022
Mifsud’s links with Russia have been the subject of scrutiny given his alleged involvement in not just leading an affiliate of former US president Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral campaign team towards Moscow’s promises of “dirt” on then-rival candidate Hillary Clinton but also over his links with Johnson.
Johnson, in turn, has been facing a mountain of problems related to his own personal and political links with Russian oligarchs since at least 2017, when Cadwalladr had revealed how he and three other foreign office ministers had met Mifsud and an associate of his, George Papadopoulos, to discuss Brexit.
And yet, in spite of the evident interest in Mifsud’s whereabouts after he was slated for prosecution in the US and labeled a “key figure” for the Russiagate investigation and the fact that his name keeps cropping up in relation to what Cadwalladr described as ‘The Great Information War’ waged by Russia against the West, Mifsud remains nowhere to be found.
No new physical evidence of Mifsud’s presence has been reported since at least November 2017, when a photo of Johnson, then-foreign secretary of the UK and now, its prime minister, and Mifsud, was used as part of an evidence dossier compiled during the Russiagate investigation which sought to look into the Trump campaign’s links with Moscow.
Johnson’s ties with Russia were brought into sharp relief following his 2019 decision to block a report which was meant to look into how the UK’s intelligence services and, by extension, its government, failed to take any concerted action in relation to Russiagate in spite of having advanced warning of what was afoot.
The Russiagate scandal
In a scandal that snowballed throughout the 2016 US presidential elections, several associates linked with Trump’s campaign were accused of collusion with Russian officials and influence peddlers in order to obtain compromising information on democratic party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Clinton’s hopes for the 2016 election were tarnished following the publication of tens of thousands of emails from her private communications, leading to the democratic party’s decision to sue Wikileaks, who had published a 20,000 trove of hacked documents, the Trump campaign, and Russia itself.
Mifsud was named in the lawsuit as one of the individuals who, in 2014, spoke to Papadopoulos about “dirt” the Russians had on Clinton, referring to thousands of emails and essentially whetting the Trump campaign’s appetite for the leaked information.
When elected president, Trump fired the former head of the FBI, James Comey, who later testified and confirmed bombshell news reports which had outlined how Comey and another top intelligence chief were directly asked to deny all evidence of cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The investigation remains ongoing to this day, with further explosive twists in the saga leading current lead investigator special counsel John Durham to charging former Clinton campaign subcontractor Igor Danchenko for allegedly lying about a dossier which portrayed Trump as a Kremlin agent.
Former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann was also charged with lying to the FBI after he had allegedly claimed to not be working on behalf of the Clintons when presenting documents that supposedly linked the Trump Organisation to a Russian bank.
Links with Brexit
The Byline Times, which had co-published the story about the meeting between Johnson and Mifsud with Cadwalladr, refers to detailed information about ties between wealthy Russian oligarchs and Johnson’s conservative party in the UK.
The photo featuring Mifsud and Johnson was published after Johnson had denied ever meeting Mifsud altogether, following which he’d said he had never met Mifsud “knowingly”, according to reports.
In reality, massive donations have been given to the conservative party through an organisation known as Conservative Friends of Russia. Johnson is also known to have links with Russian media moguls who had elevated Johnson’s media profile back when he was mayor of London.
Russian ambassadors and diplomats had also managed to cultivate close ties with the UK independence party (UKIP), providing their support to the Leave.EU campaign which eventually spelled the end for the UK’s stint as a member of the EU.
The UK’s prime minister’s ties with Russia had come under particular scrutiny following his 2019 decision to block the publication of a report of Russian interference within the referendum.