A secretive Maltese academic alleged to have served as a middleman between Russian operatives and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign told the mother of his child that he was on friendly terms with Russia’s foreign minister, Buzzfeed has reported.
Joseph Mifsud, who worked at the Education and Foreign Affairs ministries before relocating to London to teach diplomatic studies at a now-defunct school, was named in a US court document as the person who told a Trump aide that the Russians had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousands of leaked e-mails.
He has since vanished from public view, with a 31-year-old Ukrainian woman who says she is the mother of his child turning to Buzzfeed following months of silence from Mr Mifsud.
'Anna' says the two had met four years ago and were engaged to get married but that she has not seen him since getting pregnant last year, nor heard from him for the past several months.
In an interview which features several photos of Mr Mifsud as well as e-mails and purported WhatsApp conversations between the two, she told Buzzfeed how Mr Mifsud would tell her “I am important man” and talk of his relationship with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
"He said, 'I have dinner with Lavrov tonight. Lavrov is my friend. Lavrov this, Lavrov that,'" Anna said. "He even show me picture with Lavrov," she added.
That claim runs counter to what Mr Mifsud told La Repubblica last October, in an interview denying having any involvement in the affair.
"I don't know anyone in the Russian government," he had told the Italian news outlet.
Mr Mifsud, Anna told Buzzfeed, would receive several visitors whenever the couple were in Rome or Moscow, and in a WhatsApp message dated May 20, 2017, a "JM" tells Anna that he is in Saudi Arabia chairing a meeting. US President Donald Trump was in the country on that day, attending the Riyadh summit.
Questioned by the FBI
Having worked with ministers from either side of the political spectrum - Evarist Bartolo in the 90s, Michael Frendo a decade later - and following a stint as the head of the University of Malta's international office, Mr Mifsud moved on to foreign pastures.
He helping to run the now-defunct London Academy of Diplomacy, served as an honorary professor with the University of East Anglia and led the Euro-Mediterranean University in Slovenia.
The Valdai Club, a think-tank with close ties to the Kremlin and Russian president Vladimir Putin, lists him as an "expert" on its website.
He was relatively unknown until last autumn, when court documents forming part of Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the US presidential election were unsealed.
Those documents, in which Mr Mifsud was named as the person who told Trump aide George Papadopoulos about "dirt" on the Clinton campaign, thrust him into the international spotlight and drove him into hiding. But judging by his fiancée’s account, Mr Mifsud must have known that a storm was brewing.
Back in April 2017 – months before the court documents were made public, and 12 months after the alleged contact with the Trump campaign occurred – Mr Mifsud told Anna that he had recently been questioned by the FBI, she told Buzzfeed.
“He said they wanted to talk about connections he set up between people in Britain and Russia. He said his phone was probably being checked.”
Anna says that was the last time she met Mr Mifsud in person. Around one month later, she discovered she was pregnant. She has since given birth to a baby girl and says she is willing to undergo a DNA test to prove the child is Mr Mifsud’s.
Despite several promises to visit her and help out with the baby, Anna said nothing materialised and the two have not spoken for months.
In the last exchange between the two, a pregnant Anna wrote that “a London journalist asks about you.”
“Do not reply please,” ‘JM’ wrote before falling silent.