Culture Minister José Herrera has given the national orchestra the go-ahead to continue collaborating with the European Foundation for Support of Culture (EFSC), a Maltese-registered NGO backed by Russian-Armenian Konstantin Ishkhanov.

Herrera put a halt to the collaboration in March after Times of Malta raised questions about the foundation’s funding and links to a Russian agency.

A spokeswoman for Herrera said the Culture Ministry had sought “relevant clarifications” before entities under its remit establish new collaborations with the foundation.

The spokeswoman said due diligence reports related to the source of funds had been prepared by the foundation.

The spokeswoman did not share the due diligence reports in question.

“The ministry to date has neither further information nor knowledge that any competent authority is investigating the foundation. Moreover, the foundation is still recognised and registered with the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations,” the spokeswoman said.

She said the ministry’s public entities can therefore collaborate with the foundation, “respecting vigilant and good governance practices throughout their operations”.

A spokesman for the orchestra said that all events organised by the foundation were of a “purely cultural nature and showcased local talent in leading concert halls of international scale”.

According to the spokesman, the national orchestra had only received a “mere €7k in cash in its years of collaboration”.

The orchestra has gone on tours of Europe, America and Moscow funded by the foundation, including a concert at the Carnegie Hall in New York.

The amount spent by the foundation on all the events and tours it produced and funded for the orchestra was not specified.

“There was never ever hints of political associations, secretive deals or illegalities of which the national orchestra or its administrators are or had been aware,” the orchestra spokesman said.

He added that the due diligence carried out on the foundation had shown “no adverse remarks”

“The Culture Ministry has given its clearance to whoever seeks collaboration with EFSC, be it the national orchestra or other entities, as other international orchestras and organisations already do with EFSC in supporting cultural events,” the spokesman said.

“The National Orchestra Ltd is satisfied with the outcome and reiterates that it has always acted in good faith and above board.”

Malta Philharmonic Orchestra executive chairman Sigmund Mifsud said it was Catherine Tabone, the MPO’s deputy chairman, who had first introduced the orchestra to the foundation. 

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