Boris John­son met Lon­don pro­fes­sor linked to FBI’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Fresh ques­tions as photo emerges of Joseph Mif­sud and for­eign sec­re­tary at fundraiser

The Observer - - FRONT PAGE - By Ca­role Cad­wal­ladr

Boris John­son is fac­ing ques­tions about the gov­ern­ment’s links to key in­di­vid­u­als named by the FBI in its Trump-Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, fol­low­ing the emer­gence of a photo of him with Joseph Mif­sud, the “Lon­don pro­fes­sor” with high-level Krem­lin con­tacts.

The for­eign sec­re­tary is fac­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of a po­ten­tial se­cu­rity breach fol­low­ing the emer­gence of the photo of him with Mif­sud, whose iden­tity emerged as part of in­ves­ti­ga­tions into al­leged links be­tween Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion cam­paign and Rus­sia.

This de­vel­op­ment comes less than a week af­ter John­son de­nied meet­ing the pro­fes­sor, and at a time when con­cern is grow­ing about pos­si­ble Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the Brexit cam­paign, in which the for­eign sec­re­tary played a crucial role.

Al­though the FBI had known about Mif­sud’s role as a high-level go-be­tween link­ing the Trump cam­paign and the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment since at least July, it ap­pears Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence did not warn the for­eign sec­re­tary about the po­ten­tial em­bar­rass­ment or se­cu­rity im­pli­ca­tions be­fore he at­tended a fundrais­ing din­ner with Mif­sud on 19 Oc­to­ber.

Ben Brad­shaw, the MP for Ex­eter, who has been rais­ing ques­tions about pos­si­ble Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence, said: “It’s in­con­ceiv­able that the FBI didn’t tell their UK coun­ter­parts about Mif­sud … so how was this al­lowed to hap­pen?” The only ex­pla­na­tion, he sug­gests, is “our own agen­cies are keep­ing in­for­ma­tion from John­son for some rea­son … which only begs fur­ther wor­ry­ing ques­tions”.

Last week, the Ob­server re­ported that Mif­sud had told col­leagues he was plan­ning to meet John­son “to dis­cuss Brexit”. The third man in the photo, busi­ness­man Prasen­jit Ku­mar Singh, told the Ob­server he had known Mif­sud, a Mal­tese aca­demic named in FBI doc­u­ments con­cern­ing pos­si­ble Trump-Krem­lin con­nec­tions, for sev­eral years, and had at­tended sem­i­nars on Brexit that Mif­sud had held at the Lon­don School of Diplo­macy: “He is a very good speaker and he’s had a lot of sem­i­nars about Brexit at the academy.”

Singh said they had met the for­eign sec­re­tary at the event and had chat­ted to him “about nor­mal things”. Asked if Mif­sud had in­tro­duced him­self to John­son, he said: “I don’t know. I in­tro­duced my­self to him and we talked. He is a very good man, a good politi­cian.”

Last week, a spokesman said John­son had “never met” Mif­sud, a state­ment that was up­dated to “never know­ingly met” af­ter they con­firmed his pres­ence at the event. Last week a For­eign Of­fice source said: “The for­eign sec­re­tary has his photo taken with count­less peo­ple he does not know, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing events at­tended by 150 peo­ple at which he’s the main speaker.”

In­trigu­ingly, the pho­to­graph also presents new ev­i­dence of links to a fur­ther key in­di­vid­ual named in the FBI doc­u­ments.

On Fri­day, the New York Times iden­tifi a woman in the doc­u­ments whom Mif­sud in­tro­duced to a Trump cam­paign op­er­a­tive, Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los, as “Putin’s niece”. The New York Times named her as Olga Polon­skaya, 30, from St Peters­burg, the for­mer man­ager of a wine dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany. The FBI doc­u­ments state that she has high-level con­nec­tions to the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.

And she is also a con­tact of Singh’s, though he had no idea of her con­nec­tion to the Trump-Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­til told by the Ob­server. He said he had met her at Link Cam­pus Univer­sity in Rome, where Mif­sud was based. “I had no idea she called her­self ‘Putin’s niece’! She was just a nor­mal stu­dent. Very nice. An or­di­nary girl.” He said she had rung him “about two and a half months ago” and had asked to meet.

“I was with my fam­ily and we were go­ing to the West­field shop­ping cen­tre and I said: ‘Yes, come and meet me there.’ She was go­ing to trans­late my web­site – for the Lon­don Ex­ec­u­tive School – from English into Rus­sian so I could try and at­tract more Rus­sian stu­dents. She did that: I just haven’t put it up yet.”

Chris Bryant MP, the vice chair of the all-party par­lia­men­tary Rus­sia group, said: “It’s all dis­tinctly fishy. Boris John­son’s re­la­tion­ship with the truth right now seems dis­tinctly ca­sual. We asked him about Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in Brexit in the for­eign af­fairs com­mit­tee last week and he cat­e­gor­i­cally de­nied he had seen a shred of ev­i­dence. I just thought ‘blimey’. Even as a ju­nior min­is­ter in the for­eign of­fice, Rus­sian stuff came across my desk ev­ery sin­gle day.”

Boris John­son pic­tured at the din­ner with the ‘Lon­don pro­fes­sor’, Joseph Mif­sud, left, and Prasen­jit Ku­mar Singh, right.

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