College chums: another academic link in the Mifsud puzzle

This is one in a series of articles about the Trump-Russia affair and the characters involved.

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The London School of Executive Training (LSET) is a dynamic institution located in the heart of London with a “world-renowned” teaching faculty —
or so its website says.

As part of its mission “to drive global transformation”, the school aims to attract “business leaders, bureaucrats, politicians, lawyers” and others for short courses lasting one to four weeks. A one-week course costs £1,500 (almost $2,000) which includes some sightseeing and, for the better-off students, “helicopter hire is available”.

A photo on LSET’s website shows a substantial stone-and brick building which casual observers might assume to be the school. The website doesn’t give its exact location but a few checks on Google show that the building is Hamilton House in Bloomsbury, best known as the headquarters of the National Union of Teachers. However, Hamilton House also has spare rooms that can be hired for meetings — which appears to be where LSET fits in.

LSET is the latest in a series of academic or fringe-academic institutions with links to Joseph Mifsud, the now-vanished professor at the centre of the Trump/Russia affair. In 2014 LSET told inspectors it was “working in partnership” with the London Academy of Diplomacy where Mifsud was director until the academy’s recent closure.

The owner of LSET is Prasenjit Kumar Singh, a donor to the British Conservative party who, in a post on Facebook, has described Mifsud as one of his “good old friends”.

At the Conservative fundraising dinner. Left to right: Mifsud, Johnson and Kumar

That in itself might not be significant — Mifsud appears to have been a virtuoso networker — but Kumar was also a Facebook friend of Olga Polonskaya, the mysterious Russian woman who in March last year attended a meeting with Mifsud and Trump “adviser” George Papadopoulos posing as a niece of President Putin.

Last month, Mifsud and Kumar both attended a Conservative party fundraising dinner where they were photographed with foreign secretary Boris Johnson. Kumar posted the photo on Facebook, where it was “liked” by Ms Polonskaya.

LSET was inspected in 2014 by the British Accreditation Council which gave it a broadly favourable report while noting that at the time it had a total of
only five students.

Before launching LSET in December 2013, Kumar was involved in a succession of failed educational businesses:

Albert College Limited (wound up by court order)

Halifax College (UK) Limited (declared insolvent)

Techno School of Business & Engineering Limited (voluntarily struck off the companies register)

Halifax Educational Research Limited (compulsorily struck off the companies register)

In 2007, London University complained that Albert College was offering its students some of the university’s external courses, but had not asked for up-to-date study materials and had never put forward any candidates for examination. Northumbria University also complained that Albert College was advertising the university’s distance-learning law course in its prospectus without the right to do so — and threatened legal action.

Halifax College was established in 2004 as the British arm of Halifax University in Wyoming whose degree courses were not accredited by the US Department of Education. The British branch attempted to describe itself as a university but the government intervened to stop it, according to a BBC report. This caused some embarrassment for the Conservative party (which was in opposition at the time) because one of the party’s grandees, Michael Ancram, had performed the opening ceremony.

Although Halifax College ended up insolvent, in 2009 it made donations to the Conservative party in Reading West amounting to £5,000. At the time, Reading West was a marginal constituency held by Labour. The following year, Alok Sharma captured it for the Conservatives.

Last month’s fundraising dinner where Kumar and Mifsud were photographed with Boris Johnson took place in Sharma’s constituency. Sharma later told The Observer that he had “briefly greeted” Mifsud at the dinner and that he had met him “a couple of times” before. Johnson, meanwhile, denied ever having “knowingly” met Mifsud.

Former Middle East editor of the Guardian. Website: Author of 'Arabs Without God'.

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