This is one in a series of articles about the Trump-Russia affair and the characters involved.
The London School of Executive Training — one of several quasi-academic institutions linked to the Trump/Russia affair — clearly has something to hide. Following my story yesterday about its owner’s relations with vanished professor Joseph Mifsud, with a Russian woman who posed as Putin’s niece and with British foreign secretary Boris Johnson, the school has deleted all mention of its board of governors from its website.
The school’s action echoes a similar move by the London Centre of International Law Practice (LCILP) which deleted staff profiles from its website once it became known that Mifsud — the middleman in the Trump-Russia affair — and Trump adviser George Papadopoulos had been colleagues together at LCILP for several months last year.
Until yesterday, the London School of Executive Training (LSET) listed 10 governors on its “About us” page, together with biographical notes. Here is
the page as it appears now, and here is an archived version from yesterday. The 10 people listed as governors are:
Ravi Mehrotra CBE
Dr Prem Sharma OBE FRSA
Ambassador K V Rajan
Marie Haughey MBE
Professor Iain Dewar
Dr Charles Chatterjee
One interesting name on the list is Prasenjit Kumar (aka Prasenjit Kumar Singh), the owner of LSET. His biographical note says:
“An Engineer by profession, Prasenjit Kumar is the think tank [sic] behind the success of a group of Colleges for the last 14 years. He has also served as the President and Chancellor of a US based University for eight years. The undivided devotion and effort he has put into the group has resulted in some well-established Colleges and numerous companies internationally. He is a devotee of Anandamurtijee, who dedicated his life to the upliftment of human society.”
The first part of this is rubbish. As reported yesterday, before launching LSET in December 2013, Kumar was involved in a succession of failed educational businesses. He also seems reluctant to name the “US based university” of which he is president and chancellor but it may be one of these. “Anandamurtijee” in the last sentence refers to Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, founder of the Indian Ananda Marga movement.
Another of LSET’s governors, Charles Chatterjee, is described as “a visiting academic” at London Diplomatic Academy (the recently-closed institution where the recently-disappeared Joseph Mifsud was director). In 2014, Chatterjee also spoke at an event organised by LCILP, the now-dormant institution where Mifsud and Papadopoulos later worked.
Yet another interesting governor of LSET is Prem Sharma who, as Robert Mackey points out in an article for The Intercept, is the father of Alok Sharma, Conservative member of parliament for Reading West.
In 2009, one of Kumar’s educational ventures, Halifax College (UK) Limited, donated £5,000 to the Conservative party in Reading West — money which presumably helped Alok Sharma to capture the seat from Labour a few months later.
Last month Kumar and Mifsud both attended a Conservative fundraising dinner in Sharma’s constituency where they were photographed alongside foreign secretary Boris Johnson.
In a post on Facebook last year, Kumar described Mifsud as one of his “good old friends”. Even more intriguingly, he is also a friend of the Russian woman who was initially alleged to be Putin’s niece.
The woman, later identified as Olga Polonskaya and unrelated to Putin, was present at a key meeting between Mifsud and Papadopoulos in London on March 24 last year (see chronology).
Polonskaya is a Facebook friend of Kumar but they have also met in person on at least two occasions. Kumar told The Observer he had initially met her at Link Campus University in Rome (also visited by Papadopoulos and Nagi Idris of LCILP) where Mifsud held an academic post.
Kumar also met her at a shopping centre in London “about two and a half months ago”. He told The Observer:
“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 [LSET] — from English into Russian so I could try and attract more Russian students. She did that: I just haven’t put it up yet.”
Kumar’s description of Polonskaya as a translator conflicts with a story in the New York Times on Friday suggesting she could barely speak English:
After Politico identified her on Thursday by her maiden name, Vinogradova, her brother, Sergei Vinogradov, spoke to The Times on her behalf.
He said she was in London discussing a possible internship with Mr Mifsud, a friend of hers, the morning before the meeting with Mr Papadopoulos …
He said that she only exchanged pleasantries with Mr Papadopoulos, and that she understood only about half of the discussion between Mr Mifsud and Mr Papadopoulos. He shared a text message from her in which she explained to him the reason: “Because my English was bad,” it read.
“It’s totally ridiculous,” Mr Vinogradov said. “She’s not interested in politics. She can barely tell the difference between Lenin and Stalin.”
This also begs the question why, if Polonskaya was not interested in politics, she would seek an internship with Mifsud, whose main interest was politics.