It’s incredibly fascinating where a misplaced and overpriced handbag on the dinner table can lead you to. Apparently, as the deputy chairman of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO), Catherine Tabone managed to connect the MPO with a shady cultural organisation run by a Russian oligarch in Malta. The organisation is called the European Foundation of Culture. Russian cultural organisations and artists in the West have long been used by Putin and the Kremlin to launder money and you can listen more about this subject in an interview with John Christmas.
I could not confirm this but, apparently, this very strange and bizarre Russian organisation, which is also registered as an NGO in Malta with the Voluntary Organisations Commissions seems to be related to Russians who bought Maltese passports, namely Konstantin Ishkhanov and Alexey Vladimorovich Kononenko. The organisation is also a recipient of millions of Euros of public funds, but the government is refusing to divulge any details. Ishkhanov was interviewed about his “cultural philanthropy” by Russia’s state-sponsored news agency, TASS, and he also seems to be well known by the press in Russia. What is very bizarre is that Ishkhanov even won an award from Malta’s Arts Council.
The MPO hasn’t made any significant gains out of this collaboration (the Times says the Russian organisation paid the MPO €7,000 for one of its concerts), and it all looks like a very complex vanity project with ulterior motives. Both Ishkhanov’s and Kononenko’s relationship with culture is dubious at best: one is a Russian oligarch who got a Maltese passport and has a cultural organisation in Malta and the other one was a mathematician and supposedly some sort of finance professional who eventually became a “renowned composer”. It’s all so very strange and unusual. There seems to be very little information about them online that is relevant to all of this, but I will be asking for some friends to help me understand these people.
Also, it may be relevant to note that the European Union’s Commission is questioning why Malta is not doing its part in seizing illicit Russian funds abroad.