Malta’s national orchestra has been allowed to continue working with a cultural foundation after a due diligence process dismissed concerns of potential Russian influence.
Last March, Times of Malta reported that the European Foundation for Support of Culture, founded by Russian national Konstantin Ishkhanov, had poured millions into the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra over a few years.
The newspaper raised concerns of potential Russian influence seeing as the Foundation’s registered address is the Russian Centre for Science and Culture in Valletta, one of the overseas offices of the Rossotrudnichestvo, a Russian government body responsible for cultural exchange.
The European Council on Foreign Relations, a pan-European think tank, flagged that this agency often works with Russian intelligence bodies to influence societies.
Following this allegation, Culture Minister Jose Herrera ordered the national orchestra, as well as Malta Arts Council and the Valletta Cultural Agency, to stop working with the foundation pending a due diligence process.
However, Herrera now informed these state culture bodies can continue working with the foundation “after the necessary due diligence reports and further documentations requested have eventually been submitted by the foundation”.
“The Ministry finds no objection for your respective entities to collaborate with EUFSC however exercising a high level of caution in relation to Good Governance practices,” he said.
Malta Philharmonic Orchestra chairman Sigmund Mifsud told Lovin Malta that the Foundation essentially worked as the orchestra’s producers when they performed in prestigious overseas halls.
With regards the allegations of Russian influence, he said Ishkhanov never imposed any kind of pressure on where the national orchestra should perform, and that the Foundation is funded by entities in the USA, not Russia.
He said the due diligence process clarified that the orchestra only received €7,000 from the Foundation over the years, and not millions of euro, money which was spent to sponsor performers.
“What I can say about him is that he always tried to maximise the money he invested in performances,” he said.
Cover photo: Malta Philharmonic Orchestra