Brexit campaign donor grilled by MPs on Russia links

Brexit campaign donor grilled by MPs on Russia links

Brexit campaigner Arron Banks, who bankrolled the Leave.EU campaign in Britain's 2016 EU referendum campaign, told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday he had no business interests in Russian Federation.

'But I think we've been as open as we could be with the issues you've raised'.

Laughing, Mr Collins said "nice try".

Mr Banks told the committee: "I have got no business interests in Russian Federation and I have done no business deals in Russian Federation".

But, accusing the MPs of being Remain voters trying to discredit Brexit, he said Leave.EU succeeded by "ruthlessly" focusing on immigration, which mattered to voters but not to Labour or the Conservatives, and by effectively using social media.

But as he was being questioned by Parliament's media committee, Mr Banks interrupted the meeting to claim that he and Mr Wigmore needed to leave immediately to have lunch.

The last of these was in November 2016, three days after Mr Banks, Leave.EU's communications director Andy Wigmore and the former UKIP leader Nigel Farage met Mr Trump in NY following his election victory.

Banks said he and Wigmore had overstated the role of data and artificial intelligence in the campaign in part to reflect its "disruptive" nature and their role as underdogs.

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Earlier, Mr Banks told the committee he does not have any business interests in Russian Federation.

The group's communications chief Andy Wigmore said: 'I'm an agent provocateur, my job is to spin.

Mr Banks admitted seeing the ambassador twice, and then the mines owner but declined to get involved after being advised it could be "problematic".

The grilling came after the Sunday Times said Banks' contacts with Russian Federation went further than he had previously disclosed. Farage, who pressured the British government to hold a referendum on European Union membership, was photographed in front of an anti-immigrant poster critics saw as racist. "We do have not relationship with the British or any of these governments.'" Wigmore added: "I said, 'What if somebody wants to get in touch with you?' and she said, 'Here's a number, you can give them that'". Mr. Banks said he had no Russian holdings and added that his only connection to the country was through his wife, who is Russian.

The Sunday Times report, based on a huge cache of leaked emails, also alleged that Banks also had undisclosed meetings with Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to Britain, set up by a suspected Russian spy, and that he visited Moscow before the referendum in a previously undisclosed trip.

Asked about allegations he was reporting back to the Russians three days after meeting newly elected Donald Trump, Mr Banks said: "It's complete nonsense".

"In light of the fact that, according to Guido, you had some hospitality from Putin's number one man in the United Kingdom, do you not think you are a bit conflicted questioning us about this today?" he said.

He and Mr Wigmore began the session by challenging Mr Collins's right to chair it, because the Tory had declared receiving two tickets worth £1,060 for a football match at Chelsea, owned by Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich.

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