Leave.EU boss Arron Banks WILL face MPs after fresh Russia allegations

Posted On: 
10th June 2018

Leave.EU boss Arron Banks will be grilled by MPs this week over new claims he held secret meetings with Russian officials ahead of the Brexit vote.

Former Ukip donor Arron Banks bankrolled Leave.EU
Credit: 
PA Images

The millionaire insurance tycoon is said to have had repeated contact with Russian officials during the referendum campaign and afterwards, according to the Sunday Times.

He has admitted he met the Russian ambassador Alexander Yakovenko three times - whereas he previously said he only met the diplomat once.

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The former Ukip donor has now accepted a showdown with MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday, but lashed out at the latest reports as a “political witch hunt”.

It comes amid fears Russia tried to influence the outcome of the EU referendum, after evidence emerged of interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Mr Banks - who bankrolled rival pro-Brexit campaign Leave.EU - claimed in his book The Bad Boys of Brexit that he met Mr Yakovenko just once.

But leaked emails reportedly show he and his press chief Andy Wigmore met the ambassador on two other occasions, including just three days after he and ex-Ukip leader Nigel Farage met Donald Trump in November 2016.

Mr Banks told the paper: "I had two boozy lunches with the Russian ambassador and another cup of tea with him. Bite me. It's a convenient political witch-hunt, both over Brexit and Trump."

Mr Wigmore added: "We never offered any information to him (Mr Yakovenko) or any Russian any details of our (Brexit) campaign."

Other emails are said to show he and Mr Wigmore held numerous meetings with other Russian officials and discussed potential business opportunities in Russia including a proposal involving six goldmines.

Mr Banks said: "We didn't profit from any business deals because I never pursued anything."

On Friday Mr Banks announced that he would no longer appear before the committee for the previously scheduled event on Tuesday as part of its inquiry into fake news. But after the latest revelations he has changed his mind.

Speaking at the G7 summit in Quebec, Prime Minister Theresa May said: "I am sure that if there are any allegations that need investigation the proper authorities will do that."

The Russian embassy has insisted it has not interfered in domestic politics.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said the latest claims show "how close the ideologues of the Leave campaign were to Russia".

He added: “These allegations create further suspicions that there might have been outside interference in the referendum and no-one in the public - whether they voted Leave or Remain - wants a result which was tainted by Russian influence."