MPs raise fresh questions about Leave.EU’s Russia connections
MPs have raised fresh questions about the relationship between Brexit campaign group Leave.EU and the Russian Embassy.
Members of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee accused Leave.EU communications chief Andy Wigmore of misleading parliament after new documents linking him to the Russian Embassy emerged.
Documents obtained by The Observer show that Mr Wigmore suggested sending a “message of support” to the Russian embassy after Boris Johnson criticised the country in a speech.
Another document reportedly shows that Mr Wigmore passed six pages of legal papers to a Russian diplomat following the arrest of one of Nigel Farage’s former aides, George Cottrell, by US authorities.
Mr Cottrell was arrested by the FBI and now faces 21 counts of money laundering, bribery and wire fraud.
But the documents shows that Mr Wigmore passed over confidential legal papers marked "Fw Cottrell docs - Eyes only” to Sergey Fedichkin, a third secretary at the Russian embassy, adding: “Have fun with this.”
During a highly-charged evidence session as part of the Committee’s inquiry into fake news this week, Mr Wigmore denied discussing the arrest with the Russian embassy.
"It never came up," he told the MPs. "While at the time it probably seemed a big thing, there was so much else going on at the time it just was not an issue. It never came up."
Committee Chair Damian Collins said it was possible that Mr Wigmore had misled parliament in his recent evidence.
“Wigmore kept trying to make the point that their contact with the Russian embassy was around social occasions, but we believe it went much further," he told The Observer.
"On the surface, these documents didn’t hold any interest to the Russians, so why did they appear to pass them on? And why then deny it?
"Why did they mislead the committee about the true nature of their relationship? What are they trying to hide?"
But Leave.EU boss Arron Banks, who also gave evidence to the fake news inquiry, batted away the criticisms on Twitter as an “epic conspiracy theory”.
Labour MP Ian Lucas who also sits on the committee said: "There has been a coordinated attempt to attack, bully and intimidate anyone asking questions about this, including MPs.
"But what the evidence is showing is an intimate business relationship with a hostile foreign government that was being built up in the period before the summer of 2016 that needs to be in the public domain."