Sajid Javid says ministers taking Arron Banks Russia claims 'seriously'
Ministers are "very seriously" examining possible links between Leave.EU founder Arron Banks and Russia during the Brexit referendum campaign, the Home Secretary has said.
The millionaire insurance tycoon is reported to have had repeated contact with Russian officials during and after the 2016 referendum campaign.
Mr Banks - who will today face a grilling on the claims by MPs - admitted this weekend to having met the Russian ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko three times between 2015 and 2016.
The Sunday Times also reported that he was approached by Russian officials about taking part in a Siberian gold mining deal. Mr Banks has dismissed allegations of campaign ties with Moscow as a "witch hunt".
Responding to a question on the claims from Labour’s Stephen Doughty last night, Sajid Javid told MPs both his department and the Cabinet Office were "taking this issue seriously".
The Home Secretary added: "I know they are looking at intelligence and other information they are receiving alongside my department.
"The two departments are working closely on this issue. I would assure him we are taking it very seriously indeed."
Mr Banks will today face questions from MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, and he has promised “tough words” for committee chair Damian Collins ahead of the session.
Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Banks accused the MP of working with the Fair Vote Project, a campaign group currently involved in a court battle with two of Mr Banks’ companies, to “undermine the 2016 referendum result”.
“I now believe that, through his disposition towards the Fair Vote project, Damian Collins as the man conducting an inquiry into fake news is himself guilty of helping to create fake news,” he said.
“I would go so far as to argue that the committee, acting under Collins, may even be in contempt of Parliament.”
The Leave.EU founder also insisted he had not entered into “any business deals with the Russians” and revealed that he had held talks with US intelligence officials during the Brexit campaign.
“My intention was to brief them on what the Russians had discussed with me, and I did exactly that,” he said.
“I believe this was a responsible thing to do and the decision to do so was mine alone. Again, the question must be asked: if my meetings with the Russians had been in any way nefarious, why would I have actively requested such a dialogue with the CIA?”