Lawmakers want to question Brexit backer on Russian Federation meetings

Elias Hubbard
June 13, 2018

"I'm sorry but I'm afraid it is time to go".

Banks said he had two lunches with the Russian ambassador, who introduced him to a businessman who was proposing a complex gold-mining deal in Russia.

But speaking to MPs at the inquiry, he firmly stated no money from overseas business ventures was used to bankroll the Brexit campaign.

But he did say that during a second meeting, he gave the phone number of President Donald Trump's transition team "because the Russians wanted to get hold of" them.

But Mr Banks snubbed his pleas and walked off as his aide Andy Wigmore - who was also being interrogated by MPs - revealed they were heading for the House of Commons bar.

Banks told LBC that he first met the ambassador over a "boozy lunch" that included Stalin vodka, but insisted there was "no evidence" he had taken Russian money.

"He said he only met the Russian ambassador on one occasion; we now know it was more than that".

EMPICS Entertainment Banks (far-left), Farage and Wigmore (far-right) shortly after the European Union referendum in 2016.

Tory MP and culture select committee chairman Damian Collins looked visibly shocked at Mr Banks and urged him to stay "five more minutes".

Banks initially replied: "A good lunch, and that's what I got", prompting Watling to ask if there were in fact "Many good lunches?" But I think we've been as open as we can be with the issues you played us through. I structure everything legally.

"Perhaps you might want to recuse yourself and let one of the other people take over as chair?"

"Clearly that's nonsense", he said.

Appearing before the MPs' committee investigating so-called "fake news", Mr Banks confirmed Leave.EU held talks with controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica and meant to use its services if it had been selected as the official Leave campaign - which it was not.

He acknowledged giving the Russian ambassador the telephone number of Donald Trump's transition team before the president won the USA election.

Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by Trump in 2016, has denied its work on the US president's successful election campaign made use of allegedly improperly harvested data - but questions have since been raised over any role in other votes.

Mr Wigmore said that Leave.EU has lodged an appeal after the Electoral Commission found the organisation breached spending rules during the referendum.

Calls have been intensifying for Banks to explain his links to the Kremlin after fresh revelations about his contact with Russian embassy officials emerged at the weekend. "The ambassador was probably in a worse state than we were", he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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