We are not Russian secret agents, Brexit campaigner Arron Banks says

Elias Hubbard
June 13, 2018

Mr Banks dismissed the claims, telling the newspaper: "I had two boozy lunches with the Russian ambassador and another cup of tea with him. I don't care. At the first lunch, we had a discussion about how unlikely he thought Brexit was".

Millionaire Brexit backer Arron Banks is facing calls to explain his links with the Kremlin following reports that his contacts were far more extensive than previously acknowledged.

The Russian Embassy insists that it "has not in any way intervened in the domestic United Kingdom political process, including the Brexit referendum" and that meeting stakeholders from across a country's political spectrum is a "natural element of the work of any embassy". Asked whether Banks should be subject to a police investigation, the Labour MP said: "Some of the allegations are particularly serious and will no doubt need to be investigated by other authorities as well".

"The question I think people will want answered is did Mr Banks profit out of these meetings?" he told BBC1's Sunday Politics programme. Banks told The Guardian.

"It wasn't just the Russians: we met all sorts of nationalities, we also briefed the State Department in Washington, we also met with the top embassy officials in London", he told Reuters.

Banks' Leave.EU colleague, Andy Wigmore, also talked down the significance of the leaked emails.

Banks gave around £9 million to the Leave.EU campaign and Grassroots Out Brexit campaign, and used to fund the UK Independence Party under the leadership of his friend, Nigel Farage.

Mr Banks, whose wife is Russian, acknowledged making a "family trip" to Moscow in February 2016, but said "no meetings were had with anyone".

The paper said it had seen emails showing he also discussed a potential business deal involving six Russian gold mines with ambassador Alexander Yakovenko after being introduced to him by a suspected Russian spy.

They were said to have been introduced to Mr Yakovenko by Alexander Udod - one of 23 suspected Russian intelligence officers subsequently ejected from the United Kingdom after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury.

Allegedly 40 thousand emails which informs the newspaper, became a journalist Isabel Oakshott hired by the banks as the author records The Bad Boys of Brexit.

Nigel Farage revealed that he was once invited to a meeting with Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore at the Russian Ambassador's residence but declined.

The Mail on Sunday carries the same story, saying that MI5 are being urged to look into the claims of "Russian meddling".

Damian Collins, chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, has said he will question Mr Banks about the allegations, citing the newspaper's "evidence of very close contact" with Russian Federation during the referendum campaign.

Some Trump aides are under investigation in the USA over whether they colluded with Moscow and there are also claims that Moscow tried to meddle in Britain's referendum campaign to encourage a Brexit vote. But the group played a significant role in the referendum, bankrolled by Banks to the tune of over £12 million and credited with using Trump-style shock tactics to generate press coverage.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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