Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

Lawmakers want to question Brexit backer on Russian Federation meetings

Lawmakers want to question Brexit backer on Russian Federation meetings

Arron Banks, who helped bankroll the Leave.EU Brexit campaign, will face off with MPs about claims he has links to Russian Federation.

"I met with him, I'm a businessman, why shouldn't I? I pay a shed-load of tax, probably more than the entire committee put together", he said. After the warnings, Banks said, the deal fell away.

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

The grilling came after the Sunday Times said Banks' contacts with Russian Federation went further than he had previously disclosed.

Asked to stay a further five minutes to conclude questioning Mr Banks insisted he had to leave, adding he had been "as open as can be" about claims suggesting an inappropriate relationship with Russian Federation.

Banks and Leave.EU communications Andy Wigmore chief quit the hearing as MPs on the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee attempted to ask further questions at the end of a spiky hearing.

Before the inquiry was even in full swing, Mr Wigmore made clear his annoyance over being grilled about links to Russian Federation.

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He had previously reported one meeting with Russia's ambassador to Britain, in September 2015.

Wigmore told the committee on Tuesday that he had requested the meeting with the Russian officials.

Giles Watling, a Conservative MP on the committee, asked Banks: "I'd like to move on to big scary Russian Federation".

Referring to claims that the police could be asked to investigate, Mr Banks said: "I would like to know what the police are going to investigate".

Mr Banks replied: 'No.

Banks was attending the select committee inquiring into fake news, in the aftermath of the leak of a cache of emails belonging to him, Wigmore and others which suggested that his dealings with Russian Federation were far more extensive than previously thought.

Mr Wigmore said it was Mr Yakovenko's job to stay in touch with British politicians and claimed that only two days before their last meeting with him, the Russian ambassador had met Chancellor Philip Hammond.

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As they were not MPs, he said he and Mr Banks were not required to officially record who they met but he said he would give MPs details of all their meetings, including with Central Intelligence Agency officers in the United States embassy in London. "What's wrong with that?"

The head of the parliamentary inquiry into "fake news", Conservative MP Damian Collins, said the report raised serious questions about Russian interference in United Kingdom politics.

Earlier, it emerged that Banks had lodged an appeal against the Electoral Commission over its decision to levy a £70,000 fine against Leave.EU for breaching its spending limits. Collins told the committee that as a result it would not be possible for the committee to explore related areas.

The watchdog said the group - which was separate from the official pro-Brexit group Vote Leave - failed to report "at least" £77,380 it spent. Wigmore said that "in the light of hospitality from Putin's No 1 man in London, you might recuse yourself".

Collins told the witnesses that that was a "nice try" and that while he watched the match, he had not met Abramovich.

"All I can say is I got invited to the football, I didn't meet the owner, I wasn't offered Stalin's vodka, I'm not as good at pushing their buttons as you are".

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