Leave.EU's Arron Banks quizzed by MPs

Brittany Kaiser

Brittany Kaiser

Leave.EU communications chief Andy Wigmore, who was also appearing before the committee, added: "You can join us if you want". Prime Minister Theresa May regularly accuses Russian Federation of meddling in foreign elections, but never includes the 2016 Brexit referendum - in part to avoid exacerbating deep divisions in the party on leaving the EU.

Asked if he engaged in fake news, he told the committee he was "not above" using "alternative methods" to get press attention during the campaign.

If there was any attempted Russian interference in the 2016 referendum, it was at an "amateur level", he said.

It's after it was alleged over the weekend that Mr Banks held undisclosed meetings with Russian officials before the referendum.

He admitted seeing the Russian ambassador twice, and meeting the owner of the mines but said he did not pursue any deal.

The only information they gave the ambassador was the phone number for the Trump transition team, Mr. Banks said.

According to details of emails reported by the Sunday Times and the Observer, Mr Banks and Mr Wigmore also discussed potential business opportunities in Russian Federation including a proposal involving six gold mines. The duo will now appear before the Commons Culture and Media Committee on Tuesday to face questions about alleged Russian involvement in the European Union referendum campaign.

Mr Banks said his visas and passport documents showed he was not in Moscow in February 2016, as the newspaper had claimed, and he played down his ties to the country.

In a tense exchange, Mr Banks tells the committee it has already run late and he has to leave to go for lunch.

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Millionaire Brexit campaigner Arron Banks in London. "There is no evidence".

Mr Wigmore asked: "In light of the fact that, according to Guido, you had some hospitality from Putin's number one man in the United Kingdom, do you not think you are a bit conflicted questioning us about this today?"

Testifying before a Parliament committee, Arron Banks said he was being targeted in a witch hunt by politicians and journalists who favored remaining in the 28-nation bloc. There hadn't been a Russian witch-hunt (before).

The paper said the revelations raised "explosive questions about attempts by Russian Federation to influence the referendum result" but Banks dismissed them as part of a "witch-hunt" against Brexit and Trump.

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.

"If I had my time again I probably wouldn't have done this in the first place", he said.

"I live in south Gloucestershire", the Leave.EU founder said.

However, the elections regulator did fine Leave.EU for breaching campaign finance rules.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid revealed on Monday before Mr Banks' appearance in front of the parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that his Russian links were being examined by ministers from two separate government departments.

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