Leave.EU founder Arron Banks denies campaign took Russian money

Brittany Kaiser

The two will appear before the Commons culture and media committee on Tuesday to answer questions about alleged Russian involvement in the European Union referendum campaign, having initially pulled out of a hearing on Friday.

"I met with him, I'm a businessman, why shouldn't I?"

Banks has branded the investigation a "joke" and said it had "fired an arrow into the wall and painted a target around the arrow".

"I'm frankly sick and exhausted of this", Banks said, a millionaire insurance entrepreneur. But as the hearing was towards the close Mr Banks - a close friend of Nigel Farage - suddenly cut it short as he had "places to be".

The pair vigorously denied Russian money was given to the pro-Brexit campaign.

Mr Banks, who gave £9m to the Leave.EU campaign, was appearing at the committee after the Sunday Times reported he had repeated contacts with Russian officials during the referendum campaign and afterwards. "It all really comes from two witnesses that really do lack credibility", he said, adding that Leave.EU did not hire Cambridge Analytica.

On Tuesday, Mr. Banks and Mr. Wigmore rejected allegations of Russian interference and improper use of Facebook data, and criticized Mr. Wylie, who worked at Cambridge Analytica along with another whistle-blower, Brittany Kaiser.

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

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CONTROVERSIAL Brexit backer Arron Banks walked out on MPs quizzing him about fake news, saying he had to go to lunch. "What were you hoping to get out of it?"

The session followed claims that Mr Banks's dealings with Russians were more extensive than he previously admitted. Echoing his phrase, Banks agreed: "Many good lunches".

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 USA embassy in London.

"We had about four shots of Stalin vodka, brandy, wine", he said. "What's wrong with that?" You said when you left 20 minutes, and now we've run way past 20 minutes. According to Wigmore, she has said: "This young girl said, 'You're British, do you have the telephone number for No 10 Downing Street?" Mr. Wigmore described his role during the referendum as an "agent provocateur" who made fun of people to get attention.

The paper said the Brexit campaigners subsequently invited Yakovenko and Udod to a drinks party in London's Notting Hill hosted by Banks, and the Russian ambassador was also asked to attend their results party in Westminster. Collins told the committee that as a result it would not be possible for the committee to explore related areas.

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

He and Mr Wigmore began the session by challenging Mr Collins's right to chair it, because the Tory had declared receiving two tickets worth £1,060 for a football match at Chelsea, owned by Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich.

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