Brexit campaigners deny taking Russian money after revelations of meetings with Russian ambassador

Jack Taylor / StringerArron Banks.
  • Two key Brexit campaigners have denied taking Russian money or working with the Russian government.
  • Over the weekend, leaked emails revealed pro-Brexit millionaire Arron Banks took more meetings with the Russian ambassador to the UK than previously disclosed.
  • In an interview with ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage – also a key Brexit supporter – Banks and colleague Andy Wigmore decried the coverage as a “witch hunt.”
  • The pair will appear before a Parliamentary Committee on Tuesday to answer questions.

Multi-millionaire pro-Brexit campaigner Arron Banks has denied his campaign group Leave.EU took money from Russia after revelations of previously undisclosed meetings between him and the Russian ambassador to the UK.

In a bizarre interview with ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage on LBC on Monday, Banks and fellow campaigner Andy Wigmore defended themselves against suggestions of Russian influence ahead of an appearance before a British Parliamentary committee on Tuesday.

“Where is the evidence that we took Russian money? There’s no evidence,” Banks said.

Farage, who conducted the interview, was hardly an objective journalist. He was, of course, one of the most high-profile British politicians calling for the UK to exit the EU for decades, and he worked closely with Leave.EU during the campaign. He, Wigmore, and Banks are among the self-styled “Bad Boys of Brexit,” and tone of the interview was at times jovial and chummy.

Over the weekend, The Times and The Observer reported that, in addition to a “boozy” 6-hour lunch described in his book about Brexit, Banks met Russian officials twice more – for an additional lunch, and a tea. Leaked emails also reportedly showed that Banks discussed a gold mining business opportunity in Russia.

In Monday’s interview, Banks continued to claim that he was the victim of a “witch hunt,” and that the press coverage around him has been “ludicrous.”

Wigmore also defended providing Russian officials with the contact details of someone on the Trump transition team following the election. He had been provided with the phone number for that purpose he said, and had also shared it with foreign representatives of other countries in his role as a diplomat for Belize.

He also denied that Leave.EU took any Russian funding: “”No. Not one penny or rouble.”

Guardian and Observer journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who has been covering Brexit and Cambridge Analytica, attempted to call in to Nigel Farage’s phone-in talk show to ask him questions – only to be immediately rebuffed.

She tweeted: “So, new pal Liz just phoned @Nigel_Farage for me….and got through! CAR CRASH!!! Nigel panicked and said ‘I’m not taking questions from Carole from the Guardian’ and then hung up on me. SAD!” she tweeted.

It has also emerged that pro-Brexit journalist Isabel Oakeshott obtained the emails back in 2016, but did not attempt to make public the revelations of Banks and Wigmore’s Russian links until The Observer recently also got hold of them.

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