Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Brexit campaigner Wigmore says never accepted Russian money

Brexit campaigner Wigmore says never accepted Russian money

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.

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

In recent days, Mr. Banks has accused the Guardian newspaper of "us [ing] stolen" emails, after a computer belonging to a journalist who helped to write his book, The Bad Boys of Brexit, was allegedly "hacked".

On Sunday, it emerged that Banks had two more meetings with Yakovenko than he had previously admitted in the book he penned on the referendum battle, 'The Bad Boys of Brexit.' The final meeting with the Russian ambassador was in November 2016, three days after Banks, Leave.EU's Communications Director Andy Wigmore, and ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage met Trump in NY after he had been elected president.

The two witnesses said that when Wigmore emailed a journalist at the time to suggest Banks was in Russian Federation and unavailable, he was being mischievous and lying. 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. But Mr Banks snubbed his pleas and walked off as his aide Andy Wigmore - who was also being interrogated by MPs - revealed they were heading for the House of Commons bar.

Earlier, Mr Banks told the committee he does not have any business interests in Russian Federation.

Mr. Banks reminded the committee that his wife is Russian, and said the lunch was fairly normal in the diplomatic and political community.

He was asked about the figures a few times in the questioning, to which he replied: "That does rather illustrate the point, doesn't it?" Echoing his phrase, Banks agreed: "Many good lunches".

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Responding to questions from the MPs investigating fake news, Mr Banks said: "If the French ambassador called up and asked to meet you for lunch, you'd go".

But he did say that during a second meeting, he gave the phone number of President Donald Trump's transition team "because the Russians wanted to get hold of" them. "What's wrong with that?" 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 said: "The piece of advice that we got, right from the beginning, was remember referendums are not about facts, it's about emotion and you have got to tap into that emotion".

Leave.EU was fined £70,000 by the Electoral Commission earlier this year for breaches of election law in the Brexit referendum. 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.

"Perhaps you might want to recuse yourself and let one of the other people take over as chair?"

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

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