Recently unearthed documents reviewed by The Observer indicate the millionaire who bankrolled the Leave campaign ahead of the UK’s Brexit vote had multiple contacts with influential Russians.
[Arron] Banks, who gave £12m of services to the campaign, becoming the biggest donor in UK history, has repeatedly denied any involvement with Russian officials, or that Russian money played any part in the Brexit campaign. The Observer has seen documents which a senior Tory MP says, if correct, raise urgent and troubling questions about his relationship with the Russian government.
According to the documents, there were multiple meetings between leaders of Leave.EU and high-ranking Russian officials, The Guardian reported, including two the same week Leave.EU launched its campaign.
Banks was also introduced to a Russian businessman the day after the campaign launched who reportedly offered him a multibillion dollar opportunity related to Russian gold mines – and introduction that came by way of the Russian ambassador.
Controversy has grown over Russia’s alleged interference in a series of key polls, including the election of Donald Trump, last year’s French presidential elections and the Brexit referendum, to secure outcomes favourable to President Putin. Putin has long seen the eastward expansion of EU influence as a threat.
Also revealed in the documentation is that contact with Russians continued during the time Banks, his business partner and Leave.EU spokesman Andy Wigmore, and Nigel Farage campaigned on behalf of Donald Trump in the U.S.
[Damian] Collins, the chair of the select committee for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “Russia is not our friend. And this new material raises questions of the most serious nature. If deals were brokered with Russian government help, it would raise urgent questions about Russian interference in our democracy. We urgently need Arron Banks to answer these and other questions. People will wonder if this is the real reason he has cancelled his appearance before the committee.”