Bad boy of Brexit Arron Banks accused over Russian Federation meetings

Blanche Robertson
June 13, 2018

Arron Banks, who founded Leave.EU and bank-rolled Nigel Farage's campaigning, had multiple meetings with ambassador Alexander Yakovenko organised by a suspected Russian spy.

The millionaire backer of one of the key Brexit campaign groups took part in a series of undisclosed meetings with Russian officials ahead of the European Union referendum in 2016.

"This is really important for us to understand why someone like Mr Banks had this level of contact with the Russian government, maybe more of it, a contact that he'd not denied having but certainly downplayed the number of times he'd met with them and the significance of those meetings", he said.

Banks visited Moscow in February 2016, was offered a business deal involving six Russian goldmines, and even invited Yakovenko to a party on the day of the referendum, the emails show.

Banks had previously claimed in a book to have had only one meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin's envoy in London, Alexander Yakovenko, in September 2015, but the newspaper said there were at least two further meetings. According to the newspaper, this correspondence indicates the presence of repeated contact of businessman with officials to "discuss business opportunities and issues of mutual interest during the referendum campaign and after it".

In late may, Russian President Vladimir Putin called nonsense the assertion that Russia could intervene in adoption in the United Kingdom of the decision to withdraw this country from the European Union.

"I had two boozy lunches with the Russian ambassador and another cup of tea with him".

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Banks and Wigmore were introduced to Yakovenko by Alexander Udod, a suspected Russian spy who was expelled from the United Kingdom after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Supporters of Brexit say pro-Europeans are trying to undermine the referendum result with baseless allegations of Russian involvement so that they can push for a rerun of the vote. "Bite me. It's a convenient political witch-hunt, both over Brexit and Trump".

The details were passed to The Sunday Times by the journalist Isabel Oakeshott, Banks's ghostwriter on The Bad Boys of Brexit, who is now writing a book with the Tory peer Lord Ashcroft on Russia's use of "hybrid warfare" to influence British politics. One of the meetings was a November 2016 lunch three days after Banks visited Donald Trump, then president-elect, along with Farage and another prominent Brexit campaigner, Andy Wigmore.

The insurance tycoon, who came to prominence when he donated £1million to Ukip in 2014, said nothing came of the discussion about consolidating Russian gold mines into a single company.

Mr Wigmore insisted he and Mr Banks never any Russians information about their Brexit campaign.

"We didn't profit from any business deals because I never pursued anything", he said.

The Russian Embassy insists that it "has not in any way intervened in the domestic United Kingdom political process, including the Brexit referendum" and that meeting stakeholders from across a country's political spectrum is a "natural element of the work of any embassy".

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