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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

Brexit backer Arron Banks 'met Russian ambassador 11 times' before EU vote, report

The Leave.EU campaign co-founder was said to have discussed lucrative business deals

Leave.EU Brexit campaign co-founder Arron Banks on his arrival to face questions by members of the British Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee in London. EPA
Leave.EU Brexit campaign co-founder Arron Banks on his arrival to face questions by members of the British Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee in London. EPA

Arron Banks, the businessman who bankrolled a prominent Brexit campaign, reportedly met Russia’s ambassador to Britain 11 times in the months before the EU referendum in June 2016 - more often than he told a parliamentary inquiry on fake news last month.

Mr Banks, who was one of the UK Independence Party’s largest donors and co-founded the Leave.EU campaign, was questioned about his meetings with ambassador Alexander Yakovenko by MPs investigating claims of Russian meddling in the Brexit vote.

Describing the scrutiny he had been placed under as a “witch hunt”, Mr Banks told the inquiry that he had met the ambassador only three times between 2015 and 2016. Last week he admitted to a fourth meeting after it had been revealed by the New York Times.

On Sunday reports in the Observer and the Sunday Times suggested Mr Banks had had seven further meetings with Mr Yakovenko, during which lucrative business deals were discussed.

Citing documents and an email from Mr Banks, the reports said the business proposals were presented during a fourth meeting in November 2015 on the same day Leave.EU launched its campaign.

The Observer claims to have seen messages sent by Mr Banks to Siman Povarenkin, an oligarch introduced to him by Mr Yakovenko, saying that he and his business associates would be interested in how they could help him.

The Sunday Times reported last week that Mr Banks was being investigated by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) over his financial support for the Brexit campaign and his links with Russian officials.

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Read more:

Brexit backer Arron Banks dismisses row over Russian links as ‘full-scale witch hunt’

Brexit backer faces quiz over Russia links

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The agency is believed to have been handed a “cache” of documents and emails from the millionaire businessman, some of which have already been leaked to the press.

The documents reportedly showed that Mr Banks was offered three business deals during the campaign including a stake in the privatisation of a Russian state-controlled diamond miner, which is run by the son of one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest advisers.

A spokesperson for the NCA said the agency does not confirm or deny existence of such investigations.