Brexit campaigner Arron Banks says whistleblowers not credible witnesses

14 Juin, 2018, 01:28 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Russian ambassador Alexander Yakovenko

A millionaire Brexit funder accused of having links to the Kremlin has walked out of questions from MPs to avoid missing a lunch date.

Banks had at first rejected the committee's invitation to appear, but changed his mind after the Sunday Times newspaper reported that his contacts with Russian officials before and after the Brexit vote were more numerous than previously acknowledged.

He was challenged on a previous claim that Leave.EU had "AI machine learning developed in Bristol by 20 mathematicians and actuaries with input from Cambridge Analytica at the very beginning and then executed by [US political consultancy] Goddard Gunster".

But he abruptly left the hearing after more than two and half hours, saying it had over-run and he had another appointment.

Banks has branded the investigation a "joke" and said it had "fired an arrow into the wall and painted a target around the arrow".

Mr Banks revealed he wanted a "good lunch" - and that he indeed got one - when the committee asked what he wanted to gain from meeting the Russian ambassador.

Brexit campaign donor and businessman Arron Banks, right, and Leave.EU campaigner Andy Wigmore arrive at Portcullis House to give evidence to Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee on June 12, 2018.

"Mr. Banks and Mr. Wigmore themselves put on the record that they frequently lie, exaggerate, misspeak and misunderstand", Collins said. I don't mean to be rude but we've got places to be.

Mr Wigmore issued a half-hearted invitation to join them before MP Damian Collins, chairing the meeting, asked the pair to stay for another five minutes.

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He told MPs he held two lunches with London envoy Alexander Yakovenko, while a possible business deal involving six gold mines "fizzled out".

Arron Banks, a businessman who bankrolled a prominent Brexit campaign, has defended his meetings with Russia's ambassador to the UK.

"You have to have a sense of humor", Banks said.

He said he had no business interests in Russia, did not accept Russian money for the referendum campaign and his team had briefed American security services about their contacts, to head off suspicion of wrongdoing. I do everything legally.

"Clearly that's nonsense", he said.

Arron Banks, the outspoken founder of the Leave.eu campaign, faced almost three hours of questioning by British lawmakers probing the spread of misinformation online.

The last of these was in November 2016, three days after Mr Banks, Leave.EU's communications director Andy Wigmore and the former UKIP leader Nigel Farage met Mr Trump in NY following his election victory.

On Tuesday, Mr. Banks and Mr. Wigmore rejected allegations of Russian interference and improper use of Facebook data, and criticized Mr. Wylie, who worked at Cambridge Analytica along with another whistle-blower, Brittany Kaiser.

He said: "I was trying to find investors to look at perhaps buying a banana farm which had got into trouble because of its owner. and as a effect Belize couldn't sell its bananas in places like the United States or the United Kingdom".

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