Brexiteer 'met Russian officials before referendum vote'

Banks previously claimed to have had only a'boozy lunch with Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko

Mr Banks has now agreed to appear on Tuesday before the House of Common's Culture and Media committee's inquiry into "fake news", having on Friday said he would not because the MPs were engaged in a "witch hunt".

The millionaire Brexit backer who co-founded Leave.EU will be grilled by MPs over his contacts with Russian officials, following the news that he repeatedly met the Russian ambassador.

Speaking to ITV News Mr Banks said he did meet a couple of times with the Ambassador but denied any of collusion or Russian influence.

The report said Banks and Wigmore met with Yakovenko again for a cup of tea on November 17 at a meeting that also included mining magnate Siman Povarenkin to discuss a deal involving six gold mines in Russian Federation. Mr Banks said that he will tell the lawmakers about his connections with many countries during the campaign.

The Times said Banks held three meetings with Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko.

The media committee has been examining how the 2016 referendum in which Britons voted to leave the European Union might have been affected by data-sharing and misuse. "That is why it is important we understand the level of contact and involvement there was here".

"Russia has a track record of interfering in the politics of other countries".

Banks dismissed the leaked emails on Sunday evening, telling the Guardian: "I am not involved in Russian espionage".

They were said to have been introduced to Mr Yakovenko by Alexander Udod - one of 23 suspected Russian intelligence officers subsequently ejected from the United Kingdom after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury.

Email banks and his partner Andy Wigmore, which were shown to The Sunday Times, reveal, as the paper States, the extensive "links between campaign Leave.EU banks and Russian officials".

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"It's a convenient witch-hunt, both over Brexit and Trump", he added, referring to allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election.

Mr Yakovenko, who was allegedly invited to Mr Banks' referendum day and results parties, is said to have proposed a business deal concerning goldmines in Russian Federation.

Mr Banks, whose wife is Russian, acknowledged making a "family trip" to Moscow in February 2016, but said "no meetings were had with anyone".

He told the paper that nothing had come of their discussions over the goldmine deal.

Asked about the report at the G7 summit in Canada today, Prime Minister Theresa May said: "I am sure that if there are any allegations that need investigation the proper authorities will do that".

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

He told the paper he had also disclosed details of his contacts with the Russians to U.S. officials.

Writing in the paper, Oakeshott said: "Banks and Wigmore were shamelessly used by the Russians".

"When foreign powers are aggressively targeting the values, systems and institutions upon which our democracy is built, then it's absolutely essential that we have regulatory, security and intelligence-based organisations who are ready, willing and able to intervene", Kinnock said.

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