Brexit campaigner Banks says Russian meetings 'no issue' in the past

British businessman Arron Banks founded the

Arron Banks Tells MPs He Is 'Not An Evil Genius' Who Controls The West

But Wigmore explained it away saying he initially met officials from the country to talk about bananas.

Wigmore said he instigated the meeting at a UKIP conference and had since met Russian figures "many times".

Mr Banks, whose wife is Russian, said opponents of Brexit and Mr Trump had seized on claims of Russian interference as an explanation for their defeats, suggesting several MPs had used the ancient right of parliamentary privilege to accuse Leave.EU in the House of Commons.

Wigmore told the committee he first met with the Russians in his role as a diplomat for the South American country of Belize.

On Sunday, it emerged that Mr Banks had had two more meetings with the Russian ambassador Alexander Yakovenko than he had previously disclosed in his book on the referendum battle, The Bad Boys of Brexit. One of the conversations we had was about that. "There was a myriad of things we wanted to talk to them wasn't anything to do with politics".

Banks held a series of undisclosed meetings with Russian embassy officials around the time of the 2016 referendum campaign, according to reports in the Observer and Sunday Times (how the story broke is a sub-plot in itself).

According to details of emails reported by the Sunday Times and the Observer, Mr Banks and Mr Wigmore also discussed potential business opportunities in Russian Federation including a proposal involving six gold mines.

Mr Banks told MPs that no money from his overseas business interests formed part of his political donations and he was "crystal clear" about the rules.

"I live in south Gloucestershire".

"Sorry I have to insist", Mr Banks said. "Did those business deals go through?" I structure everything legally.

"You've got to see the genesis of where this all came from. I would support that in many ways".

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. You said when you left 20 minutes, and now we've run way past 20 minutes.

Collins told the witnesses that that was a "nice try" and that while he watched the match, he had not met Abramovich. "But I think we've been as open as we could be with the issues you've raised". Wigmore said that "in the light of hospitality from Putin's No 1 man in London, you might recuse yourself". The committee chair added that he "wasn't offered Stalin's vodka" and he had "no shares in goldmines" and, in response to a suggestion from Banks, added there were "no honey traps".

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