Leave.EU founder Arron Banks reportedly discussed business opportunities with Russia during and after the Brexit referendum.
Millionaire businessman Banks made donations to UKIP and bankrolled his own Leave.EU campaign, and leaked emails shown to the Sunday Times show that Banks and his communications director Andy Wigmore discussed business deals with Russian officials and met with them several times.
Banks’ book The Bad Boys of Brexit details one meeting with Putin envoy Alexander Yakovenko in September 2015.
But the emails show they met him on a second occasion that year, shortly after they, along with Nigel Farage, met with Donald Trump in New York.
Banks also visited Russia in February 2016 reportedly to discuss a business deal involving Russian goldmines, but Banks claimed visas in his passport prove this trip didn’t happen.
He was introduced to Yakovenko through Alexander Udod, a suspected Russian spy who was removed from the UK after the Skripal poisonings.
On Friday, Banks and Wigmore pulled out of the Culture, Media and Sport committee’s ‘fake news’ investigation, saying the government was unfairly targeting them and colluding with pro-Remain groups.
But MP Damian Green, who’s chairing the investigation, tweeted later that day that the pair had changed their minds.
The hearing is now set to go ahead tomorrow (Tuesday 12 June) as planned.
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock has called for Scotland Yard to launch a criminal investigation in addition to the parliamentary inquiry.
“There are a number of issues we want to ask… around emails relating to Arron Banks’ contact with the Russian Embassy and Russian business officials,” Collins told Julia Hartley-Brewer.
“Did he profit from those meetings? Did the money he made fund his campaigns, or was it all kept very separate?
Listen to Damian Collins talk to Julia Hartley-Brewer above
“I think it’s important we ask those questions of him. We also want to ask him about the work Cambridge Analytica did for Leave.EU before the referendum, and also the way Leave.EU used data and creative datasets to target their own messaging during the referendum.”
Leave.EU has already been fined £70,000 for exceeding its spending limit, but that investigation found no evidence of Cambridge Analytica carrying out any work for them.
Collins said that while meeting Russian officials in itself was not against the law, the nature of the meetings was unknown.
“What we want to understand is more about the nature of that contact and the frequency of it. Why was it there was more contact than he previously wanted to disclose? These meetings weren’t included in his book The Bad Boys of Brexit, which details a lot of his life around that time.”