Leave.EU co-founder Arron Banks has been given the opportunity to explain his links to the Kremlin in the wake of fresh revelations about his contact with Russian embassy officials - as a guest on the radio programme of Leave.EU’s biggest cheerleader.
Completing the line up for the grilling on the Nigel Farage Show was Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s director of communications, who has also been embroiled in the allegations. Both will appear before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday over the claims.
The exchanges included such rigorous interrogations as:
Farage: “Did Russian individuals or businesses give money to Leave.EU?”
Wigmore: ”No. Not one penny or rouble.”
Farage: “Were you ‘reporting back’ to the Russian Ambassador?
Banks: “Not really, we’d had a very pleasant lunch with him that lasted six hours.”
James O’Brien, who also has a show on LBC, lashed out at media outlets, including his own radio station, describing coverage of the developments as “new lows”.
Meanwhile, it appears Banks has pulled out of a scheduled appearance on Newsnight where he may have faced less friendly interviewers.
Calls have been intensifying for Banks to explain his links to the Kremlin after fresh revelations about his contact with Russian embassy officials emerged at the weekend.
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).
The reports emails existed showing Banks discussed a potential business deal involving six Russian gold mines with ambassador Alexander Yakovenko after being introduced to him by a suspected Russian spy.
The head of the parliamentary inquiry into “fake news”, Conservative MP Damian Collins, said the report raised serious questions about Russian interference in UK politics.
“The question I think people will want answered is did Mr Banks profit out of these meetings?” he told BBC1′s Sunday Politics programme.
“Did that happen? Did he make money out of it and did he use that money to fund his campaigns?
“Russia has a track record of interfering in the politics of other countries. It does it in a variety of ways. That is why it is important we understand the level of contact and involvement there was here.”