Arron Banks walks out of MP meeting because he's late for lunch

Brittany Kaiser

Banks, who financed the Leave.EU campaign, said that at the time when he and his associate Andy Wigmore met Russian Embassy officials before the 2016 referendum, contact with them was not regarded as an issue.

CONTROVERSIAL Brexit backer Arron Banks walked out on MPs quizzing him about fake news, saying he had to go to lunch.

Before the inquiry was even in full swing, Mr Wigmore made clear his annoyance over being grilled about links to Russian Federation. "There was a myriad of things we wanted to talk to them about... it wasn't anything to do with politics", he assured the committee.

Banks, appearing alongside the Leave.EU spokesperson Andy Wigmore, also denied that he had visited Russian Federation in February 2016 to progress the mining deal, presenting the committee with copies of both his passports, which he said showed there was no visa stamp around that date.

Banks also confirmed to the committee investigating fake news the Brexit-backing group held talks with controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica and meant to use its services if it had been selected as the official Leave campaign - which it was not.

He said: "We had a couple of issues in relation to bananas and sugar and the initial conversation I had with this gentleman at the Ukip conference - 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".

"It needed someone to buy them".

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.

The paper said it had seen emails showing he also discussed a potential business deal involving six Russian gold mines with ambassador Alexander Yakovenko after being introduced to him by a suspected Russian spy.

He is also expected to be asked about his contacts with Russian Federation during the campaign for the 2016 European Union referendum. I pay my taxes in south Gloucestershire. Banks lodged an appeal against that decision on Tuesday, and the MPs said they would not ask Banks about the case given the ongoing legal process.

"I'd like to think I'm an evil genius with a white cat that kind of controls the whole of western democracy, but clearly that's nonsense" he said, before suggesting the media committee had its own motivations. I structure everything legally. "What were you hoping to get out of it?" "I would support that in many ways".

The hearing began with an attempt by the two men to unbalance the chair, Damian Collins, by pointing out that according to the register of members' interests he had received hospitality and two tickets from Roman Abramovich's Chelsea to watch a game against Crystal Palace. "If you are trying to sell something or put a good case over to somebody, you will tell the best story", he said.

Urged to stay for another five minutes, Mr Banks stood and told a startled-looking Mr Collins: "The word is no".

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