A millionaire backer of the profitable marketing campaign to tug Britain out of the European Union on Tuesday lashed out at lawmakers investigating faux information surrounding the Brexit referendum, arguing he was being discredited due to his political opinions.
Arron Banks heatedly prompt he was being focused in a witch hunt by these in politics and the media who favoured remaining within the 28-nation bloc. In practically three hours of testimony, the insurance coverage tycoon additionally rejected the notion that he had dealings with the Kremlin — although he did acknowledge socializing with the Russian ambassador over a boozy lunch.
“I would wish to suppose I am an evil genius with a white cat that sort of controls the entire of western democracy,” he mentioned. “However clearly that is nonsense.”
He insisted that no cash from his abroad enterprise pursuits shaped a part of his political donations — and that he was crystal clear on the foundations.
“You could have a vested curiosity in making an attempt to discredit the Brexit marketing campaign,” he mentioned.
Banks had at first rejected the committee’s invitation to seem, however modified his thoughts after the Sunday Instances newspaper reported that he had had extra contacts with Russian officers than have been beforehand acknowledged.
The Instances reported that Banks had held three conferences with Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko. One of many conferences was a November 2016 lunch three days after Banks visited Donald Trump, then president-elect, together with Farage and one other distinguished Brexit campaigner, Andy Wigmore.
Banks and Wigmore, who was additionally testifying earlier than the committee Tuesday, acknowledged that they handed the phone numbers of the Trump transition crew to the Russians after their go to to Trump Tower.
The newspaper mentioned its journalists noticed emails that confirmed Banks mentioned a possible enterprise deal involving six Russian gold mines, although he repeated his denials that something got here of the provides.
Banks helped bankroll Depart.EU, the marketing campaign backed by Nigel Farage, the previous chairman of the U.Okay. Independence Get together who pressured the British authorities to carry a referendum on EU membership. The group operated individually from the official Vote Depart marketing campaign.
The committee was questioning Banks amid its probe into the scandal surrounding the info analytics consultancy, Cambridge Analytica.
Earlier this yr, it took testimony from former worker Christopher Wylie, who alleged the corporate used information from tens of tens of millions of Fb accounts to assist U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 election marketing campaign. Wylie mentioned the Brexit marketing campaign additionally had entry to the Fb information.
One other former Cambridge Analytica worker, Brittany Kaiser, alleged information gathered by Banks’ insurance coverage firm was used within the referendum marketing campaign.
Banks dismissed their statements, suggesting they have been “Walter Mitty-type characters” — a reference to a fictional character who daydreams of non-public triumphs.