London — Arron Banks, a British businessman who bankrolled one of the main campaigns for Brexit, will face questions from parliamentarians on Tuesday about his links with Russia after a report found that the connections went further and deeper than previously disclosed.
Britain has said it has not seen evidence of Russian interference in its votes, but MPs are investigating whether the country played a role in trying to influence public opinion before the EU referendum as part of an inquiry into fake news.
Banks will appear before MPs in a critical week for the government’s Brexit strategy, with Prime Minister Theresa May facing key votes in which those who want to retain closer ties with the EU could rebel.
The Sunday Times, citing e-mails it received from a journalist who worked with Banks on a book, said Banks and his associate Andy Wigmore had repeated contact with Russian officials before and after the referendum campaign.
Banks had previously claimed in a book to have had only one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s envoy in London, Alexander Yakovenko, in September 2015. But the newspaper said there were at least two more meetings.
Banks told the newspaper: "I had two boozy lunches with the Russian ambassador and another cup of tea with him.
"It’s a convenient witch-hunt, both over Brexit and Trump," he added, referring to allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
Banks said late on Saturday that he and Wigmore would appear before parliament’s digital, culture, media and sport committee’s fake news inquiry, reversing a decision to pull out two days ago.
Banks had said on Friday that it was "perfectly clear that the committee, which comprises only Remain-supporting MPs, is conducting a co-ordinated witch-hunt of Leave groups".
Banks did not answer e-mails and messages seeking comment on the Sunday Times report. Wigmore did not answer requests for comment.