We are not Russian secret agents, Brexit campaigner Banks says

LONDON (Reuters) - Brexit campaigner Arron Banks denied on Sunday ever receiving Russian money or assistance for the campaign to leave the European Union.

The Sunday Times, citing emails 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 both before and after the referendum campaign.

“I have never seen such a conflated story in all my life,” Banks told Reuters. “Yeah, we had two lunches with the Russian ambassador and passed on a business contact. So what?”

When asked if he ever received Russian money or assistance for Brexit, Banks laughed: “No, of course not. You know if I have, I’m still waiting for the cheque. This is just a complete absolute garbage – it is like the Salem witch hunt. They just keep on screaming ‘witch’, ‘witch’.”

“The big picture is that they are in the full Remain swing – they are trying to discredit everyone involved in Brexit and it just continues apace,” Banks said.

Banks said he would appear before lawmakers later in the week and that he would tell them of his contacts with officials from other countries too.

“It wasn’t just the Russians: we met all sorts of nationalities, we also briefed the State Department in Washington, we also met with the top embassy officials in London,” he said.

“So if we are Russian spies we must be American spies too.”

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Paul Sandle/Keith Weir