Russia Offered Brexit Financier Lucrative Deal With Russian Gold Company, Leaked Documents Reveal

A Kremlin-linked bank offered to support a lucrative business venture between Russian gold mines and Arron Banks, a wealthy British businessman who donated millions to the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, leaked documents revealed. The offer was made before Banks donated over $11 million to the pro-Brexit Leave.EU campaign, a fact that raises further questions about whether Russia attempted to bankroll or support the Brexit movement.

Banks has consistently denied that he received financial assistance from Russia, but a seven-slide PowerPoint presentation published by The Guardian and the Russian website Tzur reveals that the Brexit supporter was offered an exclusive investment opportunity that would allegedly allow him to make huge profits. The presentation noted that the deal was backed by the Russian state bank Sberbank, which was under Western sanctions at the time. The venture was proposed to Banks by the Russian ambassador to London, Alexander Yakovenko, the same week the Leave.EU campaign launched. 

The leaked documents were originally obtained by the Dossier Center, a Russian investigative organization funded by the Russian oligarch–turned–Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Banks has admitted to meeting with the Russian ambassador and several Russian businessmen prior to the Brexit referendum, which ended with a slim majority of voters supporting Britain’s exit from the EU. Emails leaked to The New York Times also show that Banks had forwarded the business proposal to friends and introduced Russian businessmen involved with the project to other associates who supported the Brexit campaign, though it is believed he ultimately did not invest in the project. One of Banks’s associates accepted a separate Russian-linked investment opportunity in the diamond industry, according to reports.

972286680-594x594 Arron Banks (C) and Andy Wigmore (L) leave Portcullis House on June 12, 2018 in London, England. Banks, who funded the Brexit campaign, was offered an exclusive investment opportunity involving Russian gold, documents reveal. Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images

In January, a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report claimed that the Kremlin had reasons to support the Brexit campaign.

“The June 2016 referendum in which British voters opted for their country to leave the EU, famously dubbed ‘‘Brexit,’ was a watershed moment for Western countries grappling with a resurgent wave of populism and nationalism in their political systems,” the report read. “The Kremlin has long aimed to undermine European integration and the EU, in addition to its aims to sow confusion and undermine confidence in democratic processes themselves, making Brexit a potentially appealing target.”

Some political figures in the U.K. have called for an investigation into whether the Kremlin interfered in the Brexit referendum. Still, some experts say it is unwise to blame Russia for the referendum’s outcome.  

“By now there is little doubt that Banks and Leave.EU received Russian support and also that Brexit was acutely in the Kremlin’s interest. If that was indeed the case, there needs to be consequences,” Dalibor Rohac, an expert focusing on Eastern Europe at the American Enterprise Institute, told Newsweek.

“At the same time, it would be an illusion to believe that if it weren’t for Russian support, people would have voted differently. I certainly did not welcome the referendum result, but I’m also worried that attempts to delegitimize it as a Russian plot are bound the backfire,” Rohac noted.

Banks met then-President-elect Donald Trump in the Trump Tower in New York in 2016. He later discussed the meeting with the Russian ambassador to the U.K., according to information obtained by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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