Former Co-op boss Paul Flowers admits drug possession

Paul Flowers found the court locked as he arrived for the hearing

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Former Co-op Bank boss Paul Flowers has pleaded guilty to drug possession, at Leeds Magistrates' Court.

Flowers, 63, was arrested last November after newspaper allegations he had been involved in a drug deal.

The suspended Methodist minister had stepped down from the Co-op six months earlier over concerns about expenses.

He was fined £400 and ordered to pay £125 in costs after pleading guilty to charges of possessing cocaine, methamphetamine and ketamine.

He had earlier apologised for "stupid and wrong" behaviour, saying he had been under pressure because of problems at the bank and the recent death of his mother.

Stress

During the 10-minute hearing on Wednesday, prosecutors said Flowers had been filmed handing over £300 for drugs in a car in Leeds last November.

The footage was subsequently sold to the Mail on Sunday newspaper, the judge was told.

Flowers admitted the offence to police and said he had taken cocaine for about 18 months to "keep himself going" while he was suffering stress and caring for his then terminally ill mother.

Flowers' barrister, Richard Wright QC, said his client had a current income of £510 a month from pensions and unspecified assets inherited from his mother.

Paul Flowers The Treasury Select Committee chairman called Flowers "manifestly unsuitable" to head a bank.

Outside court, Flowers said only: "Don't ask me any questions because I won't give any answers."

His appearance in court came on the day a review of the Co-op Group by former board member Lord Myners said the organisation should adopt a much smaller board and focus on being profitable in order to survive.

Lord Myners said the group's current board was "manifestly dysfunctional" and needed more members with business experience.

Flowers, who oversaw the near-collapse of the group's banking arm, previously served as a Labour councillor in Bradford and on an informal board advising Labour leader Ed Miliband on banking.

He was suspended by the Labour Party and the Methodist Church following the drug allegations and faces a disciplinary procedure by the Church.

Black hole

His appointment as Co-op Bank chairman in April 2010 was widely criticised because of his inexperience in banking.

In May last year, the Co-op Bank was found to have a £1.5bn black hole in its finances.

Flowers stepped down the following month.

In November, Flowers was called to appear before Parliament's Treasury Select Committee to discuss his management of the bank.

After his appearance, the committee's chairman Andrew Tyrie said Flowers was "manifestly unsuitable" to be chairman of a bank.

The bank has since agreed a refinancing deal which saw the Co-op Group's stake fall to 30%.

US institutions now hold the other 70%.

Flowers is also a former trustee of the drugs charity Lifeline, from which he resigned in 2004 after allegedly filing false expenses claims.

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