UK

Paul Flowers, Former Co-op Bank Chief, Tells BBC 'I Sinned' (VIDEO)

25/03/2014 17:54 GMT | Updated 26/03/2014 00:59 GMT

Paul Flowers, the former chairman of the Co-op bank who was arrested on drugs offences, has admitted to the BBC that he "sinned" in an interview about the ordeal he suffered during the aborted takeover of 600 branches of Lloyds bank in 2012 – a failed deal that exposed the bank’s perilous financial health.

The 63-year-old, who is also a Methodist Minister, was arrested in November during a "drugs supply investigation", after which he underwent drug addiction treatment. His arrest was sparked by an article in the Mail on Sunday, which published pictures of the former banking chief allegedly buying drugs. He was later released on bail.

In an interview with Newsnight, he said: "I am in company with every other human being for having my frailties and some fragility exposed. Most people get through life without that ever coming into the public domain. But, of course I have sinned in that old fashioned term, which I would rarely use, I have to say."

Speaking about his addiction treatment, Flowers said: "I found that both cathartic and traumatic, but it actually helped me to look at not so much the superficial issues of the addictions themselves, but the more deep-seated reasons why people resort to any sort of addiction, and for me that was I think life-changing.

"I think I'm now much more secure in my own skin, much more self aware certainly than I was before. I put that down to the treatment at the hospital and I continue to go there every week for therapy."

Flowers, who was chairman of the bank between April 2010 and June 2013, joined after the institution merged with the Britannia building society in 2009, an amalgamation that critics have argued led to bank suffering a £1.5bn capital shortfall.

The former chairman, who stepped down last summer, said government ministers had made it very clear they wanted the Lloyds deal to go ahead, leading to pressure "from the present government and mainly from Conservatives".

He told the BBC: "They wanted a deal and remember that the government was - still is - the major shareholder of that bank because of the structural support it had needed in 2008.

"Clearly they wanted a deal which would help them in terms of public finances. They actually said that they were keen on Co-op becoming a much more significant player with more scale. We would have had about 7-8% of the market if this had gone through. And there was pressure certainly from Mark Hoban but I believe and know that that originated much higher up with the chancellor himself."

Late last year, a group of private investors injected £1bn into the Co-op bank for a 70% stake in its ownership, however the group has been forced to lay off nearly 15% of its total staff.

Watch the full interview on Tuesday's Newsnight.

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