Former bank boss faces drug charges

Witney Gazette: Former Co-operative Bank chairman Paul Flowers has faced claims of alleged drugs use Former Co-operative Bank chairman Paul Flowers has faced claims of alleged drugs use

Disgraced former Co-op Bank boss Paul Flowers has been charged with possession of drugs including cocaine and crystal meth.

The Methodist minister, 63, was arrested by officers from West Yorkshire Police in the Liverpool area last year.

Flowers, who has been dubbed the crystal Methodist, stepped down as the Co-operative Bank's chairman in June amid claims of illegal drug use and inappropriate expenses payments.

He was charged with two counts of possession of Class A drugs - cocaine and methamphetamine - and one count of possession of Class C drug ketamine, prosecutors said.

A second man was also charged in relation to the incident.

Gavin Woroniuk, 33, of Mitford Road, Leeds, faces four counts of offering to supply controlled drugs and one count of possession of criminal property.

Both men will appear at Leeds Magistrates' Court on May 7.

Flowers was suspended by both the Methodist Church and the Labour Party following allegations that he bought and used illegal drugs. It also emerged that he quit as a Labour councillor in Bradford after porn was found on his computer, although at the time he claimed he was leaving due to pressure of work.

The Co-operative Bank confirmed last year that it was seeking to recover contractual payments totalling £31,000 made to Mr Flowers amid reports that he was also the subject of an inquiry into ''lavish'' expense claims at the Co-op when he resigned from the mutual's group board in June.

It also emerged that Flowers left the Manchester-based drug charity Lifeline Project in 2004 after an investigation over claims for expenses there.

Flowers, of Hollingwood Drive, Bradford, was charged after he answered bail at Stainbeck police station in Leeds.

He made no comment to reporters and photographers as he left the building, but on his arrival earlier today he called the waiting media "vultures".

He said: "'There is a phrase for some people, they call them vultures, and I really do hope that somebody quotes me on that, especially the BBC.

''The BBC have been really nice to me but the rest of you are vultures.''

His solicitor, Andrew Hollas, told reporters outside the police station that his client would make a "full statement" following his court appearance.

When asked about media coverage of the case, he replied: " He's been charged with very serious offences but you're absolutely correct, I think it's been self-evident that he has been hounded for six months by certain elements of the press and they have included many allegations within their papers that have been completely without foundation. However, I'm not prepared to go into that any further at the moment.

"Mr Flowers has assured me, and through me I'm instructing you, that he will make a full statement after his magistrates' appearance."

Clare Stevens, from the Crown Prosecution Service's complex casework unit in Yorkshire and Humberside, said: " We have carefully considered a file of evidence gathered by West Yorkshire Police in relation to alleged criminal offences committed by Paul Flowers in Bradford in November 2013.

"Following a review of the evidence, I have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to charge Paul Flowers with possession of Class A and Class C drugs relating to an incident on November 9 2013."

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