Paul Flowers: Britain's most degenerate banker?
Paul Flowers: Britain's most degenerate banker?

It is a roll call of shame to make Silvio Berlusconi blush and Diego Maradona look like an er.. Methodist minister. But do the sordid allegations of sleaze against Paul Flowers make him the world's most degenerate banker?

No doubt the 63-year-old former Co-op Bank chief is up against some tough competition. Britain's banking industry is beset every week by fresh stories of villainy and cheating by institutions to which British citizens entrust their life savings.

Yet the allegations engulfing Flowers still stand out. Fred 'the Shred' Goodwin must be delighted: After losing his knighthood, could the former RBS boss yet be relieved of his bogeyman status as Britain's most distasteful fat cat?

As downfalls go, Flowers will surely take some beating. It combines sex and drugs with dodgy expenses and the meltdown of beloved high-street bank, the Co-op.

Revelations about Flowers' racy personal life followed the shocking discovery by the bank of a £1.5bn financial black hole in its accounts. It developed while Flowers was chairman between 2009 and 2013.

To recap: the week from hell for Flowers began with a video being published of him buying £300 of hard drugs. It ended with him sitting in a police cell, following days of lurid headlines and a personal confession that, yes, he had fallen somewhat short of his duties as a public figure and man of God.

This is not a good look for a Methodist minister who is meant to be faithfully tending the spiritual needs of his flock and leading Britain's most ethical bank. It appears Flowers has led a sordid double life in which he enjoyed getting off his face at orgies with rent boys and piles of hard drugs. Much of this happened while the Co-op was being run into the ground.

So what has Flowers done to earn the title of the world's most degenerate banker against such strong competition? Here's the rap sheet:

Web smut

Bradford Council said that "inappropriate but not illegal material" was found on Flowers' council PC (funded by taxpayers). It's safe to say that downloading hardcore pornography is not in the job description of a councillor, so he resigned from local politics in 2011 over the matter.

Sex and drugs

Flowers showed no shortage of front by allegedly setting up sex sessions with rent boys from his Co-op email account. One email sent to sex worker Ciaran Dodd from read: "Been waiting for you to come and have some coke and k with me." For those not in the know, coke means cocaine and k stands for ketamine, both illegal drugs.

In another email exchange, Dodd offered to bring a male friend to a sex-and-drugs session. The reply came back from the Co-op account: "I like him a lot but I can't afford 2 of you this time! PXx"

Dodd also claimed he was wined and dined by Flowers with trips to the theatre followed by drug-taking sessions involving amyl nitrate, cocaine and ketamine. Other times, Dodd would be paid £150 for bringing a friend to the sessions with Flowers.


It was alleged that expenses forms were being treated by Flowers more like blank canvases to be imaginatively filled in than accounts of costs incurred in the legitimate pursuit of business interests.

Next to valid claims, Flowers billed extravagant claims to the Co-op for hotels , travel and dining. It emerged that Flowers resigned from the Co-op after a trawl through his expenses threw up some red flags. Similar concerns about "excessive" expense claims were raised at addiction charity Lifeline Project, of which Flowers was a patron.

He quit before the results of an investigation were published into significant "false" claims totalling tens of thousands of pounds between 1992 and 2004.

Toilet trading

The earliest sign (so far) in Flowers' diary of disgrace can be traced back to a criminal conviction he picked up in 1981 for gross indecency with a man in a public toilet. He admitted to magistrates in Fareham, Hampshire, that he had engaged in a sex act in a public convenience. Flowers was fined £110 and spoke afterward of his "shame" at the conviction. If only he had treated this episode as a warning, not a blueprint.

Incompetence at Co-op

It's hard to imagine a brand more at risk fom the world's most degenerate banker than the poor old Co-op.

It is meant to be beacon of ethical conduct in Britain's benighted banking industry. Chancellor George Osborne even lauded the Co-op as an example of how business should be done.

But no more. Huge losses have left the bank flat out on the resuscitation table and in the hands of American hedge funds. These institutions are about as far removed from the principles of Britain's co-operative movement as a Methodist minister should be from sex and drugs orgies with rent boys.

Meanwhile, questions over how Flowers was appointed chairman of the Co-op, as well as how and why the bank amassed catastrophic financial losses have claimed more victims. Co-op group chairman Len Wardle fell on his sword in an act of corporate hari-kari over the scandal.

Driving ban

Flowers was arrested by police in 1990 after celebrating his 40th birthday. Compared to all the above, this indiscretion barely warrants a mention. But a spokesman for the Methodist Church claimed that Flowers was "very contrite" at the time.

For years, Flowers reaped the benefits of a network of personal contacts that saw him appointed to no less than 10 high-profile public roles. Yet all the while, he was more concerned with running his private life.

This week it has caught up with him. The consequences are still unfolding.