Co-op says chairman quits over bank scandal

Co-op says chairman quits over bank scandal
The chairman of Britain's Co-operative Group, Len Wardle, is seen in this undated photograph received via the The Co-operative Banking Group, in London

LONDON - The Co-operative Group said on Tuesday that its chairman had resigned after the former head of its banking arm - which prides itself on ethical investments - was filmed allegedly planning to buy illegal drugs.

Len Wardle, chairman of the supermarket-to-banking business, said he was standing aside after former Co-operative Bank chairman Paul Flowers - a 63-year-old church minister - was linked to allegations involving crack cocaine, crystal meth and ketamine.

"The recent revelations about the behaviour of Paul Flowers, the former chair of The Co-operative Bank, have raised a number of serious questions for both the bank and the group," Wardle said in a statement.

"I led the board that appointed Paul Flowers to lead the bank board and under those circumstances I feel that it is right that I step down now, ahead of my planned retirement in May next year."

He will be replaced by Ursula Lidbetter, currently deputy chair of The Co-operative Group.

The Co-operative Bank has been plunged deeper into crisis by the allegations surrounding Flowers.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper alleged that Flowers, a Methodist minister, was caught on camera discussing the purchase of the identified drugs.

The paper said the event occurred just days after Flowers had bungled an appearance before lawmakers on parliament's Treasury Select Committee to explain the lender's dire finances.

Following the revelations published on Sunday, Flowers apologised in a statement issued through the Methodist Church in Britain, blaming pressures in his personal life.

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