Disgraced British ex-bank chief admits he "sinned"

LONDON - A disgraced British bank chief who quit amid drug allegations has admitted that he had "sinned", in his first interview since the scandal broke.

Paul Flowers, ex-chairman of the crisis-hit Co-operative Bank who is currently on bail in connection with a "drug supply" probe, told the BBC late on Tuesday that the last few months had been "hellish".

"I am in company with every other human being for having my frailties and some fragility exposed," he told the Newsnight television programme.

"Most people get through life without that ever coming into the public domain. But, of course I have sinned in that old fashioned term."

Flowers was filmed talking about buying crystal meth, crack cocaine and ketamine by The Mail on Sunday newspaper in allegations published last November.

Reverend Flowers was chairman of the Co-operative Bank - which prides itself on ethical investments - from 2010 until June 2013.

He has been engulfed in a highly damaging series of allegations over illegal drug use, sex with male prostitutes, drink-driving and questions over his expense claims while working for a drugs charity.

The bank revealed on Monday that it needed another £400 million ($660 million, 480 million euros) of fresh capital to help to fill a hole in its finances.

The news comes two weeks after Euan Sutherland resigned as Co-op Group chief executive, blaming the failure to reform the governance of the mostly mutual company which also operates supermarkets and funeral parlours.

The bank's disastrous financial situation was caused by the 2009 purchase of British mortgage lender Britannia - which was saddled with bad loans - and the collapse earlier this year of a deal to buy 632 branches run by Britain's state-rescued Lloyds Banking Group.

Flowers claimed on Tuesday that the government had put pressure on the bank to conclude the Lloyds deal.

"Up to [November] there hadn't been much commentary about things we were doing at the bank, but it got worse after that," he said.

"For me personally there have been several moments where it has been hellish," he added.

The bank is facing a series of investigations into what went wrong, and ongoing questions over the appointment and suitability of Flowers, who is said to have lacked knowledge of the financial sector.