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Ex-chairman of UK's Co-op Bank Flowers held in drugs probe

The former chairman of the Co-op Bank and Methodist minister Paul Flowers has been arrested in the UK. He is thought to be involved in illegal drugs.

Police arrested Paul Flowers on Friday in Merseyside, northern England. It comes in connection with an ongoing investigation into illegal drugs.

"He has been taken to a police station in West Yorkshire, where detectives will continue their inquiries," police said in a statement.

The UK's Mail on Sunday newspaper had previously published a video, apparently showing Flowers arranging to buy crack cocaine and crystal meth. He has also been caught downloading pornographic content.

No qualifications

The 63-year-old Flowers, who is a Methodist minister and former Labour Party politician with no banking qualifications, has not directly commented on the drug allegations, but has apologized for sometimes "doing stupid things."

He has since been suspended from the Methodist Church and the Labour Party.

Flowers quit as chairman of Britain's Co-op Bank in June. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has questioned his appointment, asking "Why weren't alarm bells rung earlier, particularly by those who knew? Why was Reverend Flowers judged suitable to be chairman of a bank?"

He added that the government's priority was to "safeguard this bank" without using taxpayers' money. An independent inquiry into Flowers' role at Co-op was launched on Wednesday.

Flowers first came under scrutiny in late October, when he could not answer basic questions about his bank at a parliamentary committee. Under his tenure, Co-op, which prides itself on ethical investments, has fallen deeper into financial trouble.

It has had to plug a 1.5-billion-pound ($2.4 billion, 1.8 billion euros) hole in its finances, and recently agreed to a bailout plan by hedge funds.

ng/mkg (Reuters, AFP, AP)