The former Co-operative Bank chairman Paul Flowers has allegedly been caught on camera handing over cash for illegal drugs including cocaine and crystal meth.
Police have now said an investigation has been opened in wake of the reports. A West Yorkshire Police spokesman told the Guardian: "We have been made aware of these allegations and we have opened an investigation." More details would be released on Monday, he added.
The video, handed to the Mail on Sunday appears to shows Mr Flowers, 63, a Methodist minister, counting out £300 in a car and handing it to an acquaintance sitting in the passenger seat, so he can buy the substances from a third person.
“What’s this then crystal meth you’re getting yeah” says the passenger in the video. “Yeah,” responds the driver, purported to be Mr Flowers. “Will you give us the money for the coke Paul, because I want to go pay the kid for the coke as well,” adds the unseen man, who is secretly filming the exchange on his iPhone.
The footage is said to have been taken in Leeds on 7 November - a day after Mr Flowers appeared in front of the Treasury Select Committee over the Co-op bank’s £700 million losses, following an abandoned attempt to buy branches of Lloyds Bank.
Flowers resigned in June 2013 and the lender was recently forced to hand control of operations over to a group of powerful shareholders including US hedge funds.
The acquaintance, named as Stuart Hall, 26, has also shown text messages to the newspaper allegedly sent by Mr Flowers. One, reportedly sent on the day following the minister’s appearance at the Commons, read: “I was “grilled” by the Treasury Select Committee yesterday and afterwards came to Manchester to get wasted with friends.”
Mr Hall said he handed over the footage and texts as he was “ disgusted” by the “hypocrisy” of Mr Flowers, who has previously chaired the anti-drugs charity Lifeline. The pair had first met through gay dating app Grindr in October of this year, Mr Hall said.
After being presented with the material, Mr Flowers said in a statement: “This year has been incredibly difficult, with a death in the family and the pressures of my role with the Co-operative Bank.
“At the lowest point in this terrible period I did things that were stupid and wrong. I am sorry for this and I am seeking professional help and apologise to all I have hurt or failed by my actions.“
The Co-operative Bank said it could “make no comment”, while the Methodist church said: 'We expect high standards of our ministers. We have procedures for when ministers fail to meet those standards, and we will now start those with a thorough investigation.
“We will also work with the police if they feel a crime has been committed.”