Lloyds bank chairman dismisses allegations of criminality made by Noel Edmonds

The chairman of Lloyds Banking Group has dismissed allegations of criminality made by TV personality Noel Edmonds.

The former Deal Or No Deal presenter wanted to challenge the board over an internal report about its handling of fraud at one of its branches during its AGM in Edinburgh on Thursday.

The paper, written by ex-employee Sally Masterton in 2013, criticised the lender over an HBOS fraud that forced multiple customers out of business.

Lloyds has set aside £100 million for victims of the fraud at the hands of HBOS Reading staff between 2003 and 2007.

Corrupt financiers from the Reading branch were jailed in 2017 for the £245 million loans scam, which destroyed several small businesses and saw the criminals squander the profits on high-end prostitutes and luxury holidays.

One of the most high profile victims is Edmonds, who is pursuing Lloyds separately for losses allegedly suffered when his former business Unique Group was destroyed.

Lloyds rescued HBOS at the height of the financial crisis and the Reading scandal has loomed large over the bank.

The lender appointed Sir Ross Cranston to carry out an “independent assurance review” following intervention from the Financial Conduct Authority and the City minister John Glen.

At the AGM, Edmonds repeatedly asked chairman Lord Blackwell how many “police forces” were investigating the banking group, but was not given a figure.

He was told to step away from the microphone to give other shareholders a chance to address the board.

Lord Blackwell then said: “We will support any investigation by any police force trying to get to the bottom of any wrongdoing that’s gone on.

“Police forces investigate allegations made.

“Criminality is the result of investigation that leads to prosecution.

“You and others can make allegations all over the place but criminality has to be proven.”

Speaking to the Press Association, afterwards Edmonds said: “A very simple question – how many police forces are currently investigating Lloyds bank – and they wouldn’t say.

“He wouldn’t say, none of the board of directors would say.

“They won’t tell how many police forces are actually investigating.

“This is a very important issue for millions of people in Britain who have suffered over a decade of austerity.

“They must be held to account, otherwise what is Britain about? What are we about?”