The former Goldman Sachs secretary who was jailed in 2004 for stealing more than £4m from her banker bosses has landed a job coaching white-collar criminals in how to cope with a prison term.
Joyti Waswani, who served half of her seven-year sentence in three closed prisons under her then married name of Joyti De-Laurey, is said to be Britain's biggest female fraudster after stealing vast sums from her bosses, Scott Mead, Jennifer Moses and Moses's husband, Ron Beller, all of whom were directors of the investment bank.
The trio were so wealthy they did not notice their savings being plundered – despite, the court was told, Waswani buying more than £300,000 worth of Cartier jewellery, flying lessons for her husband and a £150,000 speedboat.
Released in 2007, she has been working as director of fundraising for the Royal London Society, the prisoner charity, before taking up her new role as a consultant at a start-up business called Prison Consultants, which says it advises its clients on "how to prepare and deal with the unfamiliar surroundings of serving time at Her Majesty's establishments".
The business has launched just as many high-profile white-collar cases are coming to court, from the prosecution of bankers allegedly involved in rigging benchmark interest rates, to the phone hacking trial currently at the Old Bailey.
"I didn't feel safe at all when I first went in," recalls Waswani. "I felt really scared. Every five minutes there was a kick-off [a scuffle]. You don't need to know how to make friends; you just need to know how not to make enemies."
Hence the role with Prison Consultants, a business conceived by Steve Dagworthy, another former white collar criminal who served half of his six-year sentence for what was described in court as a £3m Ponzi scheme. Dagworthy took his idea to a longstanding business contact called Steve Hamer, a former chairman of Swansea City FC, who formed the company and employs Dagworthy as a consultant.
Dagworthy says: "If you go inside for fraud, the first question [from inmates] is 'how much?'. The second is 'what did you do with it?'. If they think you've got money, they'll start working you. You will get one person asking 'anything you need?'. Then you'll get someone else who gives you a hard time. So you go to the person that's been friendly to ask for help, but it costs you. And often you find that those two people have been working together."
Both Waswani and Dagworthy warn of other traps that white collar prisoners fall into, such as taking jobs in the prison kitchen, where inmates are frequently left with the choice of breaking unwritten prison rules or taking the risk of smuggling food to the wing. "If you don't do it, that's when the bullying starts," says Dagworthy. Such problems can escalate, he says.
If you end up needing official protection, he adds, "you've got to put yourself on the 'numbers', which means you're in with all the sex offenders. So when you move prison, someone will say: 'I remember you. You got moved to the VPs [vulnerable prisoners]. You're a paedophile.' It will follow you wherever you go."
The pair have numerous other horror stories – which also sound like effective sales pitches to prospective clients.
"Just before lock-up you get a little flask filled with hot water, for a hot drink at night," says Waswani. "The girls would fill that with sugar and throw it on [someone they had fallen out with]. So it burns and sticks to the skin."
Dagworthy says that "sugaring" is a common score-settler in men's prisons, too, along with inmates creating a knife by using a cigarette lighter to melt the handle of a toothbrush and then mount a razor blade. The less inventive "pool balls into a sock" is popular, too.
The risk of bullying does not appear to decrease markedly for females. "If you are a woman and you've hurt a child, it is probably better to do yourself in than go to women's prison," says Waswani. "Women's prisons are the most bitchy arena. Why? Mainly because women are like that. Women can harbour grudges, whereas men drop them quicker. Also, women go inside with a lot more pressure [around their home lives]. When there is tension like that, you are probably not the nicest person to be around."
Even now that she is out, Waswani does not appear particularly concerned with ingratiating herself with other well-known women. Of Vicky Pryce, the economist who wrote a book on serving two months for taking her husband's motoring penalty points, Waswani says: "I don't think that having served the time that she did [Pryce spent four days in Holloway before moving to an open prison] she is an authority about prison time."
And of Meera Syal, the actor who played Waswani in the 2005 BBC docudrama, The Secretary Who Stole £4m, she says: "I couldn't believe they picked Meera Syal. That sense of indignation. It's horrible. She's horrible."
When the programme was broadcast, Waswani says "the whole prison erupted", although media interest in her case meant that she was already one of the highest-profile female prisoners held in Britain.
So how does fame affect your time inside? There is dealing with the complete loss of status: "I had the shittiest jobs. I had to pick and measure cucumbers," she says. And it is essential not to portray yourself as being superior to other prisoners: "I saw a high-powered businesswoman get beaten up by a girl who had murdered someone."
There are also unknowns, such as prisoners' perception of white-collar crimes. Both former inmates predict some white-collar defendants who might yet end up in prison could find sentences tough.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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