Borders book festival

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Gary Mulgrew says it wasn’t his experiences growing up in a tough, Glasgow area in the 1960s or working as a nightclub bouncer that helped him survive three years behind the bars of some of America’s toughest prisons.

Rather it was the skills acquired as a high-flying banker which he found the most useful.

Mulgrew, who shot to fame – or rather infamy – as one of the NatWest Three after the collapse of US energy giant, Enron, will be giving a Borders Book Festival audience a shocking insight into life behind bars on the other side of the Atlantic.

Now 51, he was extradited with NatWest colleagues David Bermingham and Giles Darby to stand trial in the US in 2006.

The accusation was that they organised the sale of NatWest holdings in a number of Enron-related investments to a partnership controlled by Enron’s chief financial officer, Andrew Fastow.

It was alleged that with the assistance of Mulgrew and his two colleagues, Fastow was able to buy the shares cheap and re-sell them making millions for himself and the three accused.

A plea bargain to avoid the possibility of decades in prison left the men with 37 months in the US penal system. They were released in 2010 after spending the end of their sentences in the UK.

Mulgrew is steadfast in his claim that he never committed a crime, believing he and his colleagues were handy scapegoats for the Enron disaster.

At Melrose, Mulgrew will talk about his time in Big Spring Federal Correctional Institution in Texas.

Entitled Gang of One, it was published last summer with all the proceeds going to Reunite, the UK’s leading charity dealing with the movement of children across international borders.

Those at Mulgrew’s event at Melrose and who have not read his book, might be surprised it is not just a tale of violence and a rant against the US justice system, but a moving story of hope and human dignity in the face of crushing despair.

While Mulgrew was behind bars, his ex-wife took the couple’s six-year-old daughter to live in Tunisia and, despite frantic efforts to trace the pair, he has not heard from them since.

Mulgrew, who also has a teenage son, says he wrote Gang of One mainly so that his daughter will hopefully read it one day and know her father loved her and never gave up looking for her.

The son of former Labour MSP Trish Godman, Mulgrew says he is looking forward to his appearance at the Melrose festival and is enjoying his new literary life, although he also has other business interests.

“The book has done very well and has been optioned for a film,” Mulgrew told The Southern. “I’ve done a few appearances at literary events, but I don’t think writing just one book entitles you to call yourself a proper writer. It’s something I’d like to purse as a career.”

He says despite being 6ft2ins with a broken nose, it was his talents as a banker that helped him most while in jail.

“I might look the part but I’m not a fighter – I hate all that and in four years as a bouncer I never got into a fight. It was my training at the bank that really saw me through prison.”

Once convicted and awaiting sentence, Mulgrew started researching life in prison and adapted his daily life to reflect the conditions he would find.

“I stopped watching television, gave up alcohol, slept on the floor and only took cold showers. It was a way of preparing myself mentally for what was to come.

“And I did what I used to do when at the bank – I wrote down what the negatives would be. I broke it down into chunks that I could deal with.

“The first thing I wrote down was rape because I was terrified of that happening. That was followed by stabbing, gangs and so on.”

Mulgrew learned very quickly that presence counted for a lot when inside prison: “Posturing was everything – having an air of confidence and projecting that. And my sense of anger fuelled my drive to survive and make it through it all. To get out and find my daughter.”

Mulgrew says his feelings of guilt for the impact his jailing had on his children drive him on still. “When you have kids, you’d go through anything for them.”

l Gary Mulgrew, Gang of One, Scottish Borders Brewery Marquee, 7.45pm on Friday, June 14.