Fund Manager Sentenced To 15 Years Imprisonment With Hard Labour
By Andrew Cave
Marsha Lazareva, the Russian businesswoman whose fight against conviction of embezzlement in Kuwait has attracted a cast of political heavyweights and Hollywood star Amber Heard, has been found guilty again in a new judgment which has extended her prison term from ten to 15 years with hard labour.
Ms Lazareva was released on bail in June after 474 days in prison on the grounds that she had not been allowed to present a defence at the original trial.
The annulment of the conviction also followed the discovery that the only prosecution witness in the original had forged documents.
However, a new verdict has now been handed down, finding her guilty on two out of ten charges.
Saeed Dashti, Ms Lazareva’s business partner in Kuwait, who was also convicted in the original case and has remained in prison throughout, has also been convicted in the fresh verdicts.
All The Presidents’ Relatives
The verdict comes despite intense lobbying by some of the world’s most powerful political families to correct what they see as a major injustice.
In Britain, the campaign has been led by human rights lawyer Cherie Blair, the wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who called Ms Lazareva’s detention “arbitrary and totally unwarranted” and “one of the most worrying cases I have come across”.
In the US, Neil Bush, son of the late President George Bush, former FBI Director Louis Freeh and former Florida attorney-general Pamela Bondi have been involved in the campaign.
Actress Amber Heard spoke about the case at a session at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
In Russia, meanwhile, Ms Lazareva has been supported by Tatyana Yumasheva, the youngest daughter of the late former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brought up the case on a visit to see Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Sabah in March.
Leading Middle East Fund Manager
Ms Lazareva, 44, was the only woman to lead a major investment company in Kuwait as vice-chairman and managing director of KGL Investments (KGLI).
KGLI managed The Port Fund, whose investors included the Kuwait Port Authority and the Kuwait Public Institution for Social Security.
After winning a contract to build and run a logistics hub on a former US military site in The Philippines, the fund doubled the value of its original $188m investment to $380m over ten years.
It was in the process of distributing the returns when its funds were frozen in a Dubai bank in 2017.
After Ms Lazareva’s conviction last year, the $496m that she was accused of embezzling was located and distributed to The Port Fund’s creditors, investors and stakeholders.
He supporters argued that the return of the funds was proof that they had not been embezzled.
They now have to determine whether there are grounds for further legal appeal in Kuwait and examine international diplomatic options.
A source close to the proceedings said yesterday: “Ms Lazareva is currently being provided with safe shelter in the Russian Embassy in Kuwait while high-level diplomatic conversations are being held between the countries.” Cherie Blair said: “I am disappointed but not surprised by the judgment of the Kuwait Court. It follows a campaign of persecution against Marsha and grave flaws in the judicial process which raise serious questions for Kuwait.”