Marsha Lazareva should be released, charges dropped, says former FBI Director

Former FBI director Louis Freeh says that recently emerged evidence is 'exculpatory' and 'compelling'
Marsha Lazareva should be released, charges dropped, says former FBI Director
In court this week, the judge did not deny a request for the release of the defendants, although he did not rule on the matter. A new hearing has been set for September 15.
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Mon 24 Jun 2019 02:36 PM

​An investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh has found “no evidence” that supports the Kuwaiti government’s charges against Russian businesswoman Marsha Lazareva.

Lazareva, an employee of KGL Investment Company in Kuwait, was arrested in November 2017 and sentenced to ten-years hard labour imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of 22 million Kuwaiti dinars ($72 million) in May last year after being found guilty of charges of embezzlement.

In May, the conviction was successfully appealed after it was found that the documents used as evidence against her were proven to be forgeries and the funds of nearly half a billion dollars she was accused of embezzling were actually frozen in a Dubai bank.

Following a hearing in June, Lazareva was freed on bail and released from prison.

On Sunday, Freeh – who served as head of the FBI between 1993 and 2001 – presented a four-page affidavit in which he outlined new evidence that has emerged in the last six months, which he said has yet to be considered by the court or Kuwait’s attorney general.

Among the new pieces of evidence are two forensic accounting reports compiled by former FBI agent Dan Gill, which determined that all their work for the Kuwait Port Authority was well documented and transparent.

Gill’s report, which has been seen by Arabian Business, found that “there is no evidence of indicia that KGLI or Lazareva engaged in any fraudulent conduct.”

The report also found that three key letters submitted by the government in the case “reflect several inconsistencies and errors” when compared to other KGLI documents, indicating they were not prepared by KGLI.

No wrongdoing

Additionally, two key witnesses against Lazarova and Dashti have since modified their confession and now indicate no wrongdoing.

The most important piece of new evidence, Freeh said, are minutes of an April 2011 meeting which corroborate that KGLI’s work was done at the behest of the Kuwait Port Authority.

“None of this evidence was presented to the trial court,” Freeh told Arabian Business in an interview at the Palace of Justice in Kuwait City. “There is a universal principle that if new evidence is found, the court can use that."

Freeh added that the evidence is “exculpatory”.

“[The evidence] rejects the charges. The facts are very compelling. I’ve been doing this as a judge, a prosecutor and head of the FBI for over 40 years, and I don’t see any evidence in this case that would justify a charge, yet alone a conviction," he said.

“What I would like to see happen, and what justice and fairness would require here, would be for this court to confirm that the conviction should be reversed and stay reversed, that the defendants should be released and that their bail, which is very high, $35 million in cash, be returned to them and they should be allowed to go on with their lives and not have this terrible charge ruining their reputation.”

New hearing

In court this week, the judge did not deny a request for the release of the defendants, although he did not rule on the matter. A new hearing has been set for September 15.

The Lazareva case has attracted the attention of a number of high-profile political supporters from around the world, including Neil Bush, the son of former American president George H.W. Bush, barrister Cherie Blair, the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Tatyana Yumasheva, the daughter of the late former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Freeh, for his part, was asked to testify and provide evidence in the case by Lazareva’s and Dashti’s legal team. According to the affidavit given to Kuwaiti authorities, Freeh is receiving a fee for his counsel and legal work.

However, as an independent fact witness, Freeh’s fee does not depend on the outcome of the trial.

For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.