A Russian businessman woman jailed in Kuwait for over 470 days has been released on bail, following a high profile campaign involving prominent British, American and Russian supporters, led by Neil Bush, son of former American President George H.W. Bush and 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.
Marsha 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 Kuwait dinar ($72 million) in May last year after being found guilty of charges of embezzlement.
The conviction was successfully appealed on May 5, 2019 when it was discovered 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 Kuwait on June 9, Lazereva was freed on bail and released from prison on Wednesday.
Her 1 million Kuwaiti dinar ($3.29 million) bail was paid for by an unnamed Kuwaiti supporter, in addition to the 11 million Kuwait dinars previously paid.
A Russian citizen who graduated from the prestigious Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2003, Lazareva previously held a valid US green card before her imprisonment in Kuwait and is the mother of a four year-old son, an American citizen born in Philadelphia.
“I’m grateful to everyone involved in my international team for obtaining my release on bail… I now intend to fight to fully clear my name once and for all,” a spokesperson for Lazareva quoted her as saying in a press statement, according to a report by Forbes.
The next hearing in the case will be on June 23.
In addition to Neil Bush, Cherie Blair and Tatyana Yumasheva, Lazareva’s case has attracted a significant number of heavyweight political supporters around the world, including Louie Freeh, the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Ed Royce, the former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; James Nicholson, the former Ambassador to the Vatican and former Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Pam Bondi, the former Attorney General for the State of Florida; Lord Alex Carlile, a member of the Queen's Counsel in London and Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
Neil Bush became involved in the case early on and has made several trips to Kuwait to campaign for Lazareva’s release, including the most recent hearing this week.
Speaking to Arabian Business on Sunday, he described the charges against her as “totally bogus”.
His father, President George H.W. Bush orchestrated the liberating of Kuwait in February 1991 following the Gulf state’s invasion by Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces during the Gulf War.
The 64 year-old Texan businessman said he took up the Lazareva case as he wanted to protect his dad’s legacy and see Kuwait succeed, but he feared the negative publicity surrounding the case would discourage international investors from engaging with the Gulf state.
“The more I dug into the case the more I realised there's a real injustice that a that a green card holding American who graduated from Wharton School of Business has been separated from her four year-old son for over a year now for charges that were totally bogus, and you could tell from the very beginning that they were bogus,” he told Arabian Business in an exclusive video interview in Kuwait on Sunday.
“And truthfully, you know, part of my dad's legacy, he passed away last year everyone knows, one of his great historical legacies was the fact that he put together, along with an amazing team, a coalition of forces that liberated Kuwait from the evil invasion of Saddam Hussein.
“And so, you know, Kuwait's been on a good path of humanitarian rights, a judicial system that's independent and relatively successful for this region. And as a Bush family member trying to protect my dad's legacy, I want to see Kuwait succeed in this way. And so I've intervened because of the human rights issue, the clear abuse of human rights, the lack of due process, and because I do, I really do, care about Kuwait and I want to see Kuwait succeed.
“For [Marsha Lazareva] to be thrown in jail sends a signal to the rest of the world… Maybe I should think twice about coming to Kuwait, maybe I should think twice about investing in Kuwait, maybe I should think twice and working with Kuwaiti investors if what's going to happen is those funds will be frozen or I'm going to be thrown in jail, which is exactly what's happening.”
Omnia Strategy, the British law firm team representing Lazareva, which includes Cherie Blair, on May 23 filed a petition of complaint with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), requesting an investigation into Lazareva’s detention and imprisonment.
"This is another example of a dangerous trend of criminalising people who are conducting legitimate business activities," Blair was quoted as saying in a press statement.
“The imprisonment of a prominent businesswoman, who is an important example of women's leadership in business in the Middle East, is a great concern."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.
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