Cherie Blair: Russian woman's jailing in Kuwait 'totally unwarranted'

Top British barrister Cherie Blair's legal group, Omnia Strategy, is a part of the global team representing Marsha Lazareva
Cherie Blair: Russian woman's jailing in Kuwait 'totally unwarranted'
Top British barrister Cherie Blair.
By Alicia Buller
Sat 15 Jun 2019 12:27 AM

The detention of Russian businesswoman Marsha Lazareva in a Kuwait prison was "arbitrary and totally unwarranted", according to top British barrister Cherie Blair.

Lazareva was jailed in Kuwait for over 470 days and finally released on bail on Wednesday, following a high profile campaign led by Cherie Blair – who is the wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair – Neil Bush, son of former American President George HW Bush and Tatyana Yumasheva, the daughter of the late former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Lazareva’s KD1 million ($3.29 million) bail was paid for by an unnamed Kuwaiti supporter, in addition to the 11 million Kuwait dinars previously paid by her and her supporters.

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.

Blair told Arabian Business: “Clearly we remain concerned that the charges are still pending. Given that Marsha’s underlying conviction has been quashed, it is about time she was released. Finally she can be reunited with her family. This is certainly not the end of the road, but it is a step in the right direction.”

Blair’s legal group, Omnia Strategy, is a part of the global team representing Lazareva. In May this year, the team filed a petition of complaint with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), requesting an investigation into the detention and treatment of Lazareva, who is a Russian citizen and mother of a four year-old son born in the United States.

Lazareva's case has drawn international concern about the treatment of foreign investors in Kuwait and has been raised with the Gulf state. The UN working group will await correspondence from Kuwait before rendering an opinion, but the group could recommend Lazareva's release and that Kuwait award compensation to her.

Lazareva has filed a separate investment arbitration complaint against Kuwait in connection with her imprisonment. The complaint comes as Kuwait took over the month-long presidency of the UN Security Council at the start of June.

"This is another example of a dangerous trend of criminalising people who are conducting legitimate business activities," said Blair. “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."

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