Tags: marsha lazareva | kuwait | ceo | prisoner | bail

Sunday Hearing in Kuwait May Decide Fate of Imprisoned CEO

International lawyer and human-rights activist Cherie Blair gestures with both hands as she speaks to the media
International lawyer and human-rights activist Cherie Blair, the U.K.'s former first lady, has filed a petition on Marsha  Lazareva's behalf with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 05 June 2019 07:53 PM

Stunning developments in the case of a Wharton Business School graduate and investment-firm CEO imprisoned in Kuwait for over a year despite posting $36 million in bail have left her high-powered defense team optimistic she could soon be released.

Marsha Lazareva is an international business woman and mother who was convicted of billing the Kuwait Port Authority for work that was not actually done. She was provided no opportunity to present her defense at that trial.

In March, the Kuwaiti Court of Arbitration confirmed her KGL Investment Co. had in fact completed the work. Then in May, Kuwait's Court of Appeals nullified her original conviction due to improper judicial procedures.

The court ordered her to be set free, but hiked her bail to a staggering $60 million. Kuwait's attorney general has refused to release her without that payment.

Lazareva's defense team announced last week that international lawyer and human-rights activist Cherie Blair, the U.K.'s former first lady, has filed a petition on Lazareva's behalf with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Her appeal to the UN requests an investigation into the arbitrary nature of Lazareva's prolonged detention.

Another prominent figure to take a keen interest in the case: Neil Bush, the son of the late President George H.W. Bush, who sent U.S. soldiers into Iraq in 1991 to rescue it from the clutches of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

"We welcome the court order releasing Marsha on bail and the other recent developments showing that the charges are unsubstantiated," remarked Bush. "Unfortunately, we continue to face unexplainable resistance and delay by a small number of people within the Kuwait government who wish to advance their own private agendas."

Lazareva's legal team maintains that business rivals who coveted her company's lucrative government contracts drummed up the charges. The Kuwaiti bookkeepers who testified against her have since recanted their allegations.

Also, the documents that were presented to the court as evidence of a scam have been exposed as forgeries. A Kuwaiti court convicted the prosecution's chief witness of forgery May 27, and he was sentenced to a term of six months in prison.

Lazareva has now spent over 460 days and nights in prison – despite the fact her initial conviction was dismissed.

Sources tell Newsmax she shares an impossibly cramped Kuwaiti jail cell with six other women, her health is said to be failing, and her 5-year-old son has been told his mother is on an extended business trip abroad.

Her legal dream team has been shuttling between the U.K., the United States, and Kuwait in a bid to win her release.

Lazareva's advocates and supporters include Louis Freeh, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; former Florida Attorney Gen. Pam Bondi; Ed Royce, former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and Secretary of Veteran Affairs James Nicholson.

Blair recently spoke to Newsmax in an exclusive interview, and described Lazareva's case as part of "a dangerous trend of criminalizing people who are conducting legitimate business activities. Marsha has been a prominent businesswoman in the Middle East, an example of women's leadership in an area that has not so many examples of that."

Blair described the $60 million bail as "extortion" and told Newsmax the case "boggles the mind."

Said Blair: "We have reluctantly concluded that the only way we are going to be able to put pressure on the courts in Kuwait to give her the fair trial that she's entitled to is to go to the UN body."

International investors continue to keep a close eye on Lazareva's case, which could be a bellwether indicating Kuwait's standing for global business and investment.

Sources say Kuwait's many friends in the United States worry Lazareva's ongoing detention could be a distraction this month, during which Kuwait takes over the high profile, rotating presidency of the UN Security Council.

The ultimate authority in Kuwait is Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah. The Emir enjoys a strong reputation for responsible leadership in the West, but Lazareva's defenders worry he might not be fully aware of the actions of his subordinates.

"We believe the Emir is a very good man," Bondi told Newsmax in April, "and we are confident when this case reaches his level, he will release Marsha."

Some hold out hope her release could come even sooner.

A Kuwaiti court is scheduled to hold yet another hearing Sunday on Lazareva's fate. Several prior hearings have been abruptly canceled, possibly indicating a quandary over how to proceed with her case.

Sunday's hearing falls just a few days after the conclusion of Ramadan – a time when many devout Muslims undertake acts of mercy to celebrate the completion of their month-long period of fasting and reflection.

Whether that leniency will extend to the long-suffering Lazareva, however, remains to be seen.

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The case of a Wharton Business School graduate and investment-firm CEO imprisoned in Kuwait for over a year despite posting $36 million in bail have left her high-powered defense team optimistic she could soon be released, Newsmax's David A. Patten reports.
marsha lazareva, kuwait, ceo, prisoner, bail
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2019-53-05
Wednesday, 05 June 2019 07:53 PM
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