Kuwaiti court upheld 15-year sentence for Maria Lazareva
The Kuwaiti Court of Appeal of Second Instance upheld the decision of the lower court on imprisonment for 15 years with hard labor and a fine of seven million dollars for a Russian woman, Maria Lazareva, in a case involving the Kuwaiti Port Fund.
The case of KGL Investment (KGLI), the Russian citizen Maria Lazareva, the only woman businessman in the Persian Gulf persecuted by the Kuwaiti authorities, has long gained worldwide fame. Two criminal cases were opened against her - on the laundering of The Port Fund funds created by KGLI and on embezzlement of funds from the Kuwaiti Port Authority. It was alleged that KGLI received $ 34 million from the Kuwaiti authorities for allegedly not completed work to create a port hub.
Initially, she was sentenced to 10 years on false charges and was in a tight cell with criminals. As a single mother, she was separated from her five-year-old son. The head of Kuwait's largest investment company was defended by lawyers and public figures from the United States, England and Russia.
Subsequently, the Kuwaiti Arbitration Court ruled that the work at the port was completed. The main witness in both cases, Maria Lazareva - the auditor of the State Audit Office of Kuwait, Hamad al-Allayan himself received six months in prison for falsifying documents, on the basis of which the Russian woman was sentenced. Last summer, the court dropped all charges against Maria Lazareva and her business partner Said Dashti, but they agreed to release them only on bail.
In November, the second court in Kuwait, instead of completely acquitting and closing criminal cases, sentenced Maria Lazareva to 15 years of hard labor and to pay a multi-million fine. However, even before the court hearing, Maria Lazareva, who was at large with a ban on leaving Kuwait, managed to find refuge with her family at the Russian embassy.
It is worth noting that in November last year, a court in Kuwait sentenced Maria Lazarev not only to hard labor and a fine. She was also ordered to pay 719 thousand Kuwaiti dinars (about $ 2.4 million), together with her business partner Said Dashti. Earlier, during the investigation of the case, it turned out that the allegedly stolen fund from investors already 496 million dollars were frozen in the accounts of Dubai Noor Bank at the request of the Prosecutor General of Kuwait. In February 2019, under pressure from an international support group, the funds were unfrozen and transferred to investor accounts with more than one hundred percent profit. However, the case was not closed, but reclassified from embezzlement to money laundering.
Maria Lazareva herself was again not present at the meeting. She continues to be on the territory of the Russian embassy, where she officially asked the Russian president for asylum. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials have repeatedly appealed to the Kuwaiti authorities for a fair hearing of the cases of Maria Lazareva.
According to a member of the rescue committee of Maria Lazareva, Vladimir Sidorov, the Kuwaiti judicial system usually shows independence, but in the story of Maria Lazareva it crashes. There is almost no hope of Russian and international lawyers and officials on the fairness of the trial, and now the options for saving a Russian citizen lie only in the political and diplomatic plane.
Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy, but Vladimir Sidorov noted that according to the legislation of the country and the established practice, the emir can grant pardon at any stage of the trial and investigation. Maria Lazareva’s lawyers also appealed to the committees of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which last year issued particular rulings on the lack of “impartiality and independence of the courts and judges” in the case of Maria Lazareva, as well as on “numerous violations of the procedural nature and human rights".
The defenders of Maria Lazareva express the hope that she will nevertheless receive temporary diplomatic immunity, which will be necessary for the legal departure from Kuwait with her family. By the way, the speaker of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, spoke about such an opportunity at one of her press conferences back in 2019.