A Russian businesswoman in Kuwait has been sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labour for two counts of money laundering,
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garnering widespread condemnation from her prominent international team of supporters, including 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.
Marsha Lazareva was originally arrested in November 2017 and sentenced to ten years imprisonment in May 2018, after being found guilty of charges of embezzlement.
She was jailed for over 470 days before being released on a bail 12 million dinars ($39.42 million) on June 13, following a high profile campaign that disputes the evidence.
The conviction was successfully appealed on May 5 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.
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.
In the latest court hearing in Kuwait this week a judge sentenced Lazareva to 15 years hard labour on two counts of money laundering, her US-based law firm said on a statement on Monday.
Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who had reviewed the charges against Lazareva and gave evidence in court as part of her defence, said he was “very disappointed and saddened” by the verdict.
“Kuwait has had countless opportunities to root out corruption within its legal system and drop the false charges against Marsha Lazareva,” said Neil Bush, son of former President George H.W. Bush. “Its failure to do so has resulted in today’s false conviction and may leave the United States government no choice but to intervene and hold those responsible to account.”
British barrister Cherie Blair, who has campaigned for Lazareva’s release and in May 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, said she was “disappointed, but not surprised” by the judgment.
“It follows a campaign of persecution against Marsha and grave flaws in the judicial process which raise serious questions for Kuwait,” she said.
In addition to Bush, Blair and Freeh, other high profile supporters of the case have included Ed Royce, the former chairman of the US 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 and Lord Alex Carlile, a member of the Queen’s Counsel in London.
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