WASHINGTON, March 11, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The Port Fund confirmed today that a Kuwait court has refused to release Marsha Lazareva, a prominent member of the international business community, who has been subject to unlawful detention and other human rights violations for the past 15 months.
Following a coordinated multinational effort by high profile officials, former officials and private citizens from the U.S., Russia and the UK to demonstrate Lazareva's innocence, this refusal serves as a significant insult to all three countries.
Among those advocating for Lazareva's release are Neil Bush, the son of the late President George H.W. Bush, Louis Freeh, former director of the FBI, Jim Nicholson, former United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs, former U.S. Representative Ed Royce, Sergey Lavrov, foreign minister of Russia, British Barrister Lord Carlile and members of UK Parliament.
Freeh, who is also a former U.S. Federal District Court Judge and former Assistant United States Attorney who prosecuted criminal cases for the U.S. Department of Justice, says the case against Lazareva lacks merit.
"Reports conducted by a team of intelligence experts present serious and compelling evidence of Ms. Lazareva's innocence, said Freeh. "It is unjust to continue to incarcerate and persecute Ms. Lazareva based on evidence that no reasonable court would conclude proves guilt."
Those expert reports were presented to the Kuwait Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
"The continued unjust incarceration of Ms. Lazareva threatens to darken relations between the U.S. and Kuwait, two countries that have enjoyed a long and prosperous relationship," said Bush. "We are confident that Kuwait will review the evidence that has not previously been considered, and immediately release Ms. Lazareva – a critical step toward maintaining America's faith in the Kuwaiti justice system."
As Vice Chairman and CEO of KGL Investment (KGLI), Marsha Lazareva was the only foreign woman serving as the head of an investment company in all of Kuwait.
She managed the creation of an investment property called The Port Fund, whose investors included the Kuwait Port Authority (KPA) and the Kuwait Public Institution for Social Security (PIFSS). Over its ten-year investment period, The Port Fund grew its original investment of $188 million to $335 million. In 2017, the fund's management was in the process of distributing returns to the limited partners, including the KPA and PIFSS, when $496 million in funds were frozen without cause in a Dubai bank. Last month, the funds were finally released and the investors were repaid with a significant profit.
"The willingness of the U.S. to support and do business with Kuwait is predicated on its record as a nation that respects human rights and the rule of law. The imprisonment and harassment of Ms. Lazareva threatens that support, and it is in Kuwait's best interest to drop all the false charges against her and allow her to return with her five-year-old son to the United States where he is a citizen," said Nicholson.
Lazareva was arrested in November 2017 and detained for questioning on the orders of the Kuwaiti General Prosecutor's office and under the demonstrably false charges that she wasted public funds and embezzled money from the KPA. She was convicted in May 2018 based on the false testimony of a Kuwait State Audit Bureau employee, who has since been charged in Kuwaiti with fabricating the evidence used against her.
"Marsha has been separated from her son for over a year while being held in inhumane conditions and subject to repeated harassment by Kuwaiti authorities," said Crowell & Moring partner David Hammond, who is part of the legal team representing Lazareva. "The Kuwaiti judicial system continues to fail Ms. Lazareva. Today's hearing is just the latest example. The judge's actions and his disparaging and biased comments about the defendants unfortunately indicates that he is not impartial."
Attorneys acting on behalf of Lazareva say they will continue to work to secure her release and the dismissal of all charges against her.
"Under Marsha's expert guidance, our investment fund ranked in the top quartile of private equity funds started before the global recession, but clearly in Kuwait, success has its enemies and international investors should think twice before doing business in this country," said Mark Williams, investment director of The Port Fund.