Marsha Lazareva’s case raises red flags for foreign investors and could send them fleeing Kuwait.
Kuwait has a high-profile international case on its hands that threatens to harm the country’s foreign investment climate. The case, which has now been brought to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, coupled with several recent legal complaints from international investors, could damage the country’s business environment and threaten its reputation during a sensitive period for the Gulf emirate.
A Kuwait court wrongly convicted Russian national Marsha Lazareva, a prominent businesswoman in the Middle East, of misusing public funds. She has been serving a 10-year jail sentence, with hard labor, in Kuwait’s overcrowded Sulaibiya prison since 2018.
On May 5, a Kuwaiti judge confirmed a lower court decision to drop the conviction against her but set bail at prohibitive $66 million. This, after Lazareva already paid $36 million in bail last year and despite the case against her appearing to have collapsed amid false claims and rampant corruption in the Kuwaiti judicial system.
By voiding the lower court ruling but then jacking the bail demand, the judge essentially created a hostage-for-ransom situation. Such judicial actions risk scaring investors away at a time when the al-Sabah royals are seeking greater foreign investment.