The very foundation of her prosecution against Maria Lazareva has collapsed into the dust – why hasn’t her instant release occurred?
By Lord Carlile of Berriew, CBE QC
Kuwait is proud of its reputation as a reliable partner for investment to and from non-Gulf countries. It also vaunts a legal system compatible with the UK, the USA, and European jurisdictions. Its relationship with the United Kingdom is testament to that. Indeed, one of the major fraud courts of London has sat long and proud in a building owned by the Kuwait’s sovereign fund.
Kuwait wishes to build on that partnership. Currently it is asking the UK Government to ratify an extradition treaty. This would allow the easy transfer to Kuwait of those suspected of having committed crimes triable in the Kuwaiti jurisdiction. The UK’s current attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, is a very experienced and distinguished criminal lawyer. Doubtless he will be scrutinising the standard and consistency of Kuwait’s adherence to the Rule of Law – the set of standards that ensures that the innocent are not wrongly convicted, that the burden of proof placed on the prosecutor is adhered to, and that due process consistent with international norms is followed.
In writing this article about the Kuwait criminal law process, I rely directly on my own experience as a senior counsel in a relevant case. I am one of the legal team representing a Russian-born businesswoman, Maria Lazareva. She is a very successful investor and facilitator of major projects in Asia, Middle East and elsewhere: she has lived in Kuwait and operated her business interests from there for many years, and is the mother of a five year-old son. Maria is currently serving in Kuwait a ten-year prison sentence with hard labour: she was convicted of corruption, and awaits court resolution of related matters concerning $496million deposited in a bank in Dubai. This money was generated by a private equity firm she started known as the Port Fund.