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About Zara Merali

Zara is Counsel in our Dispute Resolution team and is based in the UAE. She has practised with top firms in Toronto, London and Kuwait before moving to Dubai.

Zara advises clients on global investigations, fraud, financial crime, bribery and corruption, asset-tracing, business ethics, ESG and corporate compliance. She has directed and conducted numerous cross-border investigations and has acted in major, global FCPA investigations. She specialises in strategically advising clients to help them manage legal risks, and also assists in general corporate and commercial disputes.

Zara was called to the Ontario Bar in 2007 and admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales in 2009. She has been commended by legal directories as ‘exceptional’, and was also nominated for the DIFC Academy of Law’s Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award 2018. Zara is also the winner of Chambers inaugural Middle East Associate of the Year Award 2022.

Recent work

  • *Advising an Omani based shareholder into the approximately USD 62m fraud investigation and asset tracing of a perfume business in the UAE, involving assets in Iran, the Isle of Man, Cyprus, the UAE, and the United Kingdom and advising on strategic advice for third party funding and DIFC-LCIA arbitrations seated in Dubai.
  • *Advising a global technology company’s internal investigation into corruption and bribery allegations, involving kickbacks and bid-rigging, in Kuwait, Oman and the UAE.
  • *Advising a global pharmaceutical client's investigation into corruption and bribery allegations in its Bahrain and Qatar businesses.
  • *Advising a global pharmaceutical client as part of the core team of lawyers in a worldwide (primarily involving the Middle East and NYC/Washington offices), anti-corruption internal investigation in the context of an FCPA enforcement
  • *Advising a private Saudi Arabian / German contractor in the telecommunications sector in its internal investigation of corruption and bribery in connection with multiple customer accounts
  • Advising a multinational French acquirer in a $110,000,000 DIFC/LCIA arbitration against the sellers of an eight jurisdiction (India, Singapore, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Oman) non-destructive testing conglomerate in the context of a dispute over fraudulent receivable claims to increase the purchase price in the last two tranches of the acquisition, including security applications in India and the UAE.
  • Advising a German multi-national company against a Kuwaiti distributor in a US$ 70 million ICC arbitration proceeding for the breach of an exclusive distribution contract.
  • Advising a global logistics company in a US$ 20 million GCCAC arbitration against a Kuwaiti petroleum company in relation to a dispute over a failure to meet volume commitments in an overland transport contract.
  • Advising a Kuwaiti investment company in a US$ 17 million International Chamber of Commerce arbitration in relation to a Cayman investment fund and related proceedings in Bahrain.
  • Advising the London P&I Club in a US$ 1,000,000,000 shipping collision dispute against a major Kuwaiti shipping company involving related proceedings in London, Switzerland and Italy

*Lawyer experience prior to joining Freshfields.


  • 2014 Master of Laws with Distinction (Oil and Gas Law), Robert Gordon University
  • 2009 Admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales
  • 2007 Called to the Ontario Bar
  • 2006 Juris Doctorate, Law, Osgoode Hall Law School
  • 2000 Master of Philosophy, Columbia University
  • 1996 Master of Arts (Law, Ethics and Policy), University of Toronto
  • 1995 Bachelor of Arts (Honours) University of Toronto