Paris Court of Appeal favours Malaysia, sets aside award to Sulu heirs

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia has won the battle to set aside a Paris Arbitration Court's purported award of US$14.94bil to the self-claimed heirs of the defunct Sulu Sultanate.

The Paris Court of Appeal gave the decision in favour of Malaysia during its hearing in Paris on Tuesday (June 6).

Lawyer Tengku Datuk Fuad Ahmad said the setting aside of the award would effectively make controversial Spanish Arbitrator Gonzalo Stampa's 2021 award in favour of the Sulu heirs not enforceable.

"Malaysian assets are safe; they cannot enforce his award, which has been set aside," said Fuad, who is an attorney for the state government.

Based on the initial translation of the French court's legal decision, the Paris Appeal of Court granted Malaysia's application based on Article 1520,1 of the French code of civil procedure declaring that Stampa's appointment as arbitrator to be incompetent.

It also reversed the order of the President of the Paris Court of Justice on Sept 29, 2021, granting execution of the arbitral award rendered in Madrid on May 25, 2020 by Stampa.

Stampa, who ignored a decision by a court in Spain to stop the Sulu arbitration case in Madrid in 2020, had moved his arbitration to Paris where he awarded the US$14.94bil to the Sulu claimants.

Spanish authorities are currently taking criminal action (contempt of court) against Stampa for ignoring the ruling to stop the arbitration case.

Malaysia had obtained a stay order on July 12, 2022 for the enforcement of the purported final award.

Malaysia ’s position that the purported commercial arbitration instituted by the Sulu claimants was without legitimate basis.

Malaysia's argument for the setting aside of the award was that it would likely affect Malaysia’s territorial sovereignty.

The case is seen as exceptional among arbitrators as Stampa's award of nearly US$15bil as such by a single arbitrator was seen as shocking and unheard of.

The self-claimed heirs pursuing their case are Nurhima Kiram Fornan, Fuad A Kiram, Sheramar T Kiram, Permaisuli Kiram-Guerzon, Taj-Mahal Kiram-Tarsum Nuqui, Ahmad Narzad Kiram Sampang, Jenny KA Sampang and Widz-Raunda Kiram Sampang.

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