Sulu heirs can’t rely on sham award, says Azalina over landmark victory

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has secured a landmark victory in the Paris Court of Appeal against the self-claimed heirs of the defunct Sulu Sultanate, says Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

The Appeals Court had annulled the Paris Arbitration Court's purported award of US$14.94bil (RM68.83bil) to the party claiming to be the heirs of Sultan Jamalul Kiram II (the claimants of the Sulu group).

"The Paris Court of Appeal has upheld Malaysia’s challenge against the partial award rendered on May 25, 2020 by Gonzalo Stampa in the case brought by the Sulu claimants," said the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law and Institutional Reforms).

"The decision means that the claimants cannot rely on the sham award in France for any purpose. The Paris Court of Appeal found that the arbitrator wrongly upheld his jurisdiction," she added in a statement on Tuesday (June 6).

Azalina said Malaysia is seeking to have the annulment of the award recorded in a court decision as soon as possible, which should lead to the collapse of the claimants’ global enforcement efforts to date.

She said the decision, which is final and binding, is a decisive victory for Malaysia in its ongoing pursuit of legal remedies, which will result in comprehensive defeat for the claimants and their funders.

In February 2022, a French arbitration court presided over by Stampa instructed Putrajaya to pay US$14.94 to the descendants of the last Sulu sultan.

Malaysia then challenged the arbitration order in France and Spain. A French court granted a stay order on the award, pending a decision on Malaysia’s claim that the order infringed its sovereignty over Sabah.

"Stampa issued the ‘final award' despite his appointment having been annulled by the same Spanish court that had previously appointed him, on the basis that Malaysia had not been properly served ahead of that appointment process," Azalina said.

"In defiance of Spanish court orders instructing him to cease acting as arbitrator, in an unprecedented move, Stampa transferred the arbitration proceedings to France and issued his 'final award'.

"Stampa’s sustained actions in defiance of Spanish court orders have resulted in a significant abuse of the international arbitration process," she added.

A Spanish court earlier this year annulled Stampa’s appointment.

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

Azalina also expressed appreciation to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for his continued support and unwavering trust in the ongoing effort to uphold Malaysia’s position.

"We would also like to express our gratitude to Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil, the Attorney General, Sabah government, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Malaysian Embassy in France, the relevant ministries and agencies and all other parties involved,” she said.

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Gonzalo Stampa , Sulu , Azalina Othman , Sabah


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