Sulu claimants’ award thrown out by Paris Appeals Court

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia secured a landmark victory against the purported heirs of the long-defunct Sultanate of Sulu at the Paris Court of Appeal.

The court has upheld Malaysia’s challenge against the partial award handed down on May 25, 2020 by arbitrator Gonzalo Stampa in the case brought by eight Philippine claimants.

“The decision means 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,” Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reforms), said.

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

As part of their “abusive strategy”, she said the claimants had previously targeted Malaysia’s diplomatic assets in France (including part of its embassy) on the basis of this partial award.

“Malaysia has been fighting these measures on numerous grounds, including diplomatic immunity. They must now be withdrawn following today’s decision that refused to give any effect to the partial award in France,” she said.

Importantly, she said, the decision implies that the Paris Court of Appeal will annul the purported “final award” in which Stampa controversially awarded close to US$15bil (RM69.1bil) to the claimants.

Malaysia is seeking to have the annulment recorded in a court decision as soon as possible, which should quash the claimants’ global enforcement efforts.

Stampa issued the “final award” although his appointment as arbitrator had been annulled by the same Spanish court that had earlier appointed him, on the basis that Malaysia had not been properly served ahead of that appointment process.

In defiance of Spanish court orders instructing him to cease acting as arbitrator, Stampa, in an unprecedented move, transferred the arbitration proceedings to France. He then defied a further French court order when issuing his “final award”.

Stampa’s continued actions in defiance of court orders in Spain and France have resulted in a significant abuse of the international arbitration process.

“Malaysia trusts that today’s decision of the Paris Court of Appeal will put an end to the efforts of the claimants and their funder to enforce the illegal awards and thereby extract windfall damages from Malaysia,” she said.

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

The Malaysian government will continue to take all necessary actions, including legal actions, to put an end to the claims and to ensure that Malaysia’s interests, sovereign immunity and sovereignty are protected at all times.

In KOTA KINABALU, lawyer Tengku Datuk Fuad Ahmad described the decision of the Paris Court of Appeal as “a major victory for Sabah and Malaysia”.

“It was a fantastic decision for Malaysia as the question of Sabah’s sovereignty under Malaysia is no longer a threat.

“It endorses the fact that Sabah is part of Malaysia,” said Fuad, who is an attorney for the state government.

However, he said it was likely the Sulu heirs would appeal against the decision to the highest French court – Cour de cassation (Court of Cassation).

“They will potentially appeal but we are confident that we will win,” he added.

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Sulu , Paris , Court of Appeal


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