KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia should remain on guard against attempts to enforce the tainted US$14.9bil Paris Arbitration Court award despite a Spanish court decision to convict arbitrator Gonzalo Stampa earlier this week, says Sabah lawyer Datuk Roger Chin.
He said the possibility of the enforceability of the award had remained until the French Court made a final decision to set aside Stampa’s final order for Malaysia to pay the self-proclaimed heirs of the defunct Sulu sultanate.
“The impact of Stampa’s conviction on enforcing the French Arbitration Award is uncertain and depends heavily on the specific legal context and interpretation of the New York Convention in each potential enforcement country.
“While it could bolster Malaysia’s arguments and increase scrutiny of the award, it’s not a guaranteed path to blocking the enforcement,” Chin said when contacted.
On May 25, 2020, Stampa issued a purported final award of US$14.9bil to eight self-proclaimed heirs of the defunct Sulu sultanate.
Malaysia filed a complaint against Stampa with the Public Prosecutor of Spain in December 2021, stating that he had acted in contempt of court.
Then on Monday, Stampa was found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to six months’ jail by the Spanish Court.
Referring to the conviction, Chin said that Stampa was likely to appeal against it.
“This could prolong the legal saga,” he said.
However, he noted that the French court’s stay order on the award remained in place.
Urging Malaysia to be on the guard by attempts to enforce the award in some countries, Chin said the grounds for the New York Convention were limited and Stampa’s conviction might not be good enough.
Chin, who is a former Sabah Law Society president, cautioned that some countries might focus on the content of the award itself and decide it was valid irrespective of Stampa’s actions.
“While the conviction could raise doubts, the core issues like the 1878 Sulu agreement with the Sulu kingdom might still be considered,” he said.
However, he said Stampa’s conviction had strengthened Malaysia’s position.
“Stampa’s conviction for contempt and invalid judicial appointment could bolster Malaysia’s argument that the arbitration award was flawed and should be set aside in the Paris Court of Appeal,” added Chin.
He said Stampa’s conviction could be seen as a victory for Malaysia in its fight against the Sulu claims.
He was also confident that the controversy surrounding Stampa and the award would draw more attention to the case, leading to courts in other countries to scrutinise it more closely before enforcing it.