What Malaysia is fighting for?
In February 2022, eight individuals who claimed to be the descendants of the defunct Sultan of Sulu, Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, received a purported final award worth $14.92 billion in an arbitration proceeding against the Government of Malaysia. The said award was delivered by the Spanish arbitrator, Dr Gonzalo Stampa.
The Sulu case is a sophisticated abuse ofthe arbitral process and international law. It is an attempt to hold a sovereign State to ransom, and the continued existence of the award tarnishes the reputation of the globally respected arbitration system.
Malaysia is currently pursuing its legal battle against the Sulu Claimants across Europe to ensure that the purported Final Award, constituting 16% of the country’s annual budget, is overturned. In June 2023, Malaysia secured landmark victories in the Paris Court of Appeal and the Hague Court of Appeal, demonstrating the fundamentally flawed nature of the Sulu claim and a clear step towards the collapse of the case.
In November 2023, the Paris Courts oversaw the withdrawal of the measures registered by the Claimants on the diplomatic buildings owned by Malaysia in France. The Paris enforcement judge quashes itsprior ex parte order that authorised a statutory mortgage to be registered on these diplomatic buildings. The judge also recorded the Claimants’ withdrawal from the proceedings they had initiated to seize these diplomatic buildings.
On 22 December 2023, the Spanish Criminal Court found Dr. Stampa guilty of contempt of court. The Criminal Court hassentenced Dr. Stampa to six months in prison and a year ban from professional practice as an arbitrator.
With these consecutive victories, Malaysiais advancing steadily towards the complete annulment of the purported Final Award in France.
Madrid Criminal Case
On 11 December 2023, Dr. Gonzalo Stampa, the sole arbitrator responsible for the issuance of the purported Final Award against the Government of Malaysia, faceda criminal trial in Madrid. He was accused of two crimes: continuing disobedienceand aggravated intrusiveness for publicly attributing himself the role of anarbitrator.
In a landmark decision on 22 December 2023, the Madrid Criminal Court found Dr. Stampa guilty of contempt of court. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment and one year ban from professional practice as arbitrator for knowingly and blatantly disobeyed the clear rulingsand orders from the Madrid High Court of Justice.
The Spanish criminal proceedings played no role in determining Dr. Stampa’s decision to relocate the seat of arbitration from Madrid to Paris. The criminal proceedings against Dr. Stampa were initiated after the relocation of seat took place.
The Madrid Criminal Court’s verdict is another landmark moment for Malaysia in battling the Sulu case, demonstrating that the purported Final Award of $14.92 billion was tainted with provencriminality.
A timeline of the case, covering the history of the dispute dating back to the signing of the 1878 Agreement to the present day.
What is the current status of the dispute? Who are the claimants? See here forthe frequently asked questions in this case.