Sulu claim: Malaysia wants Stampa to be jailed - Azalina

12 Dec 2023 08:36am
Azalina - FILE PIX
Azalina - FILE PIX

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia wants the Madrid Court to mete out a jail sentence on Gonzalo Stampa for allegedly committing contempt of court and repeatedly defying court orders annulling his appointment as an arbitrator in the Sulu dispute case.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said the court's decision was very important as it would strengthen the Malaysian government's case to put an end to all claims by the Sulu Group, which she described as frivolous.

"The (coming) decision will also serve as a guarantee for us to put an end to any claims in any (other) countries which may arise after this.

"Secondly, I hope that, if possible, he (Stampa) would be jailed and not only fined for being insolent towards Malaysia,” she told an online media conference after attending Stampa's criminal proceedings at the Madrid Court in Spain yesterday.

On May 25, 2020, Stampa issued a purported final award of US$14.9 billion (RM62.59 billion) to eight self-proclaimed heirs of the defunct Sulu sultanate, and in a bid to enforce the award, they were reported to have tried to seal the assets of national oil company Petronas in Luxembourg and the Netherlands, apart from targeting the country's diplomatic assets in France.

Azalina said the court had postponed the decision to a date yet to be fixed.

Meanwhile, the minister, in a statement, said the Spanish Public Prosecutor's Office and Malaysia have accused Stampa of the criminal offence of serious contempt of court and the Public Prosecutor's Office has also accused him of unqualified professional practice.

"These accusations are based on the fact that Stampa openly and knowingly disobeyed several binding orders of the Madrid High Court of Justice," she said.

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According to Azalina, on June 29, 2021, the Madrid High Court issued a judgment, in line with its case law, ruling that as a foreign State, Malaysia had been improperly summoned in arbitrator appointment proceedings.

"Therefore, the court annulled Stampa's appointment and all of his procedural actions and ordered that Malaysia be properly summoned and the purported arbitral proceedings restarted. The annulment of Stampa's appointment was later upheld by the Spanish Constitutional Court after a failed constitutional appeal by the Filipino citizens," she added.

Azalina further said that following the said annulment of Stampa's appointment, the Madrid High Court repeatedly ordered Stampa, in writing, to immediately bring an end to the purported arbitration.

"However, Stampa was recalcitrant in disobeying the orders of the court and blatantly undermined the rule of law.

"To fulfil his malicious and unethical agenda, Stampa wilfully ignored the orders of the Madrid High Court of Justice and changed the seat of the purported arbitration from Madrid to Paris at the request of the Filipino citizens in order to evade the oversight of the Spanish courts, which he had undertaken to obey when accepting his initial appointment.

"Notably, in advance of delivering his purported Final Award against Malaysia, and as evidenced by documents seen by the court, Stampa collected more than US$2.5 million in 'fees' from the Filipino citizens," she said.

In December 2021, after the unprecedented change of arbitration seat from Spain to France, Malaysia - which has complete and unwavering confidence in the Spanish judicial system - filed a complaint against Stampa with the Public Prosecutor of Spain on the grounds that he had acted in contempt of court by repeatedly disobeying the orders of the Madrid High Court and continues to forum shop in other jurisdictions.

Azalina said in view of the reported facts - none of which, importantly, are materially disputed by Stampa himself - the Public Prosecutor of Madrid filed its own complaint against Stampa for contempt, in addition to the criminal offence of engaging in unqualified professional practice.

"Stampa will not be judged by the Spanish criminal court for acting as an arbitrator but he will be judged for having acted in serious contempt of court by disobeying the direct orders of the Madrid High Court of Justice, which are binding on all citizens, regardless of their professional activity.

"His act has raised several alarming concerns specifically in respect of the exigency to uphold ethical code of conduct, integrity, professionalism, and good practices by arbitrators which is the cornerstone of any legitimate arbitration.

"This is fundamental to preserve the confidence of any parties who choose arbitration to settle their dispute, failing which, could cause the whole alternative dispute resolution platform to be undermined and under threat," she added.

She said Malaysia has full faith in the criminal justice system of Spain and the importance of these proceedings in upholding the sanctity of international arbitration. - BERNAMA