Chronology of Sulu case, Spanish arbitrator Gonzalo Stampa

14 Jan 2024 09:30am

Rogue arbitrator Gonzalo Stampa has been found guilty of contempt of court and has been sentenced by the Spanish Court to six months in prison. - Photo: Stampa Abogados website
Rogue arbitrator Gonzalo Stampa has been found guilty of contempt of court and has been sentenced by the Spanish Court to six months in prison. - Photo: Stampa Abogados website

KUALA LUMPUR - The six-month imprisonment and a ban from practising as an arbitrator for a year imposed on the rogue Spanish arbitrator Dr Gonzalo Stampa by the Madrid Court earlier this week marked another milestone of Malaysia’s success in the case against the purported heirs of the defunct Sulu sultanate.

The sentence was handed down to Stampa, who issued a purported Final Award of US$14.9 billion (RM62.59 billion) to eight self-proclaimed heirs of the defunct Sulu sultanate, after the court on Jan 8 found him guilty of contempt of court.

In December 2021, Malaysia filed a complaint against Stampa with the Public Prosecutor of Spain on the grounds that he had acted in contempt of court by blatantly disobeying the clear rulings and orders of the Madrid High Court of Justice.

Stampa issued the purported Final Award to the eight individuals on Feb 28, 2022, and in their bid to enforce the award, the Sulu claimants were reported to have attempted to seize Malaysia's oil firm Petronas' assets in Luxembourg, assets in the Netherlands and also targeted Malaysia's diplomatic assets in France.

Following is the chronology of the case involving the Sulu group:

Jan 22, 1878 - The Sultan of Sulu Sultan Mohamet Jamal Al Alam, Baron de Overbeck, and Alfred Dent enter into an agreement (1878 Agreement) that sees the Sultan granting and ceding his land and territory in North Borneo and in return, the Sultan and his heirs or successor-in-interest, will receive an amount of 5,000 dollars (local currency at the time) as cession money.

1903 - The Sultan of Sulu confirms the cession of certain islands. The cession money is increased by 300 dollars.

1936 - The last supposed Sultan of Sulu, Kiram II, dies without any heirs. The British North Borneo Company stopped payment under the 1878 Agreement.

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1939 - A case is heard in the High Court of the State of North Borneo to determine the rightful heirs of Sultan Kiram II. The subsequent Macaskie Judgment names nine heirs and payments under the 1878 Agreement resume.

1963 - The Federation of Malaysia is founded, and inherits the 1878 Agreement.

2013 - A violent armed invasion of Sabah, launched from the Sulu Archipelago, under the orders of the self-proclaimed Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, sees 78 people killed. The Government of Malaysia takes decisive and logical action in response to a threat to its security and ends the payments under the 1878 Agreement.

Feb 1, 2018 - The group claiming as the heirs to the Sulu Sultanate (claimants) filed an application to the Superior Court of Justice di Madrid, Spain, to appoint an arbitrator.

May 22, 2019 - The Spain Court appoints Stampa as the arbitrator for the case.

July 30, 2019 - The claimants serve a Notice of Arbitration through the Malaysian Embassy in Madrid, Spain.

Jan 14, 2020 - Sabah High Court renders judgment declaring that the 1878 Agreement does not contain any arbitration clause and the arbitrator has no jurisdiction to resolve the matter. The court orders Stampa and the claimants to stop arbitration proceedings, granting an injunction against them.

Nov 6, 2020 - The Malaysian Cabinet agrees to appoint international lawyers through the Attorney-General’s Chambers to give independent legal advice and recommendations.

June 29, 2021 - The Superior Court of Justice of Madrid rules that the claimants did not serve the Government of Malaysia with proper notice of the proceedings for the appointment of an arbitrator. As a consequence of the decision, Stampa is not an arbitrator in the purported arbitration proceedings and therefore all his decisions, including the final award, were null and void.

Oct 13, 2021 - The Madrid High Court decides that the Preliminary Award on Jurisdiction made by Stampa on May 25, 2020, is null and void following the court’s decision on June 29, 2021.

Feb 28, 2022 - Stampa issues the Final Award, a $14.9 billion arbitration Award, to the eight claimants. Malaysia completely rejects the Award and does not recognise its legitimacy.

March 3, 2022 - Malaysia files an application in Paris Court to annul the Final Award.

March 10, 2022 - Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar says the Malaysian Government does not recognise the claims and arbitration proceedings by the French Arbitration Court in Paris which ordered Malaysia to pay approximately RM62.59 billion (US$14.92 billion) to the so-called Sulu heirs.

July 12, 2022 - Paris Court of Appeal allows the Malaysian Government’s application to stay the enforcement of the Final Award.

Jan 24, 2023 - Decision on the Interim Relief proceedings. Luxembourg Court decides in Malaysia’s favour and lifts the bank attachments with immediate effect.

Jan 25, 2023 - Spanish Constitutional Court rejects an appeal from the claimants.

Feb 2, 2023 - Spanish Constitutional Court upholds annulment of Stampa’s appointment as arbitrator in the so-called Sulu dispute.

Feb 16, 2023 - Reuters publishes report titled "Petronas units in Luxembourg seized again in $15 billion arbitration dispute” stating that Luxembourg Court bailiffs issued fresh seizure orders for two units of Malaysian state oil firm Petronas in Luxembourg (Luxcos) following a bid by the Sulu claimants to enforce the Final Award.

Feb 17, 2023 - Azalina in a statement said Malaysia has not received any formal notice on a purported attachment of assets attempted in Luxembourg by the Sulu claimants against Malaysia and Petronas. Petronas also maintains that the action taken by the Sulu claimants against its two subsidiaries in Luxembourg is baseless and will continue to defend its legal position.

March 16, 2023 - Paris Court of Appeal upholds Malaysia’s stay on the enforcement of a purported Final Award to the Sulu claimants.

June 6, 2023 - Paris Court of Appeal upholds Malaysia’s challenge against the partial award rendered by Stampa in the case filed by the Sulu claimants.

June 27, 2023 - The Hague Court of Appeal in the Netherlands dismisses the Sulu claimants’ application for recognition and enforcement of a purported arbitral Final Award of US$14.9 billion (RM62.59 billion) to be enforced in the Netherlands.

June 30, 2023 - Azalina says Malaysia will be on the offensive and does not rule out the possibility of suing the Sulu group due to the losses suffered as a result of their legal pursuit.

Nov 6, 2023 - French Court annuls the order of a statutory mortgage against Malaysian diplomatic buildings in Paris by the Sulu group. The same court also records the withdrawal of claims to seize assets (Malaysia’s Diplomatic Buildings) by the Sulu group.

At press time, some proceedings involving the Sulu dispute in the courts in France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are still pending. - BERNAMA