‘Sulu heirs’ withdraw claim on Malaysian assets in France

Law and Institutional Reforms Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said says the French Court recorded the withdrawal of claims to seize Malaysian government’s diplomatic assets by the Sulu group today. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 9, 2023.

MALAYSIA created another piece of history after securing a decisive legal victory in the French Court that ends defunct Sulu heirs’ claims over Malaysian government’s diplomatic assets.

Law and Institutional Reforms Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said said on November 6, the French Court had annulled the order of rising of statue to be mortgaged against a Malaysian diplomatic building in Paris by a self-claimed Sulu group from the Philippines.

She said today, the French Court recorded the withdrawal of claims to seize assets (Malaysia’s diplomatic buildings) by the Sulu group.

“The outcome of the decisions on November 6 and 9, ends the Sulu claimants’ efforts to seize Malaysia-linked assets throughout the world. They failed in attempts to touch assets that belong to Malaysia, and we will not compromise illegal and baseless claims,” she told an online press conference.

Azalina is now in London, to meet lawyers appointed by the Malaysian government to challenge the third phase of the territorial claims by eight Philippine citizens who claim to be the legal heirs of the Sulu sultanate as well as ensure a comprehensive defeat for the claimants and their funders.

“The government will continue to take all necessary actions to ensure that Malaysia’s interests, sovereign immunity and sovereignty are protected at all times,” she said.

Azalina also said in a statement that Malaysia’s June 6, 2023 victory in the appeal against the exequatur of the so-called partial award on jurisdiction leads to the withdrawal of the measures registered by the long-defunct sultanate of Sulu (“the claimants”) on diplomatic buildings owned by Malaysia in Paris, France.

She said Malaysia had notably challenged these measures on the ground of its immunity, in particular the immunity of its diplomatic premises as recognised under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.

“On November 6, the Paris enforcement judge quashed its prior ex-parte order authorising that a statutory mortgage be registered on three diplomatic buildings owned by Malaysia in Paris,” she said.

“The judge considered that it did not have the power to authorise such a measure and ordered the claimants to pay €15,000 (RM75,000) to Malaysia as cost.”

Azalina said the claimants have confirmed that they will now remove the statutory mortgage and this adverse cost order comes in addition to the €100,000 adverse cost order issued by the Paris Court of Appeal in its June 6 decision in favour of Malaysia, which had refused the recognition of the so-called partial award dated May 25, 2020 in France.

She said Malaysia is taking the necessary steps to ensure that these adverse cost orders are also paid as soon as possible by the claimants or their litigation funder, Therium.

She said today, as a further result of the June 6 decision, the Paris enforcement judge recorded the claimants’ withdrawal from the proceedings they had initiated to seize the aforementioned diplomatic buildings.

“Malaysia has been successful in protecting its interests throughout the world, including in France (where the so-called final award of US$14.92 billion (RM69.77 billion) purports to have been rendered by Spanish arbitrator Gonzalo Stampa,” she said.

“As of today, neither the so-called partial award nor the so-called final award can be enforced in France. The recognition and enforcement of the former have been refused by the Paris Court of Appeal in its June 6, 2023 decision and the enforcement of the latter has been stayed by the Paris Court of Appeal pending the outcome of the annulment proceedings.”

Azalina said in light of these developments, the government is confident that the ultimate annulment of the purported final award by the Paris Court of Appeal is only a matter of time, and is making every effort to secure that result as quickly as possible.

Malaysia had used all legal remedies to annul the award given by Stampa to the claimants in courts in Spain, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Malaysia scored another win when The Hague Court of Appeal on June 27 dismissed the Sulu group’s application to recognise and enforce the final award in the country.

In their efforts to enforce the final award, the Sulu group had reportedly attempted to seize the assets of Malaysian petroleum company, Petronas, in Luxembourg and the Netherlands as well as targeted Malaysian diplomatic assets in France (including the embassy).

In 2019, the group was reported to have taken legal action in the Spanish Court to seek compensation for land in Sabah, which was allegedly leased by their ancestors to a British trading company in 1878. – Bernama, November 9, 2023.

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