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Sulu's Sabah claim: Madrid court tosses controversial arbitrator's appeal, upholds 6-month prison sentence
Published on: Saturday, May 18, 2024
By: FMT
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Sulu's Sabah claim: Madrid court tosses controversial arbitrator's appeal, upholds 6-month prison sentence
Gonzalo Stampa had controversially ordered Malaysia to pay RM69.88 billion to the self-claimed heirs of the defunct Sulu sultanate. (File pic)
PETALING JAYA: The Madrid Court of Appeal, in Spain, has upheld the December 2023 ruling by the Madrid criminal court that found arbitrator Gonzalo Stampa guilty of contempt of court, over the Sulu sultanate controversy with Sabah.

Law minister Azalina Othman Said said in a statement that the court dismissed Stampa’s appeal, confirming his six-month prison sentence and one-year ban from practising as an arbitrator.

“Malaysia welcomes this landmark ruling as a momentous victory for the rule of law that will help preserve the sanctity of international arbitration as an alternative form of dispute resolution.

“It confirms once more that the Sulu fraud was made possible by the criminal behaviour of a rogue arbitrator. Malaysia Is, therefore, also confident that this victory will serve as a further deterrent to the ominous actions carried out by the perpetrators of the Sulu fraud,” she said.

Stampa, who had controversially ordered Malaysia to pay US$14.92 billion (RM69.88 billion) to the self-claimed heirs of the defunct Sulu sultanate, was charged in December with contempt of court and unqualified professional practice for defying a Madrid court’s decision to annul the Sulu claimants’ case.

The charges were brought by the Spanish public prosecutor’s office, with the Malaysian government as the complainant.

Although Stampa had previously been appointed as the arbitrator in the case, the High Court of Justice in Madrid annulled his judicial appointment in June 2021.

However, he continued to hear the case, moving his seat of arbitration to Paris, and in February 2022 instructed Putrajaya via a French arbitration court to make the payment to the purported descendants of the last sultan of Sulu.

Stampa ruled that Malaysia had violated the 1878 agreement between the old Sulu kingdom in the Philippines and a representative of the British North Borneo Company that used to administer what is now Sabah.

Malaysia challenged the arbitration order in France and Spain, with the French court granting a stay order on the award, pending a decision on Putrajaya’s claim that the order infringed on its sovereignty over Sabah.

This led to the December 2023 ruling by the Madrid criminal court finding him guilty of contempt of court.

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