MAS, Boustead among Sulu claimants’ next targets, warns Azalina

PUTRAJAYA believes that Malaysian Airlines and Boustead Shipping Agencies are the self-proclaimed heirs of the last Sulu sultan’s next targets.

During a briefing for MPs in Parliament today on the issue, Law and institutional reform minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said the claimants’ strategy was to target commercial assets, noting that they have “tried everything” and have now resorted to targeting other assets involving Malaysia.

“We need to be very, very alert about this,” she was reported as saying by FMT.

On Feb 17, Reuters reported that Luxembourg court bailiffs had issued fresh seizure orders for two units of Malaysian state oil firm Petronas following a bid by descendants of the former sultanate to enforce a US$15 bil (RM66 bil) award they had won against Malaysia.

This is according to the heirs’ lawyers and court documents sighted by the news agency.

The award was granted to them by a French arbitration court last year.

The Petronas Azerbaijan (Shah Deniz) and Petronas South Caucasus units were first seized in July 2022, but the Malaysian government said last month that the order had been set aside by a Luxembourg district court.

On Feb 14, Luxembourg court bailiffs issued a second seizure order on the units and related bank accounts, court documents shared by the heirs’ lawyer, Paul Cohen, showed.

Cohen, of British law firm 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, told Reuters the Luxembourg district court had indeed lifted the first seizure order on a minor issue that has since been addressed, but had not made a judgment on the merits of the arbitration.

“There was a technical ruling that has now been effectively dealt with, and the freezing orders are once more in place on the Petronas assets in Luxembourg,” he was reported as saying via email.

Azalina described the attempted seizure of the assets as “commercial piracy”, with the claimants using commercial means to “commit piracy against Malaysia”.

In February 2022, a French arbitration court instructed the Malaysian government to pay US$14.92 bil (RM62.59 bil) to the descendants of the last sultan of Sulu.

Arbitrator Gonzalo Stampa, who is from Spain, issued the award in a Paris court where Malaysian officials were not represented.

The decision was based on the alleged violation of payments of RM5,300 cession money under the 1878 agreement signed by Sultan Jamal Al Alam, Baron de Overbeck and the British North Borneo Company’s Alfred Dent.

Malaysia stopped paying the Sultan Sulu’s heirs their annual RM5,300 cession money since 2013 following the Lahad Datu armed incursion.

Spanish news portal La Información reported that Stampa had issued the award, ruling that the 1878 treaty was a commercial “international private lease agreement”.

By not paying the cession money since 2013, he said Malaysia had breached the agreement and would have three months to pay up failing which interest would be charged if the decision was not accepted.

According to the report, the sultan’s descendants’ initial claim was US$32.2 bil (RM135 bil). This comprised the unpaid cession money as well as how much they believe they are owed for the oil and gas found in the region.

Last October, The Edge Markets reported that Therium, one of the world’s largest litigation funding firms, had bankrolled the Sulu claimants’ dispute to the tune of US$10 mil.

On this matter, Azalina said the claimants would not have the money otherwise, which therefore implied that “someone was behind them”.

“The timing was because the government had changed. When they saw the country was shaken because of political unrest, they took action. They’re not stupid,” she said. – Feb 28, 2023


Main pic credit: Bernama

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