An advisor representing one of the direct heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu revealed yesterday that procedures for expropriation of state-owned assets are being prepared in Malaysia to implement a recently issued US$14.9 billion decision by a French arbitration court.
Lawyer Rexie Evren Bogaring, in an exclusive interview with Daily TribuneHe said a legal team is now preparing its compensation strategy.
“As a signatory to the New York Convention, the Philippine court has jurisdiction to enforce the arbitral award,” he said.
The international court in February ordered Malaysia to pay the sum to the descendants of the last Sulu sultan to settle a dispute over a colonial-era land deal.
Malaysia said the Paris appeals court had suspended the ruling because it considered that implementing the decision might infringe on sovereignty.
With the confiscation of assets, former Defense Minister Gilbert Teodoro, an expert in international law, said the sultanate’s option was to renegotiate the lease in Sabah to prevent a protracted legal battle.
A high-ranking member of the Sulu Sultanate indicated that the royal family would enjoy negotiations backed by the Philippine government with Malaysia.
“We are open to a settlement, but we will ask the administration of President Ferdinand” Pong Pong “Marcos” to help us, the official in the Sultanate indicated.
One foreseeable complication would be that Malaysia would need to concede the 1878 deal between Sulu Sultan Jamal Alam and British Government Representative Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent of the British North Borneo Company was a lease, not a concession deal.
The plaintiff’s lawyers in London stressed that the February ruling was still legally enforceable outside France through the New York Convention, a United Nations treaty on international arbitration recognized in 170 countries.
London-based lawyer Paul Cohen, the sultanate’s lead co-counsel, said the Malaysian government’s “remain” ruling was only enforceable in France.
“It is temporarily delaying the application of domestic law in one country, France itself,” Cohen of the law firm 4-5 Grays said Square.
It “does not apply to the other 169,” he noted.
With some exceptions, such as those considered within the diplomatic premise, any asset owned by the Malaysian government globally qualifies for decision enforcement purposes, noted Elizabeth Mason, another attorney for the heirs.
Energy assets first to go
The heirs, who succeeded the last king of the Sultan of Sulu, concluded a deal in 1878 with the British North Borneo Trading Company to lease the oil-rich Sabah region.
Malaysia took over the arrangement after gaining its independence from Britain and paid 5,300 MYR to Filipino citizens.
But the payments were halted in 2013, as Malaysia argued that no one else had a right to Sabah, which was part of its territory.
The plaintiffs moved, last week, to seize two units in Luxembourg belonging to Malaysian state oil company Petronas as part of efforts to enforce the arbitration award.
Petronas, which called the takeover “unfounded,” vowed to defend its legal position, adding that the units had dispossessed their assets.
Lawyers for the heirs said the units are now under the control of bailiffs in Luxembourg, pending any appeal by Petronas against the seizure.
“We note Petronas’ description of some of the transactions, and we note its statement that those transactions have been completed,” Mason said.
“We will discover the full picture of all assets in due course.” Mason added.