PETALING JAYA: The government has dismissed the allegation that it “purposely failed” to comply with a demand to pay US$16.4 billion to the self-proclaimed descendants of the last sultan of Sulu.
The allegation was made in a letter from a lawyer representing the Sulu heirs to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) on May 29.
“The government of Malaysia denies in full and without limitation the allegation and insinuations in the letter,” the AGC said in a statement.
The AGC said the letter demanded the immediate payment of the US$16.4 billion along with US$3,502,394.2 in counsel fees and US$4,026,592.6 in arbitration expenses by June 2.
It said the allegation made by the lawyer, Paul Cohen, was “obviously false” and “a clear blatant disregard” of the facts of the case.
“Considering that the legal proceedings are still ongoing, it is totally outrageous for the claimants to demand the payment,” it added.
The AGC said it responded to the letter on May 31 and lodged a police report against Cohen on June 1 for the “unfair statement” and the allegation he made against the attorney-general.
It added that Putrajaya will continue to take all the necessary measures, including legal action, to put an end to the claims by the “so-called Sulu heirs” and ensure Malaysia’s interests and sovereignty are protected.
Annual payments of RM5,300 to the descendants of the Sulu sultan were discontinued by Malaysia after an armed group landed in Lahad Datu in 2013 to pursue a claim of sovereignty over Sabah.
A legal firm in London, representing a group of nine people based in the Philippines, had filed a series of legal suits against the government following a US$15 billion arbitration claim it obtained against Malaysia.
In February 2022, a French arbitration court instructed Putrajaya to pay US$14.92 billion (RM62.59 billion) to these self-proclaimed descendants of the last sultan of Sulu.
Arbitrator Gonzalo Stampa ruled that Malaysia had violated the 1878 agreements 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 then challenged the arbitration order in France and Spain. A French court granted a stay order on the award, pending a decision on Malaysia’s claim that the order infringed its sovereignty over Sabah.
A Spanish court earlier this year annulled the appointment of the arbitrator who had granted the US$15 billion award.
On Thursday, it was reported that Stampa was facing criminal charges in Spain for continuing to hear the arbitration of the Sulu case despite a Madrid court’s decision to annul his original appointment as the arbitrator.
He was reportedly charged with “unqualified professional practice” and could face up to three years in jail if found guilty.