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The Sulu arbitration scam

The Sulu arbitration scam

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CAN you imagine what would be the consequences if a rogue freelance lawyer misused the good offices of the Malaysian courts and awarded US$15 billion against Spain or France in an arbitration hearing, without either country participating?

This is what happened to Malaysia in what could be called the most elaborate international legal scam ever perpetrated.

Malaysia has fallen victim to a scheme by developed by rogue lawyer Gonzalo Stampa, in a scheme to extort Malaysia. Stampa used the offices of both the Spanish and French courts of law to enact his arbitration charade, clearly without legal authority and sanction, and clearly without jurisdiction.

The scam was facilitated by taking advantage of the commercial arbitration services provided by European courts, if all parties to any claim are freely willing to accept arbitration as a means of coming to a grievance solution. It is clearly apparent the arbitrator Stampa was very familiar with the system and procedures, using it to his advantage.

Stampa himself is a commercial lawyer and through his own admission has a limited experience as an arbitration judge. Stampa’s own CV indicates that he has little to no experience in historical treaties and sovereignty issues. Stampa is not a state appointed judge in any jurisdiction, although sometimes appointed as a commercial arbitrator.

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The arbitration sessions were only housed within the Spanish and French court houses, and not formal court sessions held under the judgement of nationally appointed judges.

Acting for the claimants was a contemporary of Stampa, the US lawyer Paul Cohen who according to his Linkedin page is also an international arbitrator. Cohen took on the case of a number of purported descendants of the Sultan Jamalul Kiram II of the long defunct Sultanate of Sulu, with the claim being funded by an opportunistic speculative litigation funder called Therium.

Although the original agreement between the then Sulu Sultan Jamalul Alam with Baron Gustav Overbeck and Alfred Dent in January 1878, granting and ceding the Eastern section of North Borneo should be confined to the annals of history, Cohen and Stampa constructed a case.

Who the actual descendants of the Sultan of Sulu really are, is a hotly contested issue today and far from being legally determined. Stampa and Cohen totally ignored this.

According to international law, any foreign affairs and dealings relating to the Sultanate of Sulu should be addressed to the government of the Republic of the Philippines and not the Sulu descendants. If there was a claim to be made, it could only be made by the government of the Philippines.

Back in 2017, eight Sulu claimants sought a renegotiation of the 1878 agreement, claiming it was unbalanced given Sabah’s resource wealth today. The claimants didn’t issue proceedings in the High Court of Sabah, which had hosted claims on the matter previously. They were advised from some unknown source to make a claim in the High Court of Madrid, which appointed a sole commercial arbitrator Gonzalo Stampa on the matter.

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