Petronas to fight asset claims of Southeast Asian sultan’s heir

Petronas to fight asset claims by the heir to the Southeast Asian sultan. ― file picture

Saturday, October 01, 2022 10:01 PM MYT

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 — Petronas said on Saturday it would contest any claim to its assets by the heirs of a former Sultan of Sulu, who are seeking $15 billion (RM70 billion) in compensation.

The heirs of the last Sultan of Sulu applied to a Dutch court on Thursday for permission to seize assets in the Netherlands and on Friday the Malaysian government said it would take legal action against their latest court order.

Petronas, which is wholly owned by the Malaysian government, has several subsidiaries headquartered in the Netherlands.

“Petronas maintains its view that any alleged action directed at Petronas in connection with this matter is without merit and Petronas will continue to defend its legal position,” the company said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

Heirs are targeting Malaysian assets overseas after the government refused to recognize an arbitration award from a French court in February that found Malaysia reneged on an 1878 land lease agreement.

The agreement was signed between two European settlers and the Sultan of Sulu for the use of his territory, part of which was later incorporated into modern Malaysia.

Malaysia honored this agreement until 2013, paying the monarch’s descendants about $1,000 a year. But Kuala Lumpur halted payments after a bloody incursion by supporters of the former sultanate who wanted to reclaim land.

The heirs have pursued suspension arbitration, a process in which Malaysia has not participated and which it considers illegal.

The plaintiffs, who are related to the last Sultan Sulu Jamalul Kiram II who died in 1936, are middle-class Filipino citizens. The Sulu Sultanate of their royal ancestors once spanned rainforest-covered islands in the southern Philippines and parts of the island of Borneo.

Although Malaysia obtained a stay of the award pending an appeal, the decision remains enforceable outside of France under a United Nations treaty on international arbitration.

In July, two Luxembourg subsidiaries of Petronas were seized by bailiffs as part of the steps of the heirs. ― Reuters

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