Petronas to fight claims by Sulu sultan’s heirs
KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian state oil firm Petronas said it would contest any claims on its assets by the heirs of a former sultanate in the Philippines who are seeking $15 billion in compensation.
The heirs of the last sultan of Sulu asked a Dutch court on Thursday for permission to seize assets in the Netherlands.
On Friday, Malaysia said that it would take legal action against that move.
Petronas, which is fully owned by the Malaysian government, has several subsidiaries headquartered in the Netherlands.
In an emailed statement to Reuters, Petronas said it “maintains its view that any purported action targeting [the company] in relation to this case is baseless and… will continue to defend its legal position.”
The heirs are targeting the company’s overseas assets after the government’s refusal to recognize a February arbitration award by a French court, which found that Malaysia had reneged on an 1878 land leasing agreement.
The deal was signed between two European colonists and the sultan of Sulu for the use of his territory, some of which was later incorporated into modern-day Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur honored that deal, paying the monarch’s descendants about $1,000 a year, but stopped the payments after a bloody incursion in 2013 by the former sultanate’s supporters in Sabah, on which the Philippines has a long-standing claim.
The claimants — descendants of the last Sulu sultan, Jamalul Kiram II, who died in 1936 — are now middle-class Filipino citizens.
The Sulu sultanate of their royal ancestors once spanned rainforest-covered islands in the Sulu archipelago in southern Philippines and the northern part of Borneo island.
Although Malaysia had obtained a stay on the award pending an appeal, the ruling remains enforceable outside France under a United Nations treaty on international arbitration.
In July, two Luxembourg-based subsidiaries of Petronas were seized by court bailiffs as part of the heirs’ efforts.
—REUTERS, WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH
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