KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — The latest demand from the United Tausug Citizens (UTC) group for US$15 billion (RM70 billion) and recognition over Sabah is akin to an “extortion scheme”, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

Azalina said that UTC’s demand, which constitutes about 16 per cent of the national budget, threatens the integrity of sovereign states and the principles of justice.

“The UTC’s threat to sue Malaysia in the United States is alarming.

“We must address these spurious claims that risk 16 per cent of our national budget and exploit arbitration for profit, akin to extortion schemes,” she wrote in a post on X.


Azalina said that the Sulu case, fuelled by litigation funder Therium, raises concerns about the next target of these “vultures”.

“It’s a stark reminder of the need for integrity in our justice system,” she added.

While litigation funding is crucial for access to justice, Azalina said its multi-billion-dollar industry status raises questions about its true intent.


“A lack of regulation poses a global threat, calling for urgent oversight.

“The secretive nature of third-party litigation funding (TPLF) in sham arbitrations necessitates global regulatory oversight and ethical standards to prevent abuse and exploitation,” she said.

Azalina also said that she had discussed the Sulu case and the risk of TPLF to state sovereignty at the 2024 Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting in Paris recently.

“TPLF often prioritises profit over justice, challenging the core purpose of our legal system,” she said.

She also pointed out that the calls for transparency in TPLF are growing.

“Congressional efforts and EU Parliament proposals aim to regulate this industry and mitigate national security risks.

“Litigation funding must be transparent and regulated to prevent abuse. Malaysia advocates for ongoing dialogue to regulate this industry effectively,” she said.

On Saturday, Azalina revealed that UTC, a self-styled group of the People of the Sultanate of Sulu, had asked the Malaysian government for an immediate payment of US$15 billion in “Cession Money” and recognition of UTC as a sovereign and independent “State Kingdom”.

She said the UTC group, which claims to be the rightful custodians of the Sultanate of Sulu Territory, further threatened to commence legal action against Malaysia in the United States.

Azalina had said that the Sulu Sultanate has been defunct for several decades and is not recognised by any sovereign state or international organisation.

She also said that Malaysia has never recognised the legitimacy of claims over the sovereignty, territory and natural resources of Sabah.