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Chagos Islanders Seek Control Of Popular .IO Domain

chagos islanders seek control of popular io domain
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A consumer group and a human rights group joined forces
today to file a complaint
with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) detailing consumer and human rights harms
committed by Afilias Ltd, the manager of popular
cryptocurrency and tech domain .IO. The filing marks the
first time OECD jurisdiction has been invoked in a digital
dispute involving cryptocurrency.

British Indian
Ocean Territory is best known for the secretive US naval
base on Diego Garcia Island and the top level domain .IO
which is popular with crypto asset platforms, cryptocurrency
casinos and technology companies including top ten
cryptocurrency USD Coin and
cryptocurrency exchange Gate.io.

The United Nations
General Assembly, African Union, and International Court of
Justice have all found that Britain’s forcible deportation
of the Chagos Islanders a generation ago and continued
occupation of the Chagos Archipelago (British Indian Ocean
Territory) is a serious violation of international law. The
Chagos Islanders are banned from the island chain by
apartheid like laws and do not participate in the island
chain’s booming Internet and defense oriented
economy.

The British however have refused to vacate
the Chagos Archipelago and according to the Complaint that
stubbornness is not due solely to presence of the US naval
base but because billions of dollars in illicit online
financial transactions are at stake involving
cryptocurrency.

In 1997 a secret agreement with
ICANN resulted in the creation of the top level domain
country code .IO (ccTLD .IO). .IO was a relatively low key
alternative domain until about 2016 when its popularity
exploded in connection with the rise of cryptocurrency. In
2017, the company administering .IO was sold for $70 million
to Irish internet giant Afilias
Ltd.
which was which was recently acquired by Donuts
Inc.
, the world’s largest domain name registry. Fraud
complaints involving .IO have been rising steadily each year
with 671 reported to UK’s Action Fraud system in
2020.

The Chagos Islanders are now seeking
restitution and return of .IO which has made the Chagos
Archipelago one of the world’s least known but largest
offshore financial centers by daily volume. The Chagos
Islanders want due royalties and payments for use of .IO
which is also marketed as “Chagosian
Domains
” by Afilias. The islanders are joined by the
Crypto Currency Resolution Trust which represents victims
with losses and claims against .IO crypto criminals for more
than €100 million.

According to Dr. Jonathan Levy,
the international lawyer representing the Chagos islanders,
while .IO is utilized by legitimate companies, it is also
remarkable for crypto asset based criminal operations: Ponzi
schemes, money laundering fronts, cryptocurrency gambling
and fraudulent Initial Coin and Token offerings: “Afilias
as an Irish company acquired .IO knowing full well its
sordid past, connection to human rights abuses, and ongoing
criminality. They should make restitution and divest before
their liability increases.” Dr. Levy notes that Ireland
voted along with 115 other UN members in 2019 condemning the
continued occupation of the Chagos Archipelago by the United
Kingdom.

It is estimated tens of billions of dollars a
day in unregulated crypto asset transactions take place in
.IO involving hacking, tax evasion, money laundering,
fraudulent investment schemes, gambling, and organized
crime. Since British Indian Ocean Territory lacks a
Financial Crimes Unit and relevant laws; criminals using
cloaked identities, cryptocurrency, and .IO websites are
rarely if ever apprehended or prosecuted.

A link
to the case is here: July
28, 2021 OECD Complaint Against
Afilias

 

Editorial Notes:
The OECD
Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
are the only
government-backed international instrument on responsible
business conduct with a built-in grievance mechanism.
Although the OECD Guidelines are not legally binding on
companies, they are binding on signatory governments, such
as Ireland, which is required to ensure the Guidelines are
implemented and observed. The Irish National Contact Point
receives complaints against companies that have allegedly
failed to adhere to the Guidelines’
standards.

Complaints, or Specific Instances (the term
officially used in the Guidelines), are usually handled
through mediation or other conciliatory practices that seek
to help parties reach mutual agreement on past acts and
future goals. If mediation fails, NCPs can make a public
determination and set out recommendations to
companies.

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