The Chagos Islanders, banned from their island chain by “apartheid-like laws and do not participate in the island chain’s booming Internet and defence-oriented economy” want their ccTLD .IO back. Two organisations, The Crypto Currency Resolution Trust (Bahamas) and The Chagos Refugees Group, have now lodged a complaint with the OECD “detailing consumer and human rights harms committed by Afilias”.
According to a post by the lawyer acting on behalf of the Chagos Islanders, Dr. Jonathan Levy, “the filing marks the first time OECD jurisdiction has been invoked in a digital dispute involving cryptocurrency.”
The “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,” writes Levy.
In 1997 in what Levy describes as a “secret agreement with ICANN resulted in the creation of the top level domain country code .IO (ccTLD .IO). In around 2016 as cryptocurrency began to take off, .IO so too did. In 2017, Afilias (now owned by Donuts) bought the registry, the Internet Computer Bureau, for $70 million (see Domain Incite for more on the Afilias purchase). “Fraud complaints involving .IO”, writes Levy, “have been rising steadily each year with 671 reported to UK’s Action Fraud system in 2020.”
While there are legitimate registrations of .io domain names, it is claimed there are many fraudulent activities taking place utilising .io domains such as “Ponzi schemes, money laundering fronts, cryptocurrency gambling and fraudulent Initial Coin and Token offerings.”
Levy writes “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.”
The issue has arisen after 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 defence-oriented economy.”
According to Levy, “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.”
“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.”
To read the complaint lodged with the OECD, click here [pdf]. Levy’s original blog post outlining the complain is available here.
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Re: the ccTLD .io dispute
OECD has made its initial assessment