Chagos Islanders Seek Control of Popular .IO Domain
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.
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.
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
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
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.