Back in the day I associated .IO domains with silly but fun web games.
These days .IO domains are synonymous with crypto fraud.
Two groups aren’t happy about that, and in 2021 they filed a lawsuit against the .IO domain operator.
The lawsuit in question was filed on July 21st, 2021. Filing plaintiffs are The Crypto Currency Solution Trust and The Chagos Refugees Group.
Named defendants are Afilias Ltd and subsidiaries 101 Domain GRS Limited and International Computer Bureau Limited. Afilias, through its subsidiaries cited as the owners of the .IO domain.
The complaint is interesting in that it alleges human rights abuses and what amounts to a breach of fiduciary responsibility.
This complaint outlines serious breaches of the 2011 OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (“the OECD Guidelines”) Chapters, IV (all six paragraphs), and VIII (paragraphs 4, 7-8) by Afilias Ltd. (Ireland), 101domain GRS Limited and Internet Computer Bureau.
Afilias through its subsidiaries, ICB and GRS provides vital technical services to the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) Administration which supports crimes against humanity and apartheid laws in the Chagos Archipelago and the continuing digital colonization of ccTLD .io, all in violation of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution of May 2019 infra.
The allegations of human rights violations and colonialism in the Chagos Archipelago are well documented facts according to the ICJ and UNGA.
In addition, prior to the ICJ decision adopted by the UN General Assembly, the African Union made a similar finding.
Both ICB and Afilias Ltd. were aware of Chagossian claims of human rights violation. Paul Kane the former CEO of ICB has indicated to the press that the FCDO or BIOT Administration receives royalties formccTLD .io.
ICB however has never paid a royalty of any sort to the Chagossian people.
Things get a bit heavy in the complaint with respect to the UK unlawfully occupying the Chagos Archipelago and apartheid. The full complaint is linked above if you want to read further.
Getting back to the .IO domains;
The second group of claimants involve corporate accountability which also concerns the Chagossians as well as Crypto Currency Resolution Trust or CCRT. ccTLD .io has become the de facto digital presence for crypto asset and blockchain companies.
Afilias is knowingly providing a digital offshore financial haven for organized crime specializing in crypto assets to the detriment of consumers worldwide who have little or no recourse against criminal entities whose only tangible presence are websites registered to cloaked ccTLD .io domains.
A crypto criminal can register a ccTLD .io domain using cryptocurrency or a prepaid debit card. No positive identification verification is required.
The criminal then usually opts to use a third party privacy or proxy service further confounding any attempts to identify them.
Since the criminal utilizes only cryptocurrency, no bank account, registered company, or physical presence is required.
From this you can see why .IO domains are favored by MLM crypto scammers.
Some criminals utilize shell companies to provide a veneer of respectability.
The only tangible presence of the criminal organization visible to the consumer is the website and ccTLD .io domain. Afilias specifically markets ccTLD .io to tech startups consisting significantly of cryptocurrency based entities.
OneCoin is cited in the Complaint as an example of a $4 billion MLM Ponzi scheme that utilized a .IO domain (“onecoinico.io”). USI-Tech and iPro Network are also cited.
Crypto assets are especially susceptible to hacking and extortion. ccTLD .io has been the domain of choice for many major cryptocurrency mixing, joining, or blending operations which launder crypto assets which have been hacked or extorted.
Putting all of this together, the complaint seeks to establish mediation proceedings,
so that both the Chagossians and crypto asset consumers represented by CCRT may gain some measure of recognition by Afilias of their legitimate concerns as stakeholders and a solution may be worked out to address.
Specific relief requested includes;
-A disgorgement of a fair percentage of the acquisition price paid to Paul Martyn Kane and his wife for property belonging to the Chagossian people;
-An interim Agreement between ICB and the Chagossian people which sets an annual payment schedule of royalties, a disbursement schedule of funds owed, and provides for a Chagossian director’s seat on board of ICB;
-Afilias and ICB cease and desist from enabling criminal activities that damage the reputation and value of ccTLD .IO by working with CCRT and CRG UK to eradicate open and notorious cryptocurrency based crime in ccTLD .IO;
-An evaluation of crypto crime issues and support for efforts to engage the BIOT Administration in seizing assets including websites, cryptocurrency wallets and domains being used to actively commit criminal acts in order to reimburse victims; and
-Support for creating of a crypto crime victim super fund to be established by the crypto asset industry.
The Crypto Currency Resolution Trust’s and Chagos Refugees Group’s Complaint was filed before OECD Ireland (Ireland NCP) on July 28th, 2021.
OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
OECD is an intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries, founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade.
It is a forum whose member countries describe themselves as committed to democracy and the market economy, providing a platform to compare policy experiences, seek answers to common problems, identify good practices, and coordinate domestic and international policies of its members.
On March 2nd, 2023, the OECD agreed to oversee mediation proceedings before the parties.
In reaching that decision, OECD noted;
The Ireland NCP received separate responses from Afilias/ICB and 101domain GRS.
Both responses stated that 101domain GRS was no longer a subsidiary of Afilias and was therefore no longer affiliated with ICB.
The NCP then wrote to the Companies requesting submissions on the substance of the complaint. 101domain GRS declined to respond or engage further with the NCP.
Afilias and ICB have argued that the claims made in the complaint are not substantiated.
They argue that they have been involved in promotion of human rights relevant to the ICT industry and also provided copies of correspondence to demonstrate their engagement in dialogue with the Notifier.
They argue that in operating a domain name registry, they are not involved in the marketing of the .io ccTLD; that the terms used to describe the .io ccTLD are technical in nature and not intended to facilitate fraudulent usage; that their terms of service do not allow criminal behaviour and they monitor abuse in collaboration with law enforcement agencies; and that their abuse monitoring system maintains up-to-date awareness of threats in line with industry standards, including through participation in best practice fora.
The Ireland NCP has decided that the complaint merits further examination.
101domains is called out for refusing to engage.
The NCP regrets the outright refusal of 101domain GRS to engage in the specific instance process and notes that the standards of responsible business conduct outlined in the Guidelines include the procedural aspects around remedy, namely the specific instance process.
The refusal of 101domain GRS to engage with the specific instance process or demonstrate participation in an equivalent dispute mechanism is not compatible with standards of responsible business conduct.
We don’t know how much 101domains is making on .IO fees but Afilias is claimed to be collecting at least 10 million euros each year.
The Ireland NCP was informed by legal advisers of Afilias that 101domain GRS was no longer a subsidiary of Afilias.
They therefore proposed to provide a detailed submission on behalf of Afilias and ICB but not 101domain GRS.
The Ireland NCP requested a submission from the advisers of 101domain GRS but did not receive a response to this communication.
In a phone call with the legal representative of 101domain GRS, the NCP was informed that the company had instructed its advisers not to respond to any further contact from the NCP.
In the absence of evidence from 101domain GRS, the Ireland NCP considers those aspects of the complaint relevant to 101domain GRS worthy of further consideration.
The NCP views the procedural and remedial aspects of the Guidelines as integral to the text; as such a failure to engage with a specific instance or demonstrate engagement with an equivalent dispute resolution mechanism is not compatible with the expected standards of responsible business conduct.
The aim will be to hold mediation proceedings between the parties at the OECP Ireland offices. Whether mediation proceedings bear fruit remains to be seen.
While I sympathise with the plight of the Chagos people and hope they get their dues, with respect to BehindMLM I’m far more interested in .IO domains no longer being safe-haven for fraudulent schemes.
Scammers will of course still host their schemes but .IO has been a defacto easy-mode with no repercussions for far too long.
Both the Crypto Currency Resolution Trust and Chagos Refugees Group are represented by UK-based attorney Jonathan Levy.