Exclusive: Mauritius’ Supreme Court lifts freeze on Afrinic accounts

By Yara Rizk

Posted on Wednesday, 20 October 2021 17:17
View of Port Louis, capital of Mauritius. Peter Kuchar/Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court of Mauritius has unfrozen the bank accounts of IP address block distributor Afrinic, four months after it imposed sanctions.

In a commercial dispute that has escalated into a bitter legal battle between Afrinic, a wholesale distributor of IP address blocks for internet access on the continent, and Cloud Innovation – a company that claims to be based in Hong Kong but is registered in Seychelles and specialises in IP address management – Mauritius’ High Court has declared the freezing order “null and void”, in the words of Afrinic’s CEO.

“The Court, after considering our application and the case brought by Cloud Innovation Ltd, declared the order null and void. Afrinic has therefore won this case against Cloud Innovation Ltd,” CEO Eddy Kayihura said in a message.

The reasons for the dispute

In 2013, Afrinic had allocated approximately one million IP addresses to the company Cloud Innovation. By 2016, this number had increased to 6.2 million. This volume was deemed too large and had caught the attention of the African registry’s leaders.

In 2019, following an audit carried out by Afrinic, Cloud Innovation’s use of these IP addresses was singled out. The main criticism levelled at Cloud Innovation was that it had allocated the IP addresses issued by Afrinic to clients based outside Africa and with no activity on the continent. Moreover, by virtue of its status, Cloud Innovation is not allowed to sell these IP addresses.

An ongoing battle

The battle began in March 2021, when Afrinic urged Cloud Innovation to comply with the terms of the contract, failing which the Hong Kong-based company would see its 6.2 million African IP addresses confiscated.

In April 2021, Cloud Innovation retaliated by taking the matter to Mauritius’ Supreme Court. Pending “further information”, the court froze Afrinic’s accounts in July. A month later, the Supreme Court granted the African company access to some of these funds.

On 15 October, the Mauritian court unfroze the bank accounts.

In all, there are some 15 ongoing cases between the African IP address block distributor and the Hong Kong-based company. The next appeal will take place on 11 November 2021.

“Another appeal will be heard on 11 November 2021. We will keep you informed of the outcome and we are quietly optimistic that justice will prevail,” said Kayihura.

Cloud Innovation did not comment on the 15 October decision.

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