Internet provider Fast Access in murky domain name deal

, posted: 16-Mar-2004 22:47

Sahil Gupta, the owner of Hamilton internet provider Fast Access, is again embroiled in controversy. Gupta faces accusations of having hijacked fellow Hamilton internet provider Netstream's domain names to enforce
payment of debts owed to his companies.

On March 2, former Netstream employee Malcolm Lockyer, who is also a shareholder in the company, was offered $500 to sign forms authorising the transfer of the and domains to Gupta's Fast Access.

Lockyer was listed as the registrant for the domains that Netstream has been trading under, and thus able to sign the transfer which put the domains under Gupta's control.

According to Brendon Holmes, owner of Netstream, Gupta threatened to redirect his company's websites and email to Fast Access' servers, unless the debt was paid by March 9. Netstream was a customer of Gupta's Net4U internet provider, which was disconnected by Telecom for non-payment of bills. Net4U and its owner have a chequered history.

In March last year, Gupta admitted in a recorded telephone conversation that he had been stealing bandwidth from Auckland internet provider Callplus, which laid a police complaint against him.

Gupta said his company had a court judgment against Netstream for $4475 plus a 10 per cent late payment penalty, which Netstream has not disputed. Holmes acknowledged the order, and said: "This is being defended but [Gupta] has not received notice yet."

Holmes said he contacted the New Zealand Domain Names Commissioner, which at 5.45pm on March 8 locked the domains, stopping the Netstream websites and email from being redirected. He also filed a complaint with Hamilton police against Lockyer for "theft as a servant" on March 5. Hamilton Central police confirmed the details of the complaint, and that it was being investigated.

Even though Holmes at first insisted that he would push ahead with the police complaint as well as legal action against Gupta and his companies, he later said he was willing to drop the charges.

In emails to the commissioner and the Herald, Lockyer confirmed that he signed the forms. However, Lockyer said he thought Gupta was "purchasing Netstream" and thus wanted to own its domain names, too.

Saying the deal "seemed logical" to him, Lockyer agreed to sell the domain names but did not contact the Netstream director before the deal. Claiming Gupta "duped me into selling the domains", Lockyer said he "had no malicious intent" and contacted the registrars of the domains as well as the commissioner to have the transfer reversed.

Asked about the complaint laid against him, Lockyer said he had visited the police to respond to it, but had not heard anything further. Lockyer also said he never received the $500 promised by Gupta, as the transfer of the domains was meant to take place on Tuesday, March 9.

Although Gupta at first insisted the domain name deal was legal, when told of the police complaint being laid, he later said he now believed Lockyer was not the owner, and thus not entitled to sign the transfer forms. Gupta said his company was withdrawing all claims on the domain names and apologised to the commissioner and Netstream for the inconvenience. Gupta also confirmed that Lockyer was not paid the $500 promised for the domains.

Sarah Gillies, at the office of the commissioner, said it was "unable to confirm whether it is investigating any
particular matter or the status of any matter under investigation". She said the reason for this policy was that the commissioner, as investigator and decision-maker, must be fair to  both the person making the complaint and to the person complained about.

"It would not be fair to comment on allegations before both sides have had full opportunity to respond to any allegations made."

Other related posts:
The problem with VDSL2, part 2
The problem with VDSL2
The mysterious Dynamic Line Management on VDSL2

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