Rob Sequin | Havana Journal
Sol Melia, a publicly traded corporation based in Spain, is a well known hotel operator in Cuba yet they have a business office in Miami, have a business interest in the Paramount Hotel in New York City and have dozens of domain names registered at US based registrar GoDaddy.
This article entices one to ask why a corporation with such a large business interest in Cuba can have a US office and domains at a US based registrar while not having any compliance issues with OFAC.
I was motivated to research Sol Melia’s ties to the US and to write this article since the Melia Cohiba hotel in Havana Cuba was shown on video by Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez to be denying her internet access solely because she is a Cuban citizen.
First the issue of domain names, then the Miami office then the Paramount Hotel.
Domain Names at GoDaddy
Our daily domain research has revealed that Sol Melia has registered more .us domain names at US based registrar GoDaddy on May 25 adding to a number of .us domain names that they have had registered there since 2004. This article does not imply that GoDaddy is doing anything wrong. Without investigation, there is no way for GoDaddy to know about a registrant’s ties to Cuba so they have been sent a link to this article and asked for a comment.
Why Sol Melia chose GoDaddy as their registrar is interesting for several reasons:
1. Sol Melia is a large multinational corporation with an extremely large business presence in Cuba which means they are working very closely with the Cuban government. For this reason, they would most likely consider the choice to use a US based registrar very carefully.
2. The domains are registered at US based registrar GoDaddy.
3. In order to own a .us domain, the individual or corporation must have a US presence.
As you read about the domains below, you need to know that if you visit SolMelia.com from a US based IP address, you will not see Cuba as a country destination. It would appear that this is a corporate strategy to avoid any OFAC compliance problems. You also need to know that SolMeliaCuba.com is registered at a Canada based, Dotster owned or affiliated company. Also, SolMeliaCuba.net, which is used as a nameserver address, is registered at Gandi, a France based company. So, one would wonder why GoDaddy was selected to register other domain names.
All of the domain names listed below feature the same public whois information and are registered at GoDaddy:
Registrant: Francisco Antonio Camps Orfila
Organization: Sol Melia
City: Palma de Mallorca
Email: compras.online AT solmeliacuba.com
The use of the solmeliacuba.com email address would imply that this registrant has ties to Sol Melia’s Cuba hotel business.
These domains were registered on 3/12/2004 with nameservers set to NS.SOLMELIACUBA.NET but none of the domains resolve to websites.
These domains were registered on 11/8/04 with nameservers set to DOTCOM.SOLWAYSCUBA.COM and NS.SOLMELIACUBA.NET but none of the domains resolve to websites.
e-solways.com (forwards to solwayscuba.com)
solwayscuba.com (used as nameserver)
These domains were registered on 5/31/2005 with nameservers set to NS.SOLMELIACUBA.NET but none of the domains resolve to websites.
These domains were registered on 5/25/09 with nameservers set to DOTCOM.SOLWAYSCUBA.COM but none of the domains resolve to websites.
All the Sol Melia domain names registered at GoDaddy (that we know of)
Sol Melia has SolMeliaCuba.com registered at 000DOM (a Dotster company or affiliate out of Canada) with the publicly listed whois email address of francisco.camps AT solmeliacuba.com . It was registered on 3/21/2000 and using the NS1.SOLMELIACUBA.NET nameserver. This is Sol Melia’s website that is dedicated to Cuba.
This domain name is used as a nameserver. The whois information shows that the email adddress is privacy protected and registered at GANDI SAS, a France based company. It should be noted that the following information is also in the whois for this domain name only:
Organisation: GESMESOL, SA
Address: 5ta Avenida #2008, esquina 22
City: La Habana
Sol Melia’s Miami Office
Since registrants of .us domains must be United States citizens, residents, organizations or a foreign entity with a presence in the United States, Sol Melia’s Miami office qualifies them to own .us domains.
Their Miami office is located at 800 Brickell Avenue Suite 1000 in Miami, FL 33131. This is the same information on the whois for the domain name Sol-Melia.com. This domain is registered at Network Solutions with the email address of ulisess AT sol-group.com and was registered on 10/2/1996. Ulises Salas of the Sol Group is the registrant. The domain forwards to SolMelia.com.
The domain Sol-Group.com is registered to this same registrant.
Since Sol Melia has this office in Miami, Sol Melia has a physical presence and operates a business in the United States. I am not familiar with all the nuances and interpretations of OFAC compliance issues but one has to wonder how Sol Melia can operate their tourism business in Miami without having any OFAC compliance issues since they are owned by, or at least associated with, the same corporation that has about two dozen hotels in Cuba.
Lastly regarding Sol Melia’s US based business, Hotelsolmelia.com is registered at a non-US registrar but uses dns.solmelia.org as a nameserver. SolMelia.org is also registered at a non-US registrar but it is interesting that the nameserver for solmelia.org is DNS27.REGISTER.COM. Register.com is a publicly traded US corporation. I’m not sure why Sol Melia would have SolMelia.org set to a Register.com (a US based, publicly traded corporation) nameserver. SolMelia.org forwards to SolMelia.com
Paramount Hotel in New York City
When I called Sol Melia’s Miami office at 305-350-9828 after hours, the voice recording mentioned the Paramount Hotel in New York City. A visit to NYCParamount.com shows the site uses a paramount-nyc.com corporate email address. Paramount-nyc.com is registered to Sol Melia so it appears that Sol Melia owns, operates or at least has some sort of business ties to the Paramount hotel in New York City.
So, how does a Spanish business with hotels in Cuba have so many domains registered with a US based registrar and have a business interest in a hotel in New York City without any OFAC compliance issues?
Sol Melia, OFAC, Network Solutions, GoDaddy, Register.com, NeuStar (the .us registry), the Paramount Hotel and Sol Melia’s Miami office have been sent a link to this article and have been asked for comments. Any replies will be posted below.