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Kosovo War Crimes, Catalonia's Call, Minion Mayhem

Kosovo War Crimes, Catalonia's Call, Minion Mayhem

GREEK STOCKS KEEP SINKING

Greek stocks have continued their descent on Tuesday, on the second day of heavy losses after a five-week shutdown of Greece’s stock exchange amidst the debt crisis. All four major Greek banking stocks were down around 30% in early trading.

  • The current crash is part of a longer-term descent, as Greek stocks have lost 85% of their value since 2007, according to Greek daily Kathimerini.
  • Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis are scheduled to meet representatives of the country’s international creditors today, to discuss bank recapitalization and privatization ahead of the first round of new negotiations on Wednesday.

KOSOVO WAR CRIMES COURT

Kosovo's parliament voted late Monday night to change the constitution and create a new war crimes court. According to Balkan Insight, the court is expected is prosecute members of the now-disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) â€" many of whom are now part of Kosovo's political elite â€" over alleged war crimes that include kidnapping, torture and harvesting organs from Serb civilians.


CATALONIA CALLS FOR EARLY ELECTIONS

Catalonia is set to go to the polls next month, as regional President Artur Mas called early elections for Sept. 27, intending to use the vote as a fresh bid for independence. He announced the election as "an exceptional measure," says Tuesday's front page of La Vanguardia. Learn more about it in our Extra! feature here.


VERBATIM

“It’s easy to be cynical, and to say climate change is a kind of challenge just too big for humanity to solve. I’m absolutely convinced that’s wrong,” U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday in Washington as he unveiled his revised Clean Power Plan, which aims at reducing CO2 emissions more than 30% by 2030.


SNAPSHOT

Photo: Erin Van Londen via Facebook

Until now, they’d only been up to mischief on the big screen, but yesterday in the Santry area of Dublin, a giant inflatable Minion got loose and flew onto a road, causing traffic mayhem before being deflated by police officers.


PAKISTAN HANGS MAN DESPITE OUTCRY

Shafqat Hussain was hanged Tuesday at a jail in Karachi for allegedly killing a seven-year-old boy in 2004, Al Jazeera reports. Hussain’s case triggered international outcry after his lawyers said he was arrested as a juvenile and tortured into confessing to the murder. Pakistan has hanged nearly 200 people since December.


ON THIS DAY


On this day the man known as "the father of jazz" was born! Time for your 57-second shot of history.


ASEAN TO DISCUSS S. CHINA SEA DISPUTES

The 48th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting has opened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are expected to discuss territorial disputes in the South China Sea. China's foreign minister Wang Yi told the Xinhua news agency that his country was committed to resolving disputes through negotiations and creating a Code of Conduct to maintain peace and stability in the area.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

After remaining shut out from the high-stakes economic calculus for years, Africa has now become a key component of global trade, Jean-Philippe Dorent and Pascal Lorot write for Les Echos: “Africa is also characterized by an undeniable demographic dynamism, which has directly spurred growth and is a determinant criteria for investment. No fewer than one human out of four will live in Africa by 2050. This demographic explosion comes along with the development of a middle class of 300 million people with soaring overall purchasing power. Africa attracted a record 50 billion euros in foreign direct investment in 2013, and nearly 80 billion in 2014, proving that investor perception has been changing these last few years.”

Read the full article, Africa As Investor Goldmine - Why This Time It’s For Real.


1.5 MILLION

Nearly 1.5 million cigarettes were seized in southern Poland, after police and customs officers raided an elaborate production and counterfeit packaging line in the mining town of Myslowice.


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD

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Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.


Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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