Tsipras Blinks?, Sinai Attacks, US-Cuba

Tsipras Blinks?, Sinai Attacks, US-Cuba

Photo: Haryono/Zuma


Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has reportedly offered new concessions to the country’s financiers, even as Greece failed to meet the IMF payment deadline Tuesday night. According to a letter to creditors obtained by the Financial Times, Tsipras is ready to accept most conditions that were proposed before talks on the Greek debt collapsed. A referendum called by the Greek government to decide whether or not Greece should accept the bailout conditions, currently slated for Sunday, could now be called off if an agreement is reached, said the Greek Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis.


At least 30 people were killed when suspected ISIS militants attacked several military posts in Egypt's North Sinai province Wednesday, Al Jazeera quotes security and medical sources as saying. About 70 attackers simultaneously launched the attacks. At least 22 of the suspected jihadist fighters and 11 Egyptian soldiers were killed. A local mortuary said it received 35 bodies so far and local media suggested the death toll could be much higher.


The toll keeps rising on the military plane that crashed into a neighborhood in the Indonesian city of Medan Tuesday. According to Reuters the number of confirmed dead has topped 140. There were no survivors among the 122 people aboard the aircraft and at least 20 people were killed on the ground. Search and rescue efforts were still ongoing Wednesday and the cause of the crash remained unknown.


French authorities have launched an investigation into alleged acts of sexual abuse on minors by French soldiers in Burkina Faso, a Paris prosecutor told Le Monde. The ministry of defense confirmed Wednesday that it had suspended two soldiers suspected of committing sexual abuse on children in the country on Monday. An earlier case, in which a dozen soldiers are accused of raping minors in the Central African Republic between the end of 2013 and June 2014, had been brought to light by The Guardian last April.


The Tunisian gunman who killed 38 people Friday on a beach in Sousse before being shot dead by authorities had trained in a camp in Libya last year, Al Jazeera quotes the Tunisian secretary of state for the interior ministry Rafik Chelli as saying.


ISIS militants posted a video online Wednesday in which they threaten to end the rule of the Palestinian armed group Hamas in Gaza, Al Arabiya reports. Fighters based in Syria’s Aleppo are seen condemning a recent crackdown by Hamas on Salafist groups in Gaza, as well as a supposed failure to implement the “law of God.”


The deadline for the Iranian nuclear talks has been extended to July 7, The Washington Post reports. Negotiators from Iran and the P5+1 group (U.S., UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany) are gathered in Vienna to attempt to find a comprehensive agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program. The initial deadline was June 30.


President Obama is set to announce Wednesday that the U.S. and Cuba will open embassies in each other’s capital cities, USA Today quoted senior administration officials as saying. The move is a major step in the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries started last April. The U.S. had frozen any relation with Cuba in the 1960s and imposed an embargo on the island.


Greece, confronted by its creditors, and Iran, facing a showdown over the nuclear dossier, may have less to lose from the failure to reach an agreement than their counterparts, Dominique Moïsi writes in the French daily Les Echos. Yet the calculations in high-stake international negotiations have a complexity all their own. “In these two standoffs, are the negotiators, Greek or Iranian, not mainly looking to gain time in order to create a balance of power that would be more favorable for them? Are they not knowingly playing with the divisions that exist between the other parties of the negotiation â€" divisions that they know about and manipulate with a certain talent â€" all the while, working hard to balance the divisions that exist within their own camp?” Read the full article: Greece, Iran And The Imperfect Art Of International Poker.


In Spain, one newspaper is warning about “contagion” of the Greek crisis closer to home.


The first Tour de France took place on this day 102 years ago and 76 years later, Sony introduced what then seemed to be a pretty cool gadget.


It turns out Europeans don’t seem to care much about Greece leaving the European Union. Only the French seem a bit concerned, as this chart shows.

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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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