PARIS â€" Lance Armstrong has shown again he doesn't know how to say he's sorry (in any language), and clearly doesn't know when he's not bienvenu. The "welcome" has indeed been overwhelmingly nasty and negative for a much-hyped ride just two years after reluctantly admitting to doping, and stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles.
The disgraced American cyclist returned Thursday to the French roads riding along a Tour de France route â€" ahead of the official riders â€" for a two-day charity event against leukemia. He had ignored cycling officials' pleas to not be "disrespectful" (again) toward cyling's premier event, and also took a swipe at the current leader of the month-long race, insinuating that he too might be skirting doping rules.
French fans made it clear on social media what they thought of the Tour return. Here are 10 (mostly) mean tweets for Monsieur Armstrong:
Qu'est qu'il vient foutre Armstrong en France à part faire parler de lui ? # tricheur
â€" Rugiero Rémy (@rugiero79) July 16, 2015
What the hell is Armstrong doing in France, except getting everyone to talk about him? #cheater
â€" Le Monde (@lemondefr) July 16, 2015
Tour de France: Armstrong back at the "scene of the crime"
"Lance Armstrong court pour la recherche contre la leucémie"... Lance Armstrong court à la recherche de son âme perdue plutôt.
â€" SB (@Postcurseur_2) July 16, 2015
Lance Armstrong is riding for research against leukemia ... More like, Lance Armstrong is riding in search of his lost soul.
Armstrong also admitted Thursday he was to blame for current leader of the Tour Chris Froome having to field questions on doping, having tweeted earlier, â€œToo strong to be clean? Donâ€™t ask me, I have no clue,â€ which got plenty of replies:
â€" Thomas SOTTO (@ThomasSotto) July 15, 2015
Giving credence to Lance Armstrong's opinion on Chris Froome is like asking the head of a funeral home for health advice, isn't it?!?
In an interview for French daily Le Parisien, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy came to the rescue of the 43-year-old Texan, saying "He's been criticized so much, he's been attacked so much ... What's the use of harassing him?"
â€" Le Lab (@leLab_E1) July 16, 2015
Nicolas Sarkozy defends Lance Armstrong
â€" Yohan (@_YoZu) July 16, 2015
Sure, let's keep giving the floor to the greatest impostor in Sports History! So shameful to have to listen to Armstrong
Chers journalistes, pouvez-vous dire à Armstrong d'aller pousser son vélo chez lui, il ne mérite pas les routes de France! #armstrongdehors
â€" jefrem (@jefrem1) July 16, 2015
Dear journalists, can you ask Armstrong to go ride his bike back home? He doesn't deserve the roads of France!
â€" Nouredine B (@Nouredine34) July 16, 2015
@lancearmstrong what the hell are you doing on a bike in France? Aren't you ashamed of coming back to a race you sullied for seven years?
â€" LucieChatagn (@LucieChatagn) July 16, 2015
Journalists are making a hero of Lance Armstrong, he's a cheater! I love the Tour but not this liar!
Finally, amidst all the bitterness, one French fan offered a different perspective:
Vous pouvez détester Lance Armstrong autant que vous voulez. Ça restera toujours le premier homme qui a marché sur la Lune.
â€" Amine Zennadi (@SynyG) December 21, 2014
You can hate Lance Armstrong as much as you want. But he'll always be the first man to walk on the Moon.
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.
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.
The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down
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".
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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