Journalist Vs. Pop Star: France's Telegenic First Lady Frontrunners

French media has long had a thing for First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Nowadays, however, the model turned pop singer is having to share the spotlight with another politician's partner, former television news presenter Valérie Trierweiler.

Valérie Trierweiler & Carla Bruni (BFMTV)
Valérie Trierweiler & Carla Bruni (BFMTV)

PARIS - One thinks her husband's speeches are "wonderful." The other swears she has "always been a François Hollande supporter." Neither Carla Bruni, Nicolas Sarkozy's wife, nor Valérie Trierweiler, François Hollande's companion, have held back when it comes to campaigning. Both have done thoughtful interviews, fired off biting tweets, and made numerous carefully selected appearances.

With the first round of voting in France's presidential election slated for Sunday, extra attention is being focused on the respective 40-something women behind the two candidates expected to make it through to the second round.

Singer and former model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy has been married to the center-right French president since February 2008. The woman who once proclaimed that she was "deeply from the left" finally announced in January that she was ready to take a lead role in the presidential campaign. "The anti-Sarkozy phenomenon is only a Parisian elite phenomenon," she declared.

When their daughter, Giulia, was born in October, the couple remained discreet, as if Nicolas Sarkozy was trying to compensate for the bling-bling leadership style for which he was criticized at the beginning of his term in office. Only one stolen picture of the baby was published in Paris Match magazine, which led to angry criticism from Bruni-Sarkozy.

Another snag earlier this year: the left-leaning magazine Marianne accused her of receiving grants for her private association from the National Fund against AIDS. The first lady shot back on her website, noting that hers is a philanthropic association.

In mid-February, the singer spoke with (and posed for) the mass market TV Magazine, declaring herself and husband "modest people." The twittersphere went to town on that one.

Another media persona

Valérie Trierweiler, partner to Socialist party candidate François Hollande, is also playing the media-friendly game, but with a somewhat more chilly style. The well-known Paris Match journalist, 47, promotes her role as a working girl and a mother, doing the laundry and "fearing an empty fridge."

In a recent interview for the newspaper Libération, she defined herself as a "politically committed witness' and a "François Hollande supporter for a very long time." Nevertheless, she refuses to admit her influence to those who criticize her for having a desk in her companion's campaign headquarters.

Twitter is her preferential way of having her say, including lashing out at her old bosses after she was put on the front page of her own magazine without being told ahead of time. François Hollande defended her once, denouncing a "lack of elegance" when his partner was criticized by Nicolas Sarkozy.

Very little media attention has been paid to other candidates' partners. Even though the relationship between Marine Le Pen and Louis Alliot, No. 2 of her own far-right political party, is well known, she can't stand to hear him being called her "companion."

Read the original article in French

Photo - BFMTV

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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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