food / travel

Airport Ban On Liquid Carry-Ons May End, As Europe Tests New Security Measures

Zurich Airport is among the first to begin to test two devices that can detect dangerous liquids. In the future, all of Europe hopes to gradually relax its strict bans on liquids in carry-on luggage.

Left-behind water bottles have become common airport scenery (chelzerman)
Left-behind water bottles have become common airport scenery (chelzerman)
Jan Derrer and Franziska Kohler

ZURICH - Each day, Zurich Airport confiscates more than 600 kilograms worth of drinks, perfumes, and creams from its passengers. That should all change soon: starting this week, municipal police will be testing two new devices that can automatically distinguish between dangerous and inoccuous liquids in passenger hand luggage.

Anyone who successfully passes this inspection will be able to take his or her liquids on board. Currently, travelers may carry only 100-milliliter containers of liquids or creams with them.

Until late February, an additional line will be added to the security checkpoint in the airport. Here, two devices will examine the liquids found in passenger luggage. The first device, unlike traditional screening devices, sounds an alarm when it detects any hazardous liquids. The second device conducts a more detailed analysis of each bottle. Here, flammable or explosive liquids such as methylated spirits or petrol will be detected and removed from circulation.

The test is being conducted by Zurich Airport AG in cooperation with the airport police, and will be led by the Federal Office of Aviation (FOCA). The entire project falls under the direction of the European Aviation Safety Agency, and involves twelve other European airports.

Many passengers at the Zurich Airport will not notice the test. The new units will only be run four days a week, for a period of four to five hours each day. The airport police hopes to gain insight into the flow of passengers as well as the extra time and manpower that the new security controls will require.

"We cannot yet estimate whether these tests will lead to delays in the security check process," says Fritz Marti, head of the Control Department of the Zurich cantonal police.

Once the test is concluded, its findings will be forwarded to the responsible EU authorities, where all changes to existing safety regulations will be decided.

Stefan Conrad, airport chief, says the long-term goal is to ease the strict regulation of liquids permitted in passenger carry-on luggage. The restrictions have been in place since August 2006, when a plot was foiled to detonate liquid explosives on a transatlantic flight.

Read the original article in German

Photo - chelzerman

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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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