Geopolitics

Aleppo Is Even Worse Than Srebrenica — So Is Western Apathy

The humanitarian drama of the besieged city deepens. The people are simply not able to trust the alliance between Assad, Russia and Iran. And the West just looks on.

Survivors of Russian airstrikes in Aleppo earlier this year
Survivors of Russian airstrikes in Aleppo earlier this year
Richard Herzinger

-OpEd-

BERLIN â€" It is nearly 20 years since the West just looked on when Serbian troops massacred 8,000 inhabitants of the city of Srebrenica. It was the shock of this slaughter that finally pushed Western leaders to take action.

But today, a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Aleppo that actually surpasses that of Srebrenica: some 300,000 civilians are surrounded by the military forces of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, as well as Iranian and Russian troops. Starving people to death and targeting civilian organizations such as hospitals is central to the genocidal war machinery of the Moscow-Damascus-Tehran axis. And the United Nations and the West just leave them to it.

Russia and the Assad regime, without having consulted the international community, recently announced the establishment of routes into the city to guarantee its being provided with supplies. But they also demanded that the remaining civilian population of Aleppo should use these same routes to leave the city.

So the people face having to choose between two evils, either flee their homes or be mercilessly bombed and starved out. In truth, this is nothing more than forced displacement and therefore another war crime that is being committed by a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

A 2007 Reinterment and Memorial Ceremony in Srebrenica â€"Photo: Adam Jones

Sniper turns

The Western powers (in conjunction with Europe) would have become complicit in lethal warfare if this is part of the recently signed agreement between the U.S. and Russia to synchronize their actions in Syria and to legitimize such barbarian methods.

But it is more likely that Washington chose to be blinded by the Kremlin’s hypocritical assurances that they would be a restraining force and curb Assad, who, without Moscow’s and Teheran’s military power, would have been finished a long time ago.

But so far, the supposed humanitarian routes apparently only exist in Russian propaganda. Humanitarian aid workers on the ground emphasize that people trying to flee along these corridors are often shot by regime snipers.

The Kremlin tries to portray itself as a humanitarian mediator while helping Assad to bomb his way toward the creation of a fait accompli. The West can no longer afford to condone these actions.

The West will have to attack regime strongholds and thereby force Assad and his allies to enter into negotiations for a truce and the creation of true civilian protection zones. Otherwise, the West will be left with nothing better than the remorse it showed after Srebrenica.

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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 but the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors.

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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