Geopolitics

Andreotti, The Moro Affair And The *Noir* Of Italian Public Life

Italy's Giulio Andreotti died this week at the age of 94. His handling of the abduction of fellow politician Aldo Moro tells us much about the seven-time prime minister.

 Giulio Andreotti in 1973
Giulio Andreotti in 1973
Marcello Sorgi

ROME - The terrible letter that informed the Italian government, and in particular the Christian Democratic Party (DC), that the Moro family would refuse a state funeral and ban anyone else from taking part in the private funeral of their slain relative concluded with a powerful sentence. A sentence that remains engraved in many people’s memories: “On the life and death of Aldo Moro, history will be the judge.”

Former prime minister Aldo Moro was kidnapped in March 1978 by the Red Brigades, and the leftist terrorist group demanded an exchange of prisoners for his return. At the head of the government at the time was Giulio Andreotti, a longtime friend and political rival of Moro’s, who refused to negotiate with the terrorists.

Fifty-five excruciating days after his abduction, Moro was found dead, a national tragedy on the scale of the John F. Kennedy assassination in the United States -- and much of the blame landed on Andreotti. Conspiracies, trials, and controversies would forever surround the seven-time prime minister, who died earlier this week at the age of 94.

Both before and during the time Moro was held hostage, Andreotti always took an unwaveringly hard line against the Red Brigades, even in the face of heartbreaking letters sent by his abducted colleague.

In his letters to Andreotti, it’s clear that Moro knew two particular aspects that defined the prime minister’s personality: a unique kind of Roman indifference, as well as a singular familiarity with values -- and the knowledge of their limits -- that only Catholics involved in politics can have.

The combination of these two things is what allowed Andreotti to form or join coalition governments, even allowing a return of the Communist party to the government -- which is what had motivated the kidnapping of Moro.

Aldo Moro during his detention by Red Brigades - Photo: public domain

It is these same aspects that will require some time for the dust to settle so history can be the judge now that Andreotti's long life has ended.

Beyond his many governmental roles, Andreotti was essentially two things. Firstly, the de facto Foreign Minister of the Vatican, or if you prefer, the head of Italian diplomacy at the service of the Vatican. It was an era when, despite a secular distinction between the Church and the State, the Catholic hierarchy was able to weigh in much more baldly on the public life of Italy than it can today.

Aside from its well-known stance toward the Soviet Union, the foreign policy desired by the Vatican was largely pro-Arab -- a fundamental friendship that was a continual cause of friction with the U.S.; Henry Kissinger’s memoirs shows Washington's general distrust of Andreotti.

The Americans didn’t understand Andreotti's complex way of thinking, and the fact that at the time nobody in the Italian government spoke English -- and translators were always needed -- made things even more complicated.

The dark side of Italy

The second is on a much more personal note: Andreotti was a great exponent of the Italian noir. The “trial of the century” saw accusations rain down on him that he was involved with the Mafia, specifically with head of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, Salvatore “Totò” Riina.

The apotheosis of a double life, thanks to various publications, brought Il Divo (also the perfectly titled paradoxical film by Paolo Sorrentino) to continuously fall to the ashes, and rise up again.

He was accused of instigating the murder of journalist Carmine Percorelli, who was investigating his alleged ties to the mob, after the Moro incident. Andreotti was acquitted after a long trial. Twenty years later, an appeal trial found him guilty and sentenced him to 24 years of prison; but he in turn appealed that decision and was, again, acquitted.

There was doubt over his involvement with the secret services, as well as with almost every Italian mystery of the post-War era. Andreotti-Beelzebub, with his humped back and sharp eyes, had some of the most preposterous climbing companions -- especially mafia-friendly politician Vittorio “The Shark” Sbardella.

Even if he came out of all cases clean, or quasi, in every trial in which he was involved, or testified, in, during the course of almost three-quarters of a century in politics, it is quite a record of accusations that only Silvio Berlusconi could top.

There is no doubt (not currently, at least) that Andreotti wound up at the fatal crossroads of Italian public duplicity: he was probably convinced that there was no other way to do things in a country like Italy at that moment in its history. If someone had to do the dirty work it was better that it was him, because he would have done it better than the others.

In this sense, history will indeed have a lot more to say about Andreotti, even more than has already been said about him in life. It will be discovered, in other words, that Andreotti -- even when he dipped his hands into the Italian noir, in some way did it in the interest of Italy and the State as a whole: an Italy and a State where this noir was -- and unfortunately remains -- at the very core.

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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 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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