Geopolitics

ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing

ARABICA - A Daily Shot Of What the Arab World is Saying/Hearing/Sharing

A R A B I C A ارابيكا

By Kristen Gillespie

CALLING MOM
Tweeters in Saudi Arabia are launching a new campaign to break the taboo of a wife and a mother's name being mentioned in public. Hashtag IsmOmi (Arabic for "my mother's name") calls on Saudis to mention their mother's names.

*Najla Fahad tweets: "My mother's name is Sara – may God protect her."

*Amal Faran says, "the man who is embarrassed by his mother's name is right because she did not raise him properly." The Saudi tweeters supporting the campaign by saying that saying their mothers' names in public shows love and pride, not embarrassment and shame.

A DIFFERENT REVOLUTION
Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim tweets that Egypt's revolution will not be a repeat of that in 1952 when the monarchy was deposed and the military took control of the country: "Sorry, but this will not be the revolution of 1952 – nor will we accept a dictatorial system with democracy as a sham. Transparency in all state institutions is our right and the right of every Egyptian."

SYRIAN VOICES
BBC Arabic asks readers, "Is it possible to implement a plan on the ground to resolve the Syrian crisis?" A sample of responses:

*"Opponents who insist on bringing down the regime will return to the fold, such as what is happening in Afghanistan."- Rafaat Nashwati, Damascus

*"The lying Syrian regime is stalling for time, nothing more, nothing less." - Mohammed, Algeria.

*"The conspiracy to destroy Syria is only an attempt to demolish what Syria has built…Syria has no debt and receives no foreign aid. Now, we criticize the regime because it was not elected democratically." –Mohammed, Syrian Arab

YEMENI DEMANDS
For the first time since protests broke out in Yemen in February, protesters, who have held almost daily demonstrations demanding the ouster of 32-year-incumbent President Ali Abdullah Saleh, held a rallying demanding that everyone must go. Under the banner of "Everyone Leave," demonstrators shouted: "All of you – go," referring not only to the president and the opposition tribal forces staging gun battles in Sanaa. "Go, go Hameed," they shouted, referring to tribal leader and business tycool Hameed al-Ahmar.

November 5, 2011

photo credit: illustir


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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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