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

Less than 24 hours after defying mounting demands to resign, pledging to stay in office through September's presidential elections, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak finally stepped down after 30 years in power.

A R A B I C A ارابيكا

By Kristen Gillespie


Less than 24 hours after defying mounting demands to resign, pledging to stay in office through September's presidential elections, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak finally stepped down after 30 years in power. The announcement came after a day that featured the most intense protests in the 18 days of non-stop demonstrations in Cairo and throughout the country. As news spread of his departure, crowds erupted, both on the ground and online with a massive mix of relief and pure joy.

REALITY VIDEO

*Mubarak had his vice president, a solemn-faced Omar Suleiman, read the thirty second statement on Egyptian state television Friday evening, Cairo time: "Citizens, in these difficult circumstances that the country is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to relinquish the office of the presidency of the republic and has charged the Supreme Council of the armed forces with taking over the affairs of the country."

*Following the announcement of Mubarak's resignation, BBC Arabic's cameras, with a new caption of "Egypt after Mubarak," captured the jubilant crowds at Tahrir Square and beyond… the live feed showed horns honking, flags waving, tears of joy flowing, and deafening cheers rippling through hundreds of thousands of people around the country simultaneously.

EXTRA! EXTRA!

Lead headlines in the Arabic press in the hours after the announcement of Mubarak's resignation:

*Al Jazeera: URGENT - Celebrations in Jordan, the Gaza Strip, Tunisia, as Mubarak steps down, Hamas hails Egyptian and Israel hopes will not be affected in the peace treaty with Egypt.

*Al Arabiya: "Protests in Suez, Alexandria, Damiet and clashes near the presidential palace

*Wael Ghonim welcomes the army statement and asks for a time frame for implementing reforms; says unsure about withdrawing from Tahrir Square

*Pan-Arab paper Al Hayat: Vice President Omar Suleiman asks Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq to take charge of national dialogue

*Pan-Arab paper A-Sharq Al-Awsat: "Egypt teeters between Tahrir Square and the palace"

*Jordan's Ammon News website reported that Jordanians were heading for the Egyptian embassy in Amman to celebrate "the fall of the Mubarak regime," and that celebrations were taking place around the country.

*The revolution may not reach the headlines of Tishreen, Syria's state-run mouthpiece of the Bashar al Assad regime, which is leading with: "President Assad discusses the situation in Lebanon and efforts to form a new government"

BEFORE (& AFTER) THE FALL

*Following Mubarak's speech to the nation Thursday night, protesters vowed to redouble their efforts to drive him from office. Pro-democracy activists stepped up operations on Friday, putting increasing pressure on the regime by expanding the protests to state television, presidential palaces, among other institutions of the state:

*Hackers shut down the website of Mubarak's party, the National Democratic Party, with a banner reading "Safeguard our beloved country from all evil – we love you, Egypt."

*Protesters in Alexandria surrounded army head quarters, chanting: "Are you protecting the people, or are you protecting Mubarak the dog?" Posted by Egyptian blogger/journalist Hossam el-Hamalawy, who runs the popular 3arabawy blog.

* "A time to celebrate…Thank God Egypt is safe," tweeted Wael Ghonim, and "The criminal has left the palace."

PHOTO DU JOUR

*This picture Friday of enormous crowds in Tahrir Square, posted on Al Jazeera's blog, says it all.

Feb. 11, 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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