A R A B I C A ارابيكا
Your daily shot of what the Arab world is saying, hearing, sharing
By Kristen Gillespie
TWITTERING: Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour, head of the Al-Ghad party and who was imprisoned for four years after challenging Hosni Mubarak in the 2005 presidential election, fired off this tweet:
"I witnessed today, and my heart breaks over it, the most despicable crime that can be committed by any regime in the world. And yet, I also saw the greatest popular revolution in the world. God be with you, people of Egypt."
Other Egyptian twitterers are holding their breath as all live television feeds out of Tahrir Square have been cut…and predicting the move is in preparation for large-scale attacks on protesters Friday.
GRAPHICALLY SAID: A grassroots cartoon that would have been unheard of just two weeks ago.
It reads: "Support the revolution"
ALL NEWS IS LOCAL: An unprecedented meeting of the Islamist opposition and King Abdullah II of Jordan took place on Thursday, with the king for the first time in 10 years admitting that political reform had slowed down, reported Ammon News.
The Jordanian monarch regularly speaks in his mellifluous Oxford-refined English about reform, democracy and modernization while interviewed in the West, misleading at best considering the reform process ground to a halt years ago.
A statement released by the press office of the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization of the political party Islamic Action Front called the meeting "candid and positive." Apart from discussing the most pressing demand of political reform to allow for democratic parliamentary elections, the statement added that "emphasis was placed on public freedoms, and citizen security, and dignity, and to fight corruption in all its forms and to promote national unity."
The Islamic Action Front said it would continue to protest until its demands are met.
ALL NEWS IS GLOBAL: One day after Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he would step down at the end of his term in 2013, tens of thousands of Yemenis took part in a "day of rage" demanding that he step down immediately. The United Arab Emirates daily Emarat Al Youm reported that the protesters were met by a nearly equal number of Saleh supporters holding banners reading "No to sedition" and "no to sabotage," among others.
*Al Jazeera English's and Al Arabiya's websites were down for several hours on Thursday because of the traffic overwhelming the servers. The world continues to watch Egypt ahead of a high-stakes Friday prayer day for Muslims.
photo credit: illustir
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.
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.
The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down
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".
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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