Geopolitics

CIA Chief's Quiet Push For Israeli Apology To Turkey For Flotilla Deaths

US spy chief Patraeus makes low-profile visits to Ankara and Jerusalem, aiming to repair damage between two key U.S. allies.

Turkish protests against Israel have continued since the 2010 raid
Turkish protests against Israel have continued since the 2010 raid
Eyup Can

ISTANBUL - CIA director David Petraeus’ visit to Turkey has caused great debate here among high-ranking officials. Syria was the main topic covered by Turkish newspapers, and the central focus of his talks with the undersecretary of National Intelligence Organization (MIT), Hakan Fidan.

Press reports cited several assertions that were made during their conversation, ranging from support for the Syrian opposition to Bashar-al Assad’s possible use of chemical weapons.

But the real purpose of the visit was different.

Fehmi Koru was the only one to put the pieces of the puzzle together in his notable article that was published under the alias, Taha Kivanc: “Why has nobody noticed that Petraeus was in our region for a dual purpose? Petraeus diverted his plane to Tel Aviv for the second leg of his tour after talks in Istanbul. He will relay the mood he found here to those he was slated to speak with in Israel."

Korun's conclusion: "The reason for his visit is most likely about the deadlock in Israeli-Turkish relations, which has a great impact on the United States.”

I believe Koru is 100% right about the real purpose of the Patraeus visit.

So, what did he say?

In Turkey, he discussed the importance of normalizing Turkey-Israel relations at a time when there is so much unrest in the region. He then signaled for Israel to formally apologize for the deaths of the nine Turkish citizens, who lost their lives during the Israeli offensive on the Mavi Mamara aid vessel that was part of the flottila bound for Gaza in May 2010.

Obama's urgency

Another detail from the trip that should not be overlooked is that Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman accompanied Petraeus on his visit.

Senators McCain and Lieberman are not ordinary senators. McCain was the presidential candidate of the Republican Party in the last election and Lieberman, the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee in 2000 who has since become an often harsh critic of his former political party. Both of them are very close to the Israeli government.

Apparently, U.S. President Barack Obama is adamant for relationships between Turkey and Israel to improve during this critical period in the region. If there were no urgency in the matter, he wouldn’t have sent two senators that also happen to be rivals as he heads into the upcoming election.

Sit tight; after all the zigzagging, lets see whether the real aim of the trip is met or not.

And from whom? From Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (not related to the U.S. Senator), who has been the most opposed to the apology?

The same message issues to Turkey were delivered in Israel during Petraeus’ visit. The message is this:

“The Middle East is boiling. There is too much uncertainty. The lingering Mavi Marmara flotilla crisis does not serve the interest of either country. Apologize to Turkey just as we did when we accidentally killed 24 civilians in Pakistan, and finish this matter.”

How do I know?

There is evidence from the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, which typically best knows the pulse of the Israeli Foreign Ministry: “Avigdor Lieberman said he was ready to issue a similar apology statement like the one the U.S. made after it killed civilians in Pakistan.”

It is Lieberman personally who gave the above statement after Petraeus’ visit. In other words, the person who caused the flotilla crisis to escalate to its present stage.

What do you think? Has the aim been reached?

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has not received a written official apology from its Israeli counterpart. But it is imminent…

I wanted to inform Fehmi Koru, who correctly drew attention to the subject in his column yesterday: Israel will indeed apologize this time.

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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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