Geopolitics

Does Boston Marathon Attack Trace A Straight Line Back To Oklahoma City?

After the most serious terror attack on US soil since 9/11, some believe the culprits will turn out looking more like Timothy McVeigh and Anders Breivik than Osama Bin Laden.

The smoldering ruin of the Murrow Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995
The smoldering ruin of the Murrow Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995
Stéphane Bussard

BOSTON - In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, which cost the life of at least three people and injured nearly 180 others, there are more questions than answers. Who plotted the worst attack on U.S. soil since 9/11? What was the motive of this “terrorist act,” as U.S. President Barack Obama defined it?

So far, investigators have been unable to identify the author or authors of the bombings, set off with 6-litre pressure-cookers filled with explosives. All hypotheses remain open.

Is it an isolated extremist act like the one of Anders Breivik, perpetrator of the carnage in Norway in 2011? Is it an operation of Al-Qaeda or its associates? In the American press, the first temptation was to assign the attacks to Islamists. A 20-year-old Saudi student injured in the blasts was reported to be a suspect, but the police now consider him a witness instead.

Indeed, there are a significant number of specialists who suspect right-wing extremists affiliated with the so-called "Patriot" movement could be behind the attack.

The Boston bombings took place on “Patriot’s Day”, a civic holiday commemorating the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. It was also “Tax Day”, the date when all Americans must pay their annual tax bill. Thus patriot groups, which consider the federal government their No. 1 enemy, could have chosen this date for symbolic reasons.

Security officials also note that April 19 will be the anniversary of the deadly Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, carried out by Timothy McVeigh, who was affiliated with the movement. The attack, which left 168 dead, occurred during a period when anti-government movements were on the rise following a ban on assault rifles voted in 1994 during the presidency of the Democrat Bill Clinton.

The Obama factor

At the beginning of March, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published a “Hate And Extremism" report, which included some troubling findings. In 2012, the U.S. counted 1,360 patriot groups, a 813% rise since the election of the first black president of the United States, Barack Obama, in November 2008.

These movements are convinced that the American federal government is about to impose “martial law in the U.S.” They are often quick to come up with conspiracy theories to explain the decisions taken by Washington. The Oath Keepers, a patriot movement formed by ex-military personnel warns in a "message to the oath breakers and traitors": "We will never disarm.”

The arrival of an African-American president to the White House revived the Patriot movement. Many topics currently in discussion in Congress feed their hatred towards the government and its representatives. On Tuesday, eight senators introduced a landmark bill aimed at reforming the nation's immigration policy. In the virtually all-white patriot circles, such moves are seen as further ceding to the on-going demographic changes. By 2043, Whites will no more be a majority.

The push by the White House and a part of Congress to tighten regulations of firearms after the Newtown tragedy in December has sparked heated reactions in the patriot circles. They think that the government has only one objective: taking away their guns. After the re-election of Obama in November, hundreds of thousands of Americans signed a petition demanding their state government to secede.

The warning from the Southern Poverty Law Center was confirmed by a recent study published by the West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), which tallied all the right wing extremist attacks between 2000-2010: the strikes were a four-fold increase from the 1990s. The CTC had already warned Washington once about the growth of the internal terrorist threats -- just before the Oklahoma City bombings.

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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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