Geopolitics

Dominique Strauss-Kahn Will Talk To The French People -- As Soon As Possible

Advisors say the former IMF chief will publicly offer his "regrets," but won’t address details about what happened in the infamous Sofitel hotel room in New York. And if all goes right, he will reclaim his role as a global authority on t

DSK at a Socialist rally in 2007
DSK at a Socialist rally in 2007
Raphaëlle Bacqué

PARIS – His friends and family were unsure whether he should speak right away. The public stir is too recent, the media circus still perceptible. Besides, they thought, what could he possibly say? Apologize like he did at the IMF last week? Tell his side of the story? "He might not have considered just how confused French people are about what happened," one of his friends said.

But Dominique Strauss-Kahn made up his mind. He wants to talk to the French as soon as possible. It doesn't matter if he still faces a civil suit from his New York accuser, or if he still has to deal with the complaint filed in France by Tristane Banon, a French writer, who has accused Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape in 2003.

Since May 14, DSK's close relatives, his party allies, his enemies, the media –and with it, the political barroom that the Internet can sometimes be– went on and on about his personality, his alleged obsessions, his relation with his wife, how he wasted his political career... without the man himself being able to say anything.

Television time

Now it's his turn to speak. Now it's his time to say he's "sorry" and to offer his "regrets' to his family and loved ones, as he already did before his former International Monetary Fund colleagues in Washington on August 29. Then he shall try to restore his image and regain some credibility by talking about the country's political and economic situation. Doing so, says one of his advisors, is also the best way to show that he has no interest in talking about himself.

His relatives say he will most certainly make a French TV appearance in the next ten days. Its impact will be scrutinized by polls, before DSK moves on to the next step: a press conference.

Talking about what happened in the Sofitel hotel room is out of the question. DSK has not even made a public statement about his version of events yet. "Journalists are the only ones who get excited about it, and there's no use for bordering on indecency", one of his advisors insists.

Another political aide lays out DSK's challenge: "Above all, we want to know if we can re-establish enough trust with the public, we want to know if people think DSK can still serve the country."

But some members of the French left party feel that DSK deserted them, and there is still a strong feeling of resentment and defiance from many women. People used to put faith in his ability on economic matters, but now they tend to wonder how vulnerable the man is and how professional his behavior can be.

So what's next for the 62-year-old politician, who just blew all his chances to run for the French presidency? For the past few months, the French Socialist Party has been learning to carry on without him, and several former allies have distanced themselves from the former IMF chief. Even Martine Aubry, the current French Socialist Party leader and presidential candidate, declared on French television last week, that she shared many women's concerns "about Dominique Strauss-Kahn's attitude toward women."

Read the original article in French

Photo - Wikipedia

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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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