Geopolitics

Egyptian Revolution Honeymoon Phase May Be Over Already

Egyptian Revolution Honeymoon Phase May Be Over Already

With pro-Mubarak thugs back on the scene and economic uncertainty rampant, the honeymoon of Cairo's pro-democracy movement may already be ending.

Mubarak's departure have not meant an end to protests in Cairo (Monasosh)

Giordano Stabile

CAIRO - The baltagiyya are back. The word is spreading among the people in front of the Ministry of the Interior in Cairo. It is part of the second wave of the revolution in Tahrir Square, which has suddenly gotten hot again. Baltagiyya was the name given to former President Hosni Mubarak's thugs, who reappeared Sunday night. Demonstrators say that they used knives and hit some boys after the angry mob tried to break the police cordon in front of the ministry. The military fired shots in the air, and widespread – though mostly minor – injuries were reported. The revolution's open conflict – quieted for the past few weeks ago – seemed to have returned.

And it is not over yet. The most radical part of the pro-Mubarak movement is still holding siege over police headquarters and the Interior Ministry, long considered the core of the old regime. And rallies have been held around the Interior Ministry, close to Tahrir Square, which demonstrators still populate as the symbol of Egypt's liberation.

People hate the secret police, a component of Mubarak's regime that was not dismantled by the revolution. Even if there are fewer police officers paroling the streets, people still feel under threat. "They do not treat us as citizens," says Mohammed Alla, a 22-year-old demonstrator camping in the middle of the square with hundreds of other protesters. "They must change, they must send away all the bosses. They must put on trial the murders and the torturers. They are just busy hiding all the proof."

On the outskirts of the capital, at the headquarters of the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, word had spread that agents were burning documents about past acts of torture committed by the government. Demonstrators broke in to some offices to allegedly find many destroyed documents, which they say is proof of the former government's determination to destroy the evidence of their crimes. Now soldiers are guarding the building.

If police bosses were put on trial for human rights violations, it would be a huge victory for the reformist wing of the new government, of which the recently appointed Prime Minister Essam Sharaf is a member. "The security apparatus will be reformed. They will work for the good of the people," Sharaf declared last week. "If I cannot fulfil those objectives, I will come and join the people as a protester."

The former Interior Minister, Gen. Habib al Adly, the man in charge of 100,000 men in the security apparatus, is already on trial. He is charged with money-laundering. It is a much lesser charge than human rights abuses against citizens, but it could be enough to put him in prison. There is speculation that the burned documents in the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services were about Gen. al Adly.

Romeo and Juliet, Muslims and Copts

There is also smoke coming from southern Egypt, but from a very different sort of fire: a small church was set on fire in the village of Fourl. There are just four streets, small houses and channels bringing water from the Nile to the rice fields. It is one of the many rural Egyptian villages where the Christian community is strong. It is discreet, and takes care not to offend Muslims. But last Saturday, a family fight over a couple – a Copt man and a Muslim woman -- turned into guerrilla warfare. The church was burned, and the priest and three deacons have disappeared. Two Muslims, a farmer and a merchant, were killed, shot by a Copt farmer.

It is a Romeo and Juliet–style tale. The couple were 23 and 17, and wanted to get married. "But here, a Muslim man who wants to marry a Christian woman is not a problem. The contrary is forbidden," declares Danoub Thabet, a Copt who once owned a jewelery store. The parents argued first, then shot each other. The girl's farmer father was killed, along with the merchant friend. After the funerals, their relatives marched on the church and destroyed it. "We don't know what happened to the couple. They are probably hiding," says Thabet. "I don't think they will ever get married."

The Copts are a sizable minority of 10 million in Egypt, a country of 80 million. But they say they have obtained little from the Tahrir Square revolution, citing continuing lack of social and political parity between Christians and Muslims.

In Egypt, the transition from military to civil rule seems far off, too. Will the revolution manage to push the country this next mile? "It is hard to tell," says the political analyst Ramadam Kader. "But there is still enthusiasm, and the new government is high quality."

Still, others worry that the road to a civilian government and true democracy will be long. "They have to restart the economy," complains Saam Ali, the owner of a small kebab restaurant close to Giza's Pyramids. "In 23 years here, I have never seen something like this. There are 80% fewer tourists. And this is high season."

But back in Cairo, the bigger fear for protesters is that someone could steal their revolution.

Read the original article in Italian


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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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