Geopolitics

Turkey Ready To Respond To Syria's Downing Of Air Force Jet

Turkish President Gul breaks government silence after downing of air force jet by Syria.

A Turkish F-4 (Peng Chen)
A Turkish F-4 (Peng Chen)

ANKARA – Turkey's President Abdullah Gul vowed Saturday to respond with "whatever is necessary" to Syria's reported shooting down of a Turkish warplane

Speaking to reporters after nearly a full day of official silence by Ankara, Gul said Turkey had confirmed that the plane was indeed brought down by Syria, as widely reported on Friday. He explained that Turkish officials had initially received conflicting reports about the incident.

Gul conceded that the Turkish F-4 Phantom may have violated Syrian airspace, but that could in no way justify shooting it down.

"It is not possible to cover over a thing like this, whatever is necessary will be done," Gul said. "It is routine for jet fighters to sometimes fly in and out of air space over national borders... when you consider their speed over the sea,"

Investigations are underway to determine whether the plane was hit over Turkish airspace, and Ankara has been in contact with Damascus despite the countries calling home their respective ambassadors earlier this year as tensions grew over Syria's repression of opponents of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

"We withdrew our envoy from Syria for security reasons. This does not mean that we have no contacts," Gul said.

The two Turkish pilots on board the F-4 have disappeared over the Mediterranean, southwest of the Hatay province. Syria and Turkey are carrying out a joint-rescue effort, with gunboats in search of the missing pilots.

The plane, which had taken off from the Erhac airbase in Malaya, crashed around noon, according to Turkish Military Officials.

One witness reported that the plane crashed on Syrian territory after being shot down, and the pilots were being held captive. But there was no conformation of this account.

Read the original article in full in Turkish

Photo - Peng Chen

*This is a digest, not a full translation

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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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