Costa del Sol News - 2nd November 2005

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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The Costa del Sol weekly newspaper, on sale at newsagents.

Week October 27th to November 2nd 2005.

OPEN SEASON ON BIRD-FLU

Health Ministry to purchase vaccines to cover up to 25 per cent of population

By Oliver McIntyre

FOLLOWING REPORTS THAT THE COUNTRY HAD ORDERED LESS BIRD-FLU VACCINE THAN RECOMMENDED BY THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION, SPANISH OFFICIALS HAVE NOW ANNOUNCED A MAJOR INCREASE IN THE AMOUNT TO BE PURCHASED.
WHO officials had stated that every country should have enough vaccine to treat 25 per cent of its population (though the organisation has since backed off that fixed number without specifying an exact recommended quantity), and Spain had ordered only two million doses of the vaccine, or enough for about five per cent of the population. The Health Ministry has now announced plans to purchase enough vaccines for 15 to 25 per cent of the population, or a total of six million to 10 million doses, at a cost of roughly 80 million euros.

BIRD FLU COMMISSION
The Government also announced the creation of a permanent multi-ministry commission to address bird-flu issues. It includes the ministries of the Prime Minister; Health and Consumers; Agriculture, Fishing and Food; Interior; Industry; Tourism and Commerce; Economy and Taxes; and Public Administration.

ILL-INFORMED PUBLIC ALARM
Meanwhile, public alarm over the bird-flu scare has caused an ill-informed rush on regular flu shots. Chemist’s shops throughout the country reported shortages of the vaccine due to a flood of demand by people believing they should get a flu shot that would protect them from bird flu. In Málaga Province, many chemist’s shops reported that they were completely out of the flu vaccine.
Officials hastened to issue announcements that the regular flu shot does not protect against the bird flu and that, at any rate, the bird flu still remains a veterinary illness and not a human one. Despite the international alarm at new outbreaks among birds in different countries, cases of humans contracting the avian flu are exceedingly rare.

SPECIAL MEETING THIS WEEK
On in international level, European and world health and public policy leaders have been meeting this week to address the bird-flu issue. Among other immediate actions, EU officials have banned the importation of wild birds, following the bird-flu death in England of a parrot imported from Surinam.

 

Veil lifted on 'Ballena Blanca' money laundering

UK fraud connection revealed

By David Eade

THE VEIL OF SECRECY COVERING THE INVESTIGATION IN TO THE ‘BALLENA BLANCA – WHITE WHALE’ CASE HAS BEEN PARTIALLY LIFTED. THIS HAS ALLOWED THE RELEASE OF INFORMATION ON CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE INVESTIGATION IN TO SPAIN’S LARGEST EVER MONEY-LAUNDERING CASE.
In the seven months since police first raided the offices of Marbella lawyer, Fernando del Valle, the alleged mastermind behind the scam, over 50 people have been arrested including the mayor of Manilva, Pedro Tirado. In addition 251 properties have been embargoed all along the coast including two entire property developments in La Línea and Manilva. Investigators have also seized boats, aircraft, 42 cars and motorbikes including Rolls Royces, Ferraris, Porches and Mercedes.

Police believe the majority of the more than 250 million euros that was laundered in the case were the proceeds of at least 16 international criminal gangs. These groups were involved in drugs and arms trafficking, prostitution, kidnappings, murders, fraud and other major crimes all committed outside of Spain.

COMPUTER COMPANY FRAUD
Amongst the countries identified with the money laundering case are Turkey, Tunisia, Sweden, Finland and the UK. In the case of the British connection it is alleged to involve a fraud of over 800,000 euros relating to the sale of ‘Eprom’ computer memory systems.

Police in the UK have been investigating Harvey Levin and his wife who owned Jade Technologies Ltd. They offered the ‘Eprom’ computer memories for sale at a very cheap price for which the buyers had to pay cash in advance but never received any goods in return.

The money from the fraud is said to have been transferred to an Australian company, Egremont Corporation, which was represented by Fernando del Valle. It was then transferred to Duconte Holdings and the Gainford Corporation again represented by the Marbella lawyer. It has since emerged that the major shareholder in Gainford Corporation is Harvey Levin.

 

Mother of retirement-home operator to file charges

By Oliver McIntyre

Yvonne W., the mother of the British woman who Benalmádena officials reported was arrested for alleged retirement-home fraud (CDSN, October 20 – 26), plans to file assault charges against one of the officers who raided the facility to make the arrests.
Yvonne W. recounted to Costa del Sol News a different version of events than that reported by Town Hall and police officials. Her daughter and son-in-law “have not been arrested and were not trying to flee the country” as officials reported, she said. The couple, A.J.W. and L.W., were released without bail after being picked up by the police, she said, and a magistrate “adjourned the case without date for further hearing or trial.”

According to the mother, she was at the retirement home at the time the building owner and police showed up. They were not in uniform and only one identified himself as an officer, flashing a badge too quickly to be clearly seen, she said. They came on “mob-handed,” she said, fighting their way into the building while the mother herself was on the phone calling the National Police. One of the officers “attacked me to take the phone away,” she said, at which point she scuffled with him, leading to the alleged ‘attack on an officer’ reported by the Town Hall. The officer has indicated he intends to press charges against her, she said, and she is in the process of doing the same against the officer.

Yvonne W. said that her daughter and son-in-law had received a notarised letter from the building owner telling them they had to be out – along with all the residents and employees – by the time the lease came up on November 30. They were in the process of placing the roughly 20 residents in other homes, and had done so with all but three, who were in the process of being placed, she said. One of them was an ill elderly woman, and they were waiting for her family to decide whether she should be taken to hospital or moved to another home, she said.

The 185,000 euros in rent that the retirement-home operators allegedly owed was actually not rent money, per se, but IVA tax on the rent, which by oral agreement with the owner was supposed to already be included in the rent amount, said Yvonne W. And the 20,000 euros that was reportedly seized by police was actually 17,500 euros, she said, and belonged to a resident of the home, in whose bank account her son-in-law was about to deposit it.

The couple had been running the retirement home for nearly five years, with regular inspections by officials, said the mother. They have sold their home and are “on holiday at the moment, resting” she said, indicating that she did not know exactly where.

 

Sword-wielding intruder at Alhaurín school

NEWS Staff Reporter

A 16-year-old boy armed with a sword broke into the Capellanía secondary school last Friday with the apparent intention of attacking a student with whom he had previously had a verbal dispute. The boy, identified as a Málaga resident of Georgian nationality, does not attend the Alhaurín school but reportedly has a girlfriend who does. No one was injured in the incident and the boy was arrested hours later by the police.

The boy scaled the fence of the schoolyard at about 10.00 Friday morning. He then entered one of the classrooms, brandishing a half-metre long sword with a dragon insignia on the hilt. He set it down on a counter and ran up to the apparent target of his aggression, a student identified as J.L, and punched him in the face. The teacher of the class intervened and got into a struggle with the attacker, who then broke away from her, grabbed his sword and ran off.

School officials sounded the alert to the local police, who at around 13.00 the same day found the boy not far from the school and arrested him. The Alhaurín police were reportedly familiar with the boy from previous altercations he had been involved in, though none with a sword.

The Capellanía school’s parents’ association indicated that it has for some time been requesting improved security at the school, with the installation of a wall to replace the short chain-link fence that currently surrounds the facility and that Friday’s intruder scaled to gain entry.

Following the incident, the Junta de Andalcucía’s Education Delegation for Málaga sent a team to the school to provide psychological counselling to the students and staff.

 

Nigerian first lady dies after cosmetic surgey

Judge investigates possible medical negligence at Marbella clinic

By David Eade

A MARBELLA JUDGE HAS OPENED AN INVESTIGATION INTO POSSIBLE MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE IN THE DEATH OF THE PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA’S WIFE, STELLA OBASANJO, WHO DIED AFTER UNDERGOING COSMETIC SURGERY AT MARBELLA’S MOLDING CLINIC.
The Institute of Legal Medicine in Málaga has undertaken an autopsy on the deceased and a study is now taking place to establish whether the death was as a result of or related to the liposuction treatment received by Stella Obasanjo. The medical team at the Molding Clinic is said to be cooperating fully with the investigation.

The Nigerian first lady, 59, underwent a liposuction operation at the clinic on Friday. It is understood that her health started to deteriorate on Saturday and, late that night, some 36 hours after the operation, she was rushed to the private USP Hospital in Marbella in an advanced state of shock. The medical team pronounced her brain dead at 2.35 Sunday morning after all attempts to revive her had failed.

BODY REPATRIATED
The body of Mrs Obasanjo was flown to Nigeria on Monday afternoon on a direct Airbus 319 flight from the Málaga airport. Onboard the aircraft was Kingsley Ebenyi, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Spain. President Olusegun Obasanjo met the flight at Lagos airport and his wife will be given a state funeral. The Nigerian ambassador conveyed the condolences of the Spanish Royal Family to his head of state.

 

Cheque-fraud and drug busts in Vélez

By Oliver McIntyre

Police have arrested two Italian men in Vélez-Málaga for alleged cheque fraud. Two other people were arrested, one in Vélez and the other in Rincón de la Victoria, as alleged accomplices. Investigators say the two Italians intercepted cheques in the mail and used chemicals to alter the names and amounts in order for the accomplices to later cash them at the bank. They are believed to have scammed around 200,000 euros using about a dozen of the doctored cheques. In the bust police seized 15 falsified cheques that had not yet been cashed, as well as a pistol and implements apparently used for modifying the cheques.


Meanwhile, in a separate series of operations police have arrested 11 alleged drug dealers in Vélez and Málaga, six of them Columbian and five Spanish. The three coordinated drug busts yielded more than two kilos of cocaine, a kilo of heroin, 30,370 euros in cash, nine vehicles and a variety of items associated with drug-dealing activities, according to police. Investigators say the 11 detainees were intermediaries between major drug traffickers and street dealers. They allegedly received the drugs from Madrid and then distributed them to local dealers in Málaga and Vélez.

 

Alhaurin stripped of quarry control

By Oliver McIntyre

ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE TOWN HALL ANNOUNCED LAST WEEK THAT THE ANDALUCÍA HIGH COURT HAS RULED TO PROVISIONALLY STRIP THE MUNICIPALITY OF SOME OF ITS POWERS TO CONTROL THE CONTROVERSIAL LOCAL QUARRY INDUSTRY.
The court ruling, in response to a legal appeal filed by one of the local quarry companies, was actually dated May 30 of this year, but the Town Hall made it public just last week. The ruling states that the Town Hall “lacks the jurisdiction to regulate quarrying activity,” although it does have the right to “require a municipal licence for earth moving and even to require a licence in accordance with the Bothersome Activities Regulations.”

The provisional ruling – it will have to be ratified by a final ruling – removes the Town Hall’s ability to demand a number of specific requirements for the concession of municipal licences to the quarries. These include environmental impact statements, survey plans of the extraction zone and promises for site restoration after quarrying work has finished.

Despite the fact that the ruling comes as the result of a legal appeal by one of the quarry companies, Town Hall officials say it actually backs up their own position that “the Town Hall does not possess the regulatory capacity to regulate the quarries.”

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES
It remains to be seen what, if any, effect the ruling will have on legal proceedings that recently got underway in a criminal case brought against a number of Junta de Andalucía and Town Hall workers and officials, including Mayor Joaquín Villanova. They have been called to testify on charges of environmental crimes in relation to their handling of the quarries. The case is based on complaints filed with prosecutor’s office by the local environmental group Platform for the Defence of Alhaurín’s Health and Sierra (PDSS).

 

Axarquía olive oil price surge

NEWS Staff Reporter

For the first time ever, the price being paid by wholesalers for bulk olive oil at Axarquía mills is actually higher than the retail price being paid by end consumers. Despite the fact that retail prices for olive oil have jumped this year, from 3.20 euros to 3.60 euros per kilo (for a five-kilo jug), the bulk wholesale price has surged even more, to 4.00 euros a kilo.

The price increases come due to predictions of a sharply reduced olive harvest this season due to freezing weather last March followed by a winter drought. In Periana and Mondrón, for example, this year’s crop is expected to yield just 40 per cent of last year’s, which was 11 million kilos.

Retail prices have been kept artificially low – allowed to drop behind the wholesale prices – in order to maintain market demand, according to the oil cooperatives. But they are likely to rise higher in the coming months, as further increases are expected in the bulk wholesale price of new oil from this season’s reduced crop. Industry experts say the retail price of a five-kilo jug could easily climb to 4.00 euros per kilo.

 

Vélez-Málaga development and roads projects

By Oliver McIntyre

Vélez-Málaga Town Hall last week began improvement work on the old N-340 coastal road (now known as Avenida Andalucía) through Torre del Mar. The 800,000-euro project will see the road widened from its current 15 metres to 37.5 metres, allowing as many as six lanes in some sections. For the first phase of work, traffic has been cut on the stretch from Calle Princesa to Avenida Doctor Marañon, but a parallel service road has been put into service for drivers.

SUBSIDISED HOUSING COMPLEX
Meanwhile, the Town Hall has announced it is drawing up plans for the construction of 300 subsidised-housing units at Finca Monterrey, along Carretera de Arenas. The 130,000-square-metre property was acquired by the Town Hall in May for just over 1.1 million euros. One novelty of the project is that the development will contain the town’s first wood homes as an affordable-housing alternative. Town Hall officials say the property is “one of the nicest spots in the municipality” and will enjoy “exceptional environmental protection and reforested areas unique on the Costa del Sol.”

The Town Hall is also currently reviewing bids submitted by 14 companies for the contract to develop a 155,000-square-metre zone from the southwest of Vélez to Parque María Zambrano where 1,124 new homes are to be built.

The current bids are for the installation of development infrastructure, budgeted at around five million euros, not for the construction of the housing. Including the housing, the overall cost for development of the zone is figured at around 86 million euros.

Pizarra residents to have their say

By Oliver McIntyre

Pizarra Town Hall has announced the creation of a Local Citizen Participation Council to give residents a say in creating 2006 municipal budget. The council will have representatives from “all the groups, associations and residents of the town,” said the Town Hall, which itself will have a non-voting seat on the council.

The Citizen Participation Council will break the town into neighbourhood districts and call Neighbourhood Assemblies in each one, publicising the assemblies to engender as much citizen participation as possible. At these assembly meetings, the council will present to residents its proposals and take suggestions and additional proposals from the citizens who attend the meeting. The attendees will then vote on all the budget proposals.

Finally, the town-wide Pizarra Assembly will be created, including the Citizen Participation Council and three representatives from each neighbourhood. The Pizarra Assembly will be responsible for reviewing, synthesising and evaluating the proposals that received the greatest number of votes in the Neighbourhood Assemblies. It will then carry out a vote to select the specific projects and budget allowances for each of the neighbourhoods. These will be drawn up into a final report to be used by the Town Hall in creating the 2006 municipal budget.

Ronda purchases land for new hospital

Building work to start in 2006

By David Eade

RONDA’S NEW REGIONAL HOSPITAL COMES A STEP CLOSER TO REALITY WITH THE NEWS THAT THE TOWN HALL HAS HONOURED ITS OBLIGATION TO PURCHASE THE NECESSARY LAND FOR THE NEW MEDICAL CENTRE.
Last Friday the local authority completed the purchase of the 56,000 square metres of land at La Planilla at a cost of 168,000 euros. After the purchase was completed the municipal delegate for works and town planning, José Herrera, explained that the town hall would now put the land at the regional government health authority’s disposal.

If all goes to plan the work on building the new hospital should start in 2006. The budget for the construction work is 29.1 million euros and the health authority has also allocated a further four million euros for equipment.

READY FOR 2009
The project should be completed in between 36 and 40 months and be finished in 2009.
Once completed the Ronda hospital will meet the needs of the 93,000 people in the region. It will carry out more than 112,000 consultations a year and handle 61,000 emergencies. It is also geared up to carry out 5,000 operations and 72,000 diagnostic tests.

 

Three nations honour Trafalgar dead

By David Eade

REPRESENTATIVES OF SPAIN, BRITAIN AND FRANCE WERE ON BOARD THE SPANISH AIRCRAFT CARRIER ‘PRINCIPE DE ASTURIAS’ AS IT PAID HOMAGE IN THE WATERS OFF CAPE TRAFALGAR LAST FRIDAY TO THOSE WHO DIED IN THE FAMOUS NAVAL BATTLE 200 YEARS AGO.
The warship was escorted by three frigates from the three nations, with the Royal Navy’s HMS Chatham amongst them.
Spain’s Minister for Defence, José Bono, led the day’s ceremonies in both the city of Cádiz and at sea. During the ceremony on board the ‘Principe de Asturias’ he stated: “ It is now 200 years ago that in these same waters there was a naval battle involving three countries in which around 5,000 people lost their lives.” He went on to thank all those taking part for honouring the memory of the dead of the battle regardless of which flag they were serving.

Earlier in the day members of the crew of the three frigates had carried a crown made of flowers representing each nation at a service held in Cádiz. Those floral crowns were later transferred to the ‘Principe de Asturias’ and then placed in the waters off Cape Trafalgar. Manuel Chaves, the president of the regional government, stated: “These crowns that now have been received by the waves are our mark of respect, they revive our memories in an act of solidarity.”

Also on Friday, more than 100 members of the British Legion gathered on Barbate beach near Cape Trafalgar to celebrate at the scene of Admiral Horatio Nelson’s famous naval victory. A variety of British flags blew in the strong breeze as well as some from Gibraltar.

At mid-day a floral tribute was placed before the commemorative plaque at the foot of the Trafalgar lighthouse and an Anglican minister gave a short address paying special mention to the heroic death of Admiral Nelson. The participants then celebrated by ‘splicing the main brace’ with a tot of rum in the centuries old Royal Navy tradition.

NAVAL PARADE
On the Saturday a less solemn commemoration took place in the same waters when around 120 yachts held a naval parade to celebrate the famous naval battle of 1805. The yachts set sail from the port of Barbate at noon and then formed up in the waters off the Trafalgar lighthouse in the same formation as the ships of war had done 200 years ago. A Spanish naval patrol boat rendezvoused with the fleet and presided over an act of homage “in honour and glory of those heroes of Trafalgar.” A 21-salvo salute was fired, a minute’s silence observed and the Spanish national anthem sang as part of the ceremony that closed at 15.00 when the fleet returned to Barbate for land-based celebration meal.

 

New law to limit golf course housing

By Oliver McIntyre

 

THE LATEST DRAFT OF THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA’S NEW LAW TO REGULATE THE GOLF INDUSTRY VASTLY REDUCES THE NUMBER OF HOMES THAT CAN BE BUILT ON GOLF COURSES.
The draft law also places time limits on construction in order to prevent real-estate speculation.
If passed into law in its current form – it is now in its sixth draft – the legislation will limit the number of homes to 400 on an 18-hole course and 600 homes on a 36-hole facility. Currently, the majority of projects for new 18-hole courses include about 2,000 homes, while in the province of Málaga there are some that have has many as 4,000 homes.

The draft law also sets limits on housing density on golf courses, allowing just five homes per hectare. Courses built on land that would otherwise be classified as non-developable will be required to have at least 18 holes, be 100 to 200 hectares in area and be located at least five kilometres from existing residential zones.

In addition, golf-course developers will face a construction time limit of one year from the time licences are issued. This includes construction of both the course and the homes.
Golf-course projects linked to hotels will have preference over those including residential developments. But golf-course hotels will also face construction restrictions, limiting them to three storeys and a maximum of 300 rooms for 18-hole courses and 400 rooms for 27-hole courses.

MÁLAGA’S NEW COURSES
In the province of Málaga, it is estimated that the golf-tourism industry moves some 780 million euros annually. There are currently 43 existing courses and plans for 32 more, though many of these are being held up due to the inability of their developers to guarantee irrigation with recycled water.

The Junta de Andalucía indicates that its new law is aimed at continuing to promote golf as a high-quality tourism attraction on the Costa, but also at putting a brake on the use of golf courses as a back door entry to large-scale real-estate development. It says it has studies indicating that just 10 to 12 per cent of homes built on golf courses are purchased by golfers.

 

El Gordo gets fatter

NEWS Staff Reporter

The top prize in Spain’s favourite lottery, the Lotería de Navidad Christmas draw, is affectionately known as ‘El Gordo’, or ‘The Fat One’. This year it will be fatter than ever.

Lottery officials announced last week that the El Gordo payout has been increased by 50 per cent, from two million euros to three million euros. Since each number is sold in 10 even parts, known as ‘décimos’, a person holding a single décimo ticket with the winning number would receive 300,000 euros. Each décimo ticket costs 20 euros (generally 22 euros if purchased from vendors outside of official lottery offices).

In addition to the increased El Gordo prize, lottery officials say this year they are adding several additional second-tier prizes and none of the prize levels will have reduced payouts. The increased prize money will be generated by the sale of more numbers, up from 66,000 to 85,000. Seventy per cent of the sales revenues go to prize payouts.

The Lotería de Navidad’s huge popularity in Spain – the December 22 draw is a hallmark of the Christmas season in the country – means that millions of tickets are sold, allowing a massive payout spread throughout the country on multiple numbers awarded different prize amounts. Tickets for this year’s draw have already been on sale for months. One of the country’s most famous lottery offices, La Bruixa d’Or in Sort, says it expects to run out of tickets by November 5. It has already sold over 43 million euros in tickets, 13 million euros more than it had by this time last year.

 

 

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