Costa del Sol News - 20th April 2006

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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

Week April 20th to April 27th 2006

Speedo fixing scam

Second hand dealers sold 'clocked' cars for higher prices

BY OLIVER MCINTYRE

POLICE HAVE ARRESTED 18 PEOPLE FOR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT IN AN ODOMETER-TAMPERING SCAM, THE SECOND SUCH BUST IN THE MÁLAGA AREA IN THE LAST TWO MONTHS.

Among those arrested was a young man, described as an electronics technician, who police say rolled back the kilometre readings on used vehicles so that they could be sold at higher prices. He allegedly performed the tampering at a garage in the city of Málaga. Others arrested include used-car dealers who allegedly sold the kilometre-reduced vehicles, some of them at official dealerships, according to police.

MORE THAN 750 CARS AFFECTED
Police believe the operation altered the kilometre readings on 600 vehicles last year and an additional 150 in the first months of this year.

The used-car dealers paid between 30 and 60 euros per manipulated vehicle, and the reduced kilometre readings allowed them to sell the vehicles for 1,500 euros or more above the price they would have got based on the true kilometres, say officials.

FUENGIROLA DEALER UNDER INVESTIGATION
Police say the investigation, which began in Fuengirola in relation to an official dealership in that town, is still open and further arrests could be made, possibly in other provinces. Police say they are now sifting through documentation seized in the arrests, in an attempt to identify and contact victims who purchased the tampered vehicles.

In February police arrested 25 people for a similar scam allegedly operated by a 41-year-old mechanic in Málaga and involving more than a dozen used-car dealers in the area (CDSN, Feb. 9 - 15).


Marbella's new management commission divides the s

Representatives from the main political parties to form governing body

BY DAVID EADE

THE POLITICAL PARTIES BEHIND THE NEW MANAGEMENT COMMISSION CHARGED WITH RUNNING MARBELLA'S AFFAIRS TILL NEXT YEAR'S LOCAL ELECTIONS MET ON MONDAY TO DIVIDE UP THE VARIOUS POSTS BETWEEN THEM.

Whilst the various positions each party will hold is now known the actual names of the members was not announced before the Costa del Sol News went to press.

The new commission will have a permanent body that will be presided over by the president (PSOE) and the four vice presidents being the central zone of Marbella (PSOE), San Pedro (Partido Popular), Nueva Andalucía (Izquierda Unida) and Puerto Banús (Partido Andalucista). This group will also include the spokesperson for Las Chapas.

The full commission will then be made up of the 16 members. PSOE will be responsible for town planning, culture and education, industry – highways – health, personnel as well as services – infrastructure. PP will handle the economy - tax, local security – emergency services, works, public cleaning and fiestas. The PA will look after the environment and tourism whilst the IU will be in charge of youth – sports plus social welfare and citizen participation.

SALARIES SET BY COMMISSION
The Monday meeting also changed the amount each member of the commission could be paid. It had been proposed that the salary of commission members would not exceed that paid to a provincial deputy, which is around 3,000 euros a month. Now it has been decided that this ceiling level will be scrapped and the commission will set the salary level of its members. However it is understood that in an effort to gain the confidence of local people the members of the commission will make their financial situation public. They will have to declare their wealth and assets before they take their place on the commission and during the period that the body sits.


Málaga air crash compensation

Binter ordered to pay passengers injured in 2001 accident By Dave Jamieson

AN AIRLINE HAS BEEN ORDERED TO PAY COMPENSATION TO TWO PASSENGERS INJURED IN A 2001 CRASH LANDING AT MÁLAGA AIRPORT.

A court in the city last week issued its judgement in the first civil case to be brought following the incident in which four people, including the aircraft's pilot, Mariano Hernández Ruano, were killed and 26 others were seriously injured. Two of the surviving passengers had brought the case against Lineas Aéreas del Sur, formerly Binter airlines. Transcripts of black-box recordings of the crew's conversations were studied during the hearing, after which the verdict stated that there had been "serious neglect" on the part of Binter. It added that the operation had been unorganised, that the crew on the fated flight had not followed emergency procedures correctly, and that the co-pilot was not sufficiently trained. The conclusion was that the cause of the accident was the shutting down of the CN-235's one functioning engine, causing it to crash land 200 metres short of the runway, coming to rest on the airport's perimeter road.

The court's conclusions confirmed those previously announced by the Ministry of Development's commission of investigation into the accident, which also stated that the co-pilot who switched off the engine was responsible.

The two individuals bringing the case were seriously hurt in the crash, and had claimed more than 550,000 euros in compensation for physical and psychological injuries. However, the awards finally made against Lineas Aéreas del Sur were 37,158 euros in one case and 34,535 in the other.

CO-PILOT DECEASED
Legal action was started against the co-pilot on the flight from Melilla, Luis Checa, accusing him of an "irreversible error" which resulted in both motors of the aircraft being switched off, leading to a loss of power. However, Sr Checa died in September 2004, before the case was resolved.


Torrox beach protection plan

NEWS Staff Reporter

A series of breakwaters is to be built off Torrox's Ferrara beach in an attempt to reduce coastal erosion. The Coastal Authority has agreed to the project following pressure from local businesses and Torrox Town Hall, which have been complaining about the situation for some time. In the past 16 years, no fewer than 12 operations have been mounted to replace sand lost to heavy seas. During the last month alone, 20,000 cubic metres of replacement sand have been deposited on the beach.

The Coastal Authority's representative in the region, Juan Carlos Fernández, visited the area last week and announced that the terms and conditions for the project would be ready very quickly. He added that, although a technician's report was still awaited, the plan to install fixed breakwaters would go ahead in an effort to try to stop severe weather from washing sand from the beach.

While welcoming the news, local people have been critical of the time taken to achieve the anticipated solution. The provincial president of beach business owners, Miguel Arrabal, said that Ferrara beach had been used as a "guinea pig" for too long.


Fake olive-oil gang busted

By Oliver McIntyre

Police have arrested nine people and seized 76,000 litres of bogus olive oil in the break-up of a gang that allegedly sold adulterated sunflower oil as extra virgin olive oil. The fake olive oil, created by adding colouring and preservatives to sunflower oil, was produced in Andalucía and sold mostly in Cataluña. Much of it was purchased by companies that gave it away as a free gift to customers of bus tours in the region, according to police. But it was also sold in small shops, restaurants and on the Internet. Some of the bogus oil was distributed in the provinces of Alicante and Badajoz, say police.

Two companies located in the provinces of Jaén and Córdoba packaged the fake olive oil in plastic bottles and metal canisters under 14 different brand names. The names used were La Tinaja; Tartessus; La Prensa Aceitunera; Pagos de Olivos; La Campiña; Los Olivares; La Bodega; La Colmena; La Cantarilla; Conde da Vila; Aceite del Serra; La Despensa; Magina; and Embrujo de Andalucía. Magina is also the name of a true Denomination of Origin for olive oil, and the Embrujo de Andalucía brand exists as a true olive oil in plastic bottles; the fake oil under this name was packaged in metal canisters.

Analyses of the fraudulent olive oil found it to be non-toxic, said officials. They estimate that the operation distributed up to 40,000 litres of fake oil a month since last June. Consumers who believe they are in possession of the fake oil should return it to the establishment where they got it and call 012 to file a report, said officials.

The fraudulent-oil case comes as prices for extra virgin olive oil have experienced sharp increases in recent months. In the last 12 months, the retail price of olive oil has jumped by 43.8 per cent, in part due to lower production caused by drought and winter freezes. In Spain olive oil is the primary cooking oil, representing 53 per cent of all oil consumed, according to the National Association of Food Oil Refining and Packaging Companies (ANIERAC).

Cheaper sunflower oil accounts for 34 per cent and the rest is made up by other vegetable or seed oils.


Ronda is centre for Málaga's earthquakes

News Staff Reporter Ronda and the Serranía suffer the most earthquakes recorded in the province of Málaga. They tend to be centred on Cañete la Real, Cuevas del Becerro, and Ronda. However the Ardales and the Antequera areas are also hotspots. The last recorded earthquake was on the sixth of this month in Teba reaching 3.2 on the Richter scale. This brought the total to nine the number of earthquakes this year measuring more than 3 points in the Ronda area.

Statistics produced by the Andalucía Institute of Geophysics indicate that an earthquake occurs every two and a half days in Málaga province. Most of them are so minor that they usually go unnoticed; indeed of the 127 earthquakes in the province last year only 19 of them exceeded 3 points on the Richter scale.

The Andalucía Institute says that as it is impossible to predict when or if stronger earthquakes would occur in Málaga province. However the experts stress that it is important to take protective measures in building construction and for people to know what to do if a major earthquake strikes.


Benalmádena seeks police services for foreigners

Mayor Bolín listens to foreign residents' complaints

BY OLIVER MCINTYRE BENALMÁDENA MAYOR ENRIQUE BOLÍN HAS SUBMITTED A FORMAL REQUEST FOR THE NATIONAL POLICE TO REINSTATE FOREIGN-RESIDENT SERVICES IN ARROYO DE LA MIEL.

In a letter to government sub-delegate Hilario López Luna, Sr Bolín insisted on the 'need to send a [police] unit to handle documentation paperwork for EU-citizen foreign residents of Benalmádena, a service that stopped being offered in Arroyo de la Miel four months ago'. The mayor said he submitted his request following dozens of complaints from foreign residents as well as Spanish citizens who have to travel to Torremolinos to handle paperwork related to documentation such as national identity cards and passports.

POLICE HEADQUARTERS NEEDED
In his letter, Sr Bolín further requested that Benalmádena be given a full-blown National Police headquarters, a request he has been making 'for more than nine years'. The creation of a National Police station is 'amply justified' given the town's 'real population of more than 100,000 and nearly 200,000 in summer', according to Sr Bolín. Currently, Benalmádena is served by the National Police's Torremolinos HQ.

The mayor also cited a May 2005 Interior Ministry plan for the creation of National Police stations in towns with populations of over 30,000. The plan called for special focus on 'the Costa del Sol where, according to the ministry's own data, crime is eight times greater than the national average', said Mayor Bolín.

Benalmádena officials say the lack of a National Police HQ in the town creates a "serious deficiency" in law enforcement, leaving the local police force over-stretched. The local force's 118 officers committed 60,000 police actions in 2005, according to Town Hall data.


Tiny Tolox to triple population

By Oliver McIntyre

The small village of Tolox, with just over 2,300 residents, is drawing up plans that could see its population triple in the next 10 years. Local officials are putting the final touches on the local development plan (PGOU), which in the next month or so will be submitted to the Junta de Andalucía for approval. In its draft form, the PGOU creates enough developable land for the construction of 2,000 homes, mostly in the zone near the entrance to the town along the A-7250 road. Local officials expect many of the homes will be purchased as holiday or part-time residences.

Town Hall planners say the new housing laid out in the PGOU will be low-density, with an average of around three of four homes per hectare. The plan also sets aside more land for the Sierra de las Nieves park, adding 300 hectares of protected parkland. It also increases protection of land adjacent to the Río Grande. Municipal officials say the PGOU protects approximately 72 per cent of the town's overall land area.

The plan also calls for two new industrial parks, the larger, at 287,000 square metres, to be located near the Guaro border. The smaller one, 130,000 square metres in size, will be closer to town and will include retail showrooms, say officials.

Also included in the PGOU are plans aimed at capitalising on the tourism potential of the town's famed curative spring water. The plan envisions a 125-room luxury hotel-spa that would operate year-round, as opposed to the town's current 'balneario', which opens only June to October.


Mijas residents can recycle cooking oil

By Oliver McIntyre

The cooking oil being used to fry chips or fish in Mijas kitchens could soon find a new life powering a bus or lorry. Last week the Town Hall put into operation five recycling bins to collect used kitchen oil so it can be converted into bio-diesel.

"Residential oil that is dumped down the drain is very contaminating and is responsible for the foam that appears on beaches," says the Town Hall's Environment Department, which is responsible for the programme. It says Mijas is the first town on the Costa del Sol to introduce such an initiative for residential oil recycling. Bars and restaurants in the town already have a special collection service for the recycling of their oils and vegetable grease.

The oil deposited in the recycling containers is collected and shipped to the province of Jaén, where it undergoes processing to extract water and impurities. The refined oil then goes to a plant in Álava to be transformed into bio-diesel. The process is highly efficient, with 95 per cent of the oil resulting in bio-diesel, say Town Hall officials.

To deposit their used cooking oil, residents must first poor the oil into a plastic bottle with a lid, then place the bottle into the bin. The bins are located in Mijas Pueblo near the municipal market; in La Cala on Bulevar La Cala; and in Las Lagunas near the sports complex, next to the Casa de la Cultura and outside the Parque Acuático.


Nerja defies Costas' demand on beach services

By Dave Jamieson

A new political spat has broken out between Nerja and the regional administrators, and this time it is all about beach concessions.

Two weeks ago, the body which administers the region's coasts told Nerja Town Hall to abandon the concessions which it had just announced for the coming summer. The Demarcación de Costas de Andalucía-Mediterráneo said that Nerja's plan to licence sunbeds, pedalos and other services for hire would not be permitted to proceed because it had not been submitted for consideration. A letter to the Town Council claimed that Costas had asked for details last December and the following month sent associated paperwork, but that nothing had been returned to them.

The shock instruction came immediately before Easter week and the first major tourist influx of the year. It also immediately followed Nerja Town Hall's announcement that 19 licences had been awarded for beach services with an expected income to the local exchequer of more than 170,000 euros. In this month's letter, Costas has asked for a list of the successful applicants, the period of adjudication and the nature of each concession. When news broke, opposition councillor Gema Cortés of the PSOE criticised the Partido Popular Town Hall saying that they had 'not done their homework' and created a worrying situation ahead of an important time of the year.

However, the councillor responsible, José Miguel García, responded to the instruction from Costas by assuring those to whom licences had been awarded that there was nothing to worry about. He said that this year's activities were authorised under a renewal of the plan submitted by Nerja in June 2005 which had not been queried by the authority. García also accused critics of creating "unnecessary worry" about the future of those who work on the beaches. All beach services in Nerja were in operation as normal throughout Easter week.


Málaga is top for studying Spanish

Costa city is number one destination for language students

By OLIVER MCINTYRE

LANGUAGE TOURISM – TRAVELLING TO A DESTINATION TO STUDY THE LOCAL LANGUAGE – HAS BECOME BIG BUSINESS FOR THE PROVINCE OF MÁLAGA.

Since the year 2000, the sector has seen increases of around nine per cent a year, according to the Association of Spanish Language Centres in Málaga (ACEM), and it now brings in annual revenues of around 100 million euros. In 2004 Málaga surpassed Salamanca as the country's number-one destination for foreigners visiting to study Spanish.

The Spanish-language schools and academies are located chiefly in the city of Málaga, but also in Alhaurín de la Torre, Benalmádena, Fuengirola, Marbella and Nerja. The Costa del Sol Tourism Board offers an informational guide ('Málaga, Sun and Spanish') providing an overview of around 30 Spanish-for-foreigners schools in the province.

The Tourism Board says one current growth area in Málaga's language-tourism sector is the arrival of young foreign professionals through EU scholarship programmes such as Leonardo. Another is the creation of package deals that combine language study with, for example, a golf getaway.

While Germans make up the largest portion of foreigners coming to Málaga to study Spanish, last year the industry began seeing a strong surge in the number of students arriving from Eastern European countries like Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Britons traditionally make up about 10 per cent of the foreigners studying Spanish in the province.


Disney youth centre plans

News Staff Reporter Disney has made official its interest in setting up a youth centre in Manilva. Contact between the famous company and the local town hall was started during the first Disney Family Golf Tournament held in Manilva last November and strengthened at the FITUR travel show in Madrid in January.

The councillor for promotion and tourism, Francisco Miguel Álvarez, stated that the town hall was actively seeking a suitable site of around 200,000 square metres. This would be purchased by the municipality and then ceded to Disney.

Sr. Álvarez stated that the development of the actual site would be financed privately and would need the approval of the regional government. It is understood that Disney would operate a youth centre on the land that would be dedicated to leisure, sports, the environment and nature. It would also be the first of its kind operated by Disney in Europe.


Alleged corruption sparks political war

By David Eade

A POLITICAL WAR HAS BROKEN OUT BETWEEN PSOE AND THE PARTIDO POPULAR CONCERNING ALLEGED TOWN PLANNING CORRUPTION IN THE PROVINCE OF CÁDIZ.

The operation 'Malaya' in Marbella, that saw the supposed mastermind behind the corruption scam, Juan Antonio Roca, arrested in Jimena, has led to PSOE being accused of planning corruption in that municipality.

The party has fired back that the PP should examine the situations in its own back yards of La Línea and Sanlúcar. In the latter case an associate of Roca, Tomás Olivo, is building a commercial centre in the town, whilst Julio de Marcos, one of those released on bail in the 'Malaya' operation, is a member of Sanlúcar's bus company.

With regard to Jimena the accusations were first levelled by the president of the PP in Cádiz, Antonio Sanz. He alleged that Jimena town hall allowed Roca to build his giant home in the municipality at La Morisca on land that was not for urban use. Sr. Sanz said the mayor of Jimena, Ildefonso Gómez, had been guilty of "neglect or connivance" to allow Roca to build so close to the Alcornocales National Park. He also alleged that Sr. Gómez had signed an agreement with the companies owned by Roca that would see a golf course and 600 homes built in Jimena.

Sr. Sanz went on to allege that Jimena had also amended the planning of two other plots of land that were caught up in the 'Ballena Blanca' money laundering scam. He added that the administration had approved more than 24 town planning covenants affecting more than 3,500 hectares of land that would allow the construction of 2.6 million square metres. The PP leader said it was "scandalous" that these would allow the creation of 16,000 new homes and 10 golf courses. He also pointed the finger at the regional government for turning a blind eye to events in Jimena.

MAYOR DENIES ACCUSATIONS
This has led to a fight back by the mayor of Jimena who is obviously stung by the accusations made by the PP. He has appeared in the local press, held a press conference in La Línea, a public meeting in Estación de Jimena and spoken on Jimena radio. He has challenged the PP to look in to the development record of Jimena but at the same time to examine that of La Línea where he says the mayor, Juan Carlos Juárez, has been close to property developers who are now in jail.

Sr. Gómez has stated that his town hall has complied with all the legal requirements that exist and also obeyed the demands of the regional government. He added that Jimena had met the requirements to conserve the environment, promote sustainable development as well as improving the life for all the residents of the municipality.


New charges fuel air fare rises

By Dave Jamieson

Passengers on Iberia, Spanair, and Air Europa now have to pay a new fuel charge. The airlines' price rises, which coincided with Semana Santa, are an attempt to reduce the impact of oil price increases.

Iberia and Spanair have both added a ten euro charge per ticket on all domestic routes, a charge previously only applied on international flights, while Iberia has added a further two euros fuel charge on long-distance routes. Total fuel charges on Iberia's intercontinental flights can now reach 60 euros, but the carrier has not increased its 20 euro fuel charge on European flights. Air Europa raised its fuel charge to 9 euros for domestic flights, but this can be as much as 56 euros on flights to Latin America and Asia. Consumers groups have reacted strongly to the new charges. The Organisation of Consumers and Users and the Federation of Consumer Action Groups called them "brutal and unjustified". Vueling airlines, however, announced that it did not plan similar price hikes.

In a separate move, Spanair announced last week that would start permitting passengers who book flights on line to print their own boarding cards.


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