Costa del Sol News - 29th June 2006

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Week 29th June - 5th July 2006

Company bosses arrested for scamming employees
The fraudsters are accused of taking a million euros

BY OLIVER MCINTYRE

THREE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ARRESTED AND ARE BEING HELD IN JAIL FOR THEIR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT IN A COMPANY ACCUSED OF SCAMMING ITS OWN EMPLOYEES BY CONVINCING THEM TO PUT UP MONEY TO BECOME PARTNERS IN A SUPPOSEDLY FAST-GROWING CHAIN OF RESTAURANTS AND OTHER ESTABLISHMENTS.
Between what they took from around 30 employees, ex-employees and other investors and additional fraud they allegedly committed against suppliers, the group is estimated to have scammed a total of around a million euros.
The three arrested include a married couple and a partner who allegedly collaborated with them. According to reports of the nearly yearlong police operation, the couple ran a Torremolinos café and a restaurant at the Los Patios Carrefour shopping centre in Málaga, and also had a facility at a Málaga industrial park. They allegedly offered their employees – as well as a few other friends or family members – the opportunity to become investors in a franchise operation. To do so, the employees took out personal bank loans of up to 18,000 euros each, which they were told they would not have to pay off because the company would do so.

GHOST COMPANIES
It is also alleged that the group created a variety of companies under whose names merchandise was ordered from suppliers, who were given bank account details for invoicing. When the suppliers went to collect on the invoices, they found nothing but empty or even negative-balance bank accounts.

 


Company bosses arrested for scamming employees
The fraudsters are accused of taking a million euros

BY OLIVER MCINTYRE

THREE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ARRESTED AND ARE BEING HELD IN JAIL FOR THEIR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT IN A COMPANY ACCUSED OF SCAMMING ITS OWN EMPLOYEES BY CONVINCING THEM TO PUT UP MONEY TO BECOME PARTNERS IN A SUPPOSEDLY FAST-GROWING CHAIN OF RESTAURANTS AND OTHER ESTABLISHMENTS.
Between what they took from around 30 employees, ex-employees and other investors and additional fraud they allegedly committed against suppliers, the group is estimated to have scammed a total of around a million euros.
The three arrested include a married couple and a partner who allegedly collaborated with them. According to reports of the nearly yearlong police operation, the couple ran a Torremolinos café and a restaurant at the Los Patios Carrefour shopping centre in Málaga, and also had a facility at a Málaga industrial park. They allegedly offered their employees – as well as a few other friends or family members – the opportunity to become investors in a franchise operation. To do so, the employees took out personal bank loans of up to 18,000 euros each, which they were told they would not have to pay off because the company would do so.

GHOST COMPANIES
It is also alleged that the group created a variety of companies under whose names merchandise was ordered from suppliers, who were given bank account details for invoicing. When the suppliers went to collect on the invoices, they found nothing but empty or even negative-balance bank accounts.


Marbella hospital popular with Brits
By David Eade

The Hospital Costa del Sol in Marbella attends to more than half of all the patients from foreign EU countries treated in Andalucía. In fact one in four of the patients that are treated at the emergency centre or admitted to the hospital are foreigners either from the EU or other immigrants.
Britons make up the biggest grouping with over 23 per cent of the emergencies, 29 per cent of the admissions, 24 per cent of the external consultancies and 18 per cent of the births.
The growth of foreign use of the hospital has leapt year by year and is a continuing factor. In 2001 non-Spaniards accounted for 19 per cent of the hospital patients but this has grown steadily to 25.7 per cent last year.
There is a major problem with the foreign usage by the Marbella hospital and to a lesser extent the others in Andalucía and wider Spain. It is estimated that since 1986 the Marbella hospital alone has 7 million euros worth of invoices outstanding and these are now being issued at the rate of 6 million euros a year.
The cash crisis centres on the Spanish Social Services ministry that collects the money from the country of the patient's origin but these payments have not been paid back to the hospitals involved. The central government in Madrid says it will take two years to resolve the payments problem although close to 300 million euros is outstanding in Málaga Province alone. This money covers not only hospitalisation but also special care and the supply of drugs. Spain's minister for health, Elena Salgado, has made it clear that the problem is not a national one but has to be solved at a EU level. She is confident that with the new technologies and better information the payment of reciprocal invoices can be speeded up between member states.


Eastern autovía hits more costly delays
Project changes cause 25m-euro budget hike

By Dave Jamieson

THE UNCOMPLETED COASTAL MOTORWAY FROM NERJA TO LA HERRADURA HAS BEEN FURTHER DELAYED DUE TO MODIFICATIONS TO THE PROJECT.
The Ministry of Development said last week that construction work on the stretch from Maro eastwards requires changes which will cost an extra 25.2m euros.
The extension of the 'autovía' as far as Adra is already billed as the most expensive and complex road ever built in Spain, with its 97 kilometres expected to cost in excess of a billion euros, but the first 9.6 kilometres appear to be causing particular problems. The project was originally approved in March 2002 when a 102.9m-euro contract for its construction was awarded to Dragados and Obras Subterráneas, with a planned opening date of September 2004.

WORKING AROUND THE CLOCK
But with construction work continuing 24 hours a day, the job is far from complete and four weeks ago the Council of Ministers in Madrid approved a budget increase of almost 25 per cent. No new opening date has been set for the stretch, 40 per cent of which is made up of tunnels and viaducts. A spokesman for the ministry was last week unable to give answers to press enquiries about the nature of the project improvements which have delayed completion.


Wooden home on non-building land brings prison sen
NEWS Staff Reporter

The provincial court has sentenced a man to six months in prison for building a 50-square-metre wooden home on a plot of non-building land in the Santa Amalia zone of Alhaurín de la Torre. The court ruling overturned a previous decision by a Málaga court, which had acquitted the man of the charges.
The case marks the first such conviction since the provincial prosecutor's office decided a month ago to go after cases of wooden homes being erected on non-building land. After losing the initial trial, the prosecutor appealed, arguing that the accused, A.A.J., had built a home on non-building land and without any licence or permit. The prosecutor told the provincial court the man had in fact applied for and been denied a licence but decided to go ahead with the construction. In addition, in 2000 he was fined after starting work, yet still carried on with the project.
In its ruling, the provincial court upheld the prosecutor's argument that as a property owner who either built or hired someone to build the home, the accused was the 'material author' of the crime. The court cited a Supreme Court ruling that defines as a developer "any person or private or public entity which individually or collectively decides on, launches or finances with its own or outside resources the construction of a building for its own use or for delivery to a third party."


Estepona black spot to be eliminated
BY DAVID EADE

THOUSANDS OF VEHICLES A DAY TRAVEL THROUGH ONE OF SPAIN'S ACCIDENT BLACK SPOTS ON THE A-7 (OLD N-340) AT KM 164 AS IT PASSES THROUGH ESTEPONA.
Now the ministry of public works is to improve the road by expropriating land from five plots of land that will give an extension of 12,840 square metres.
The scheme was given the go-ahead in February with a budget of over three million euros. The works will involve the improvement to 885 metres of the A-7, see the addition of change of speed lanes and the creation of a new four lane bridge over the Guadalmansa River. Work is expected to be completed over a nine month period.
The bridge will be constructed in two sections of two lanes each and there will also be new crash barriers. Road lighting will also be introduced to the stretch of dual carriageway to give additional safety at night.

SAN PEDRO TUNNEL LAND TO BE EXPROPRIATED
The ministry of public works has also acted within days of publishing its intentions in the State bulletin (BOE) to start the process of acquiring the required land for the A-7 tunnel as it passes through the notorious San Pedro de Alcántara bottleneck.
The BOE lists those properties affected that cover total 83,545 square metres and include some public land. The property owners have to go to Marbella town hall between July 18 and 19 to make the arrangements to hand over their land. The ministry has set aside 1.8 million euros in compensation.
Work is due to start on the tunnel in October and socialist deputy Miguel Ángel Heredia has stressed the importance of the ministry taking over responsibility for expropriating the land from the cash-strapped town hall. The 50 million euros project should be completed in September 2008 and will not only eliminate the traffic black spot that handles 45,000 vehicles a day but improve traffic flow between San Pedro and Estepona as well as Puerto Banús.


Residents can weigh in on Benalmádena PGOU
NEWS Staff Reporter

The Benalmádena Town Council last week gave the green light for work to begin on the process of revising the town's local development plan (PGOU) and adapt it to the requirements of the Junta de Andalucía's Land Law. The first step is the opening of a two-month period during which local residents, associations and other groups can review the 2003 PGOU and submit comments and suggestions for the revision. Work on the actual revision will begin in September.
Mayor Enrique Bolín offered a general outline of items to be addressed in the revision. These include improvements to the road system, with particular focus on access roads to the motorway and to the neighbouring towns of Torremolinos and Fuengirola; establishing land-use classifications on the remaining 600,000 square metres of non-classified land in the municipality; and setting open-space policies for the sierra, including plans for protection and reforestation. Remodelling of parts of Arroyo de la Miel and Benalmádena Pueblo, and the creation of more parking, are also priorities.
Prior to last week's decision to launch the revision process, the Town Hall had in recent months been involved in heated public exchanges with the Junta's Public Works Department regarding the PGOU. Public Works made statements in the media indicating that Benalmádena was failing its obligation to adapt the PGOU to the Land Law, and saying it was the only town in the province that had not taken on the chore. The Town Hall followed with accusations of political persecution, saying it legally had until 2007 to perform the revision.


Expense and overcrowding cause costa decline
Murcia and Almería are now the fastest growing communities

BY DAVE JAMIESON

MURCIA AND ALMERÍA HAVE LEAPT IN POPULARITY WITH BRITISH HOME-BUYERS IN SPAIN ACCORDING TO A NEW STUDY.
High prices on the Costa del Sol and over-crowding on the Costa Blanca are cited as reasons for these two traditionally popular areas falling out of favour.
The report, prepared by Barclay's Bank and the IESE business school at Navarra University, shows that the number of Britons resident in Murcia has risen by 46 per cent in the last year. This makes it the fastest growing such community in Spain, although it still lags behind Alicante, Málaga and the Balearics in terms of numbers.
The study predicts that property prices in Almería will not peak until 2008, making it presently an attractive proposition for those considering investing in a second home. The province's population increased by 32,000 last year, mainly, it says, as a result of the buoyant housing market.
Nationally, the number of British subjects registered at Town Halls across Spain was 270,000 at the start of this year, a rise of more than 28 per cent on 12 months earlier. However, while Spain remains the choice of about two-thirds of Britons who decide to buy abroad, it is coming under increasing pressure from competitors. France is the third most popular country with those who have retired, Florida does not present a language barrier while some of the newer EU countries are regarded as potential expansion areas for the future.

HOLIDAY LETS MORE PRICEY
However, those who prefer to rent, rather than buy, are facing a nasty shock this summer with news that the average front-line holiday let on the Costa del Sol now will cost 2,100 euros for a week during August. A study by Tecnitasa published last week compared prices for a 100 square metre holiday let in the city of Málaga, Torrox, Torremolinos, Nerja, Rincón de la Victoria, Marbella, Fuengirola, Benalmádena and Estepona. It concluded that the most pricey place to stay that month will around Marbella's marina where such an apartment will go for a mere 2,750 euros per week.
Second was Estepona where the same accommodation will set holiday-makers back 2,450 euros, while Nerja's Avenida del Mediterráneo ties for third place with the front line at Torrox and the eastern part of Málaga city where prices in excess of 2,000 euros are expected.
However Málaga is by no means the most expensive of Spain's provinces in which to holiday. The average in Ibiza is 3,400 euros, rising to 3,570 euros in Menorca with Gerona top of the league on 4,200 euros. The Canary Islands seem a better bet, however, with Tenerife in August costing 1,600 and Gran Canaria at 1,300 euros, the cheapest in the country.


Weather hot topic as summer kicks off
Summer 2006 to be "hotter than average" according to experts

By Oliver McIntyre

As summer officially got underway last Wednesday – appropriately enough with a high in Málaga of 28 degrees Celsius and a low of 21 – the expected scorching weather of the season was a hot topic.
The province of Málaga is expected to have a hotter than average summer, according to forecasts from the National Meteorology Institute (INM). It predicts higher than normal temperatures – as well as lower than normal rainfall – in the south-western part of the country, while the rest of the country is expected to see normal temperatures. In addition, INM experts say the air masses above north Africa are currently experiencing "quite high" temperatures, much like in the summer of 2003, opening the possibility of severe heat waves if those masses drift toward the peninsula.
Some local town halls were addressing the hot-weather issue in their own ways last week. Mijas officials announced that the town's 'tele-assistance' programme – a one-button emergency helpline provided to the elderly and incapacitated – was launching a series of in-home visits and calls to specifically discuss hot-weather precautions. The programme has identified tele-assistance users considered to be at particular risk for heat-related problems due to their age or health conditions. Of the 337 people signed up with the Mijas programme, 67 fall into the high-risk category this year, compared with 45 last year.

HEAT STROKE PROTECTION
In Torremolinos, the town's Consumer Information Office (OMIC) issued a series of recommendations for protecting children from heat stroke. These include applying sun block 30 minutes before going out; avoiding physical activities during the hottest hours of the day; wearing appropriate clothing and a hat; drinking water 15 to 30 minutes before physical activity (150 – 200 ml for children under 40 kilos, 250 to 350 ml for bigger kids); and re-hydrating with similar quantities every 20 to 30 minutes during the activity. In the event that a child is believed to be experiencing heat stroke, the OMIC recommends calling a doctor, putting the child in the shade, keeping his head raised and attempting to cool him by dampening his clothes, applying ice or a cold, damp compress to his head and giving him cool, even slightly saline water to drink.


Nerja mystery reopened by family
By Dave Jamieson

The case of a British resident of Nerja who disappeared 12 years ago has been reopened by his family. Pat Moore from Bedford vanished from his home in June 1994, since when nothing has been heard of him despite numerous representations to the Spanish authorities and the police in his home county.
His son Steve, who now lives in Brighton, has spent the intervening period trying to discover what happened to his father and has now launched a website on the Internet to mark the 12th anniversary of the day he simply vanished in the middle of a Saturday afternoon during the San Juan celebrations.
Pat Moore, who would have celebrated his 61st birthday three months ago, was comfortably off and well-known in Nerja's British community. He owned and managed a successful printing business in Bedford and had retired to the town. Steve has several theories about what could have happened that day.
"He may have been the victim of a crime. He may have had a breakdown. He may have chosen to leave and start a new life elsewhere. Whatever he decided to do, someone knows, and all I want to do is find out - not just for my sake, but also for the family he left behind in England, who loved him and miss him." Questions also remain about the whereabouts of his will, his money and the remainder of his estate, Steve added.
Local media in Bedfordshire have renewed their interest and a letter from Bedfordshire police to Steve refers to, "the fact that so many questions are unresolved around the circumstances in which your father disappeared." However, Steve says that the Spanish authorities were less willing to help and Bedfordshire Police had no jurisdiction to carry out an investigation. Working through diplomatic channels, consulates and embassies, missing persons agencies and the media failed also to shed any light. "I'm hoping the website will stir up interest among friends and perhaps jog people's memories about seeing him," he added.
Patrick Michael Graham Moore, born 12 March 1945, disappeared from his home in Nerja on June 24, 1994. He was declared legally dead in 2004. What happened to him? Steve tells the full story of his father's disappearance and the circumstances surrounding it at www.whereispatmoore.com. Anyone who can help is asked to ring him on (+44) 775 959 0113 or to contact D.I. Kramer of Bedfordshire CID on (+44) 1234 84 12 12.


Cádiz banks focus on rich customers
By David Eade

PRIVATE BANKS IN THE PROVINCE OF CADIZ ARE NOW OFFERING SERVICES AIMED SPECIFICALLY AT INDIVIDUALS THAT HAVE MORE THAN 150,000 EUROS TO THEIR NAMES.
These new customers will be offered a made-to-measure or personal service.
It is estimated that there are around 11,000 'gaditanos' that fall in to this category and have assets of 2,601 million euros between them. Much of this wealth is said to have been generated by the introduction of the euro and the property market. Amongst the banks targeting this wealthy sector are Banif, Popular Banca Privada and El Monte.
Although the private banks are now homing in on Cádiz the province lies sixth out of the eight in Andalucía in terms of wealth. Top of the list is Sevilla (6,783 million euros) followed by Málaga (6,707), Granada (3,692), Almería (3,642) and Córdoba (3,268) with only Jaén (2,315) and Huelva (1,771) having less wealth.
The average person in Cádiz will never hear from these banks as their income is said to be around 9,000 euros a year. However if you are one of the estimated 10,700 with at least 240,000 euros to your name then you are on the bank's hit list. Yet even wealth seems to have its distinctions and those with a minimum of 30,000 euros will be offered a personal service but only the elite will get private banking.


Bullfighting banned in Cataluña Animal rights win over tradition

BY DAVE JAMIESON

CATALUÑA IS TO BECOME THE FIRST REGION OF THE COUNTRY TO BAN BULLFIGHTING.
Deputies in Barcelona have voted to support a motion to extend existing animal welfare laws to include the practice which is presently excluded from the legislation.
The parliamentary motion, raised by the pro-independence left wing ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Cataluña) party, was supported by 74 deputies in last Thursday's vote, with 51 against, and is almost certain to lead to a total ban. Party deputy Oriol Amorós argued that the only thing to justify bullfighting was tradition and that tradition does not justify anything in itself. However, bullrings cannot be closed without a change in the law.
Last week's amendment will apply to the use of bulls at traditional corridas, but supporters hope that it will soon to extended to other events including running bulls through town streets chased by the public and those which involve putting lighted fires on the bulls' horns.
This is one of the first changes in legislation since the referendum ten days ago which confirmed that the people of Cataluña approved of greater independence for their region. 74 per cent of votes were in favour of the new statute which describes the region as "a nation", although the turnout was low at just 49 per cent, a fact which opponents seized on as demonstrating that the change was not born of public demand, but of political obsession. The Valencian Government has however announced it will appeal against the new Catalan Statute in the Constitutional Court, primarily because of its concerns over water from the River Ebro which Valencia wants to use.
Observers say that the move to ban bullfighting demonstrates the gulf which exists between Cataluña and Madrid, where the spectacle remains very popular. According to ADDA, the animal protection group which is leading the abolition campaign, Barcelona's only remaining first-class bullring, El Monumental, is almost empty on most Sundays during the season, the only spectators being the curious and the tourists. Catalan nationalists regard bullfighting as an alien sport.

CORRIDA'S DECLINE
In 2004, the region's capital Barcelona declared itself an anti-bullfighting city following a series of public protests and the signatures of more than a quarter of a million people on a petition. It was swiftly copied by more than 20 other municipalities in Cataluña, and the fall in popularity of bullfighting has already led to a decline in profitability for its promoters. Margins have narrowed as star toreros demand higher fees while bull breeders - only just recovering from the devastating blue-tongue disease of last year which produced restrictions on the movement of live animals – have already been under pressure. Work has even started at one of Barcelona's most famous bullrings, Las Arenas, to convert it into a shopping centre.
Opposition to the change came from the organisation Defensa de la Fiesta who claims that the loss of bullfights would be a cultural and intellectual loss, adding that only 40 per cent of the public supported a total ban.


Monarch switches to Jerez

News Staff Reporter

Monarch announced in April that it was dropping its flights between Manchester and Gibraltar although it stressed that its London Luton service would continue. Now it has emerged that it will fly from Manchester to Jerez starting in March next year on four days a week.
The service from the British northwest city to Gibraltar is about to cease but Monarch has announced that it will be flying to Jerez for just 45 pounds. The airline defended its move by stating that flights to Jerez would compliment its existing services from Manchester to Málaga and Almería and of course with the new dual carriageway link between Jerez and Los Barrios the sherry city is just an hour away from the Rock.
The Gibraltar Government has been angered by Monarch's decision to drop its successful service between Manchester and Gibraltar. It claimed it operated with a load factor of over 75 per cent last year and carried over 26,000 passengers in and out of the Rock. The operating costs at Gibraltar airport have been a key factor in Monarch's decision and landing charges are not set by the Gibraltar Government but by Britain's Ministry of Defence as it is primarily an RAF base.
Tim Jeans, managing director of Monarch's scheduled services stated, "Jerez and the Costa de la Luz region were relatively unknown in the UK until recent years. Their popularity is growing rapidly however with travellers looking to experience Spain away from the hustle and bustle of the more developed Costas".

 


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