Costa del Sol News - 3rd August 2006

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Week 3rd August - 9th August 2006

ROBBERY WARNING FOR EXPATS

Victim tells her story in hope of helping others avoid similar attacks

By Oliver McIntyre

SCOTTISH EXPAT JACKIE STAINES FELL VICTIM LAST WEEKEND TO A WELL-CHOREOGRAPHED ROBBERY IN THE CAR PARK OF THE LEROY MERLIN STORE IN MÁLAGA.

"We came out of the store and found the car with the tyre slashed, so we moved it to a bigger space to change the tyre," Mrs Staines told Costa del Sol News. A young Moroccan man passed by talking on a mobile phone and then stopped to talk with them and offer to help out, she said. While the man kept them distracted, his accomplice opened the door on the other side of the car and made off with Mrs Staines' handbag. "We never even heard the door open," she said. The incident occurred in broad daylight, at around 16.30 Saturday afternoon. In the shock and stress of the moment, Mrs Staines suffered what she at first thought was a heart attack but, after seven hours at the hospital, was diagnosed as a panic attack, she said.

CAREFUL WHO YOU TRUST
"We just want to warn other expats of this type of situation," said Mrs Staines. "Never trust people offering help like that." She believes the thieves, working as a three-man team - the guy offering help, the snatch man and a driver - slashed the tyre and then waiting for the moment to carry out their sting.

"Scotland is the crime capital of Europe - I should have known better," said Mrs Staines, who moved to Álora about three years ago. But the whole thing happened in 20 seconds and was over before she had time to react.

While her cash, mobile phone and other items are gone, she at least had photocopies of her credit card and documentation, said Mrs Staines. "Everyone should make sure they have copies of their cards, licence, passport and other important documents," she said.

NOT AN ISOLATED CASE
Such orchestrated robberies are neither new nor uncommon on the Costa. Law enforcement officials have often reported on gangs of thieves working together to engage or distract their targets and then rob them. Tourists and foreigners are one group typically targeted by such gangs.

Indeed, just last week police officials announced they are working together with Costa hotels in an effort to thwart summertime robberies (CDSN, July 27 - Aug. 2). Part of that campaign includes the distribution of brochures printed in six languages and providing tips to help tourists and others avoid becoming victims. One of those tips is to be wary of strangers offering unsolicited assistance.

Anyone who does find themselves a victim of robbery or other crime should report it to the National Police, who have a phone line (902 102 112) offering service in English and other languages. Mrs Staines reported her case to the police later the same evening, after leaving hospital. She went in person to the Málaga 'comisaría', where she said officers were very friendly and helpful. "It is important to report it when these things happen, or else they can't stop the criminals," she said.

 


Julián Muñoz's guilty verdict confirmed

By David Eade

AS THE FORMER MAYOR OF MARBELLA, JULIÁN MUÑOZ, SITS IN THE ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE PRISON AWAITING TRIAL IN THE OPERATION MALAYA CASE, HE NOW CAN REST ASSURED HE IS THERE BY RIGHT, NOT JUST AS A PRE-TRIAL MEASURE.

Muñoz was jailed unconditionally by Judge Miguel Ángel Torres, who is investigating the Marbella Town Hall corruption case known as Operation Malaya, and Muñoz's lawyer had launched an appeal against his incarceration. But now the Málaga court has confirmed a separate sentence against Muñoz for granting a licence to build on a green zone in 1999. For that he was sentence to a year in jail and an eight-year ban from holding public office.

The Málaga court confirmed the sentence against not only Muñoz, but six other GIL councillors including Juan Antonio Yagüe Reyes, the brother of another imprisoned former mayor of Marbella, Marisol Yagüe. The original sentence was handed down by the Málaga penal court in October of last year and has now been confirmed by the higher court, which refused the lawyer's appeal to have the verdict nullified. The court upheld the ruling that Muñoz and the six councillors commited a crime when on January 29, 1999, they issued a licence to Proinsa to build 150 homes, garages and commercial premises on a plot of land adjacent to the Palacio Polivalente that was classified as a green zone.

SECOND GUILTY VERDICT
Operation Malaya apart, Julian Muñoz has now been found guilty on two occasions of town planning offences, with many other cases still to be heard. In the other instance to date, he was found guilty of issuing an illegal building licence at Banana Beach, for which he received a sentence of six months in jail and an eight-month ban from holding public office.

 


Benalmádena killer caught in the Netherlands

NEWS Staff Reporter

POLICE IN THE NETHERLANDS HAVE ARRESTED THE ALLEGED MURDERER OF A 22-YEAR-OLD BRITISH RESIDENT OF BENALMÁDENA WHO WAS STABBED TO DEATH IN THE COSTA RESORT FIVE MONTHS AGO.

National Police investigators based in Torremolinos arrested two Spanish teenagers shortly after Gary David D. was killed when he and a friend were attacked by a group of youths while walking along a local street in the early-morning hours of March 2. Officials reported at the time that they knew the identity of the stabber and his arrest was imminent.

But the 22-year-old suspect, V.L.P.N., fled the country before the police could catch up with him. By May investigators had tracked down his location, a campground on the coast of the Netherlands. A European arrest warrant was issued and last week, following cooperation between Spanish and Dutch law enforcement agencies, the man was arrested at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, carrying a false Irish passport.

At the time of the murder, the police said there was no known prior relationship between the victims and the attackers, but that the young Britons may have made comments to the other group for riding their motorbikes on the pavement. The group assaulted them and Gary David D. received several stab wounds in the torso and in one leg and his friend also was cut on the leg. Gary David D. underwent six hours of emergency surgery for internal injuries but died the following day. Originally from Liverpool, he had been living in Benalmádena along with his parents for about four years.

 


Tolox mayor cancels 1,000 disputed homes

NEWS Staff Reporter

TOLOX MAYOR JUAN VERA HAS ANNOUNCED HE IS CANCELLING THE CONSTRUCTION LICENCES FOR 1,000 OF THE ROUGHLY 2,000 HOMES IN DEVELOPMENTS THAT WERE HALTED BY COURT ORDER AFTER THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA CHARGED THEY WERE TO BE BUILT ON NON-BUILDING LAND.

The mayor, who faces charges of town-planning irregularities in the case, says the licences are being yanked from four developments, one of them a 600- to 700-home complex that was to be located near the entrance to town and included a municipal sports centre. He said he expects the other 10 or so developments containing the remaining 1,000 disputed homes to move forward.

The mayor says the licences are being withdrawn from those developments where "there could be some doubt" regarding the classification of the land on which they were to be built. The move is aimed at showing his good faith in cooperating with regional-government authorities, he said.

But the Junta de Andalucía's Public Works delegate, Emiliano de Cara, was not appeased. The Junta will authorise none of the developments it deems to be on non-building land, he said. "The fact that he announces he is going to renounce some of the developments cannot mean he expects the Junta to authorise the rest," he stated. Legality, he said, "is not negotiable."

 


German youth remembers nothing of violent assault

By David Eade

THE 17-YEAR-OLD TOURIST FROM GERMANY WHO WAS ATTACKED BY A GANG OF YOUNGSTERS IN THE EARLY HOURS OF SUNDAY MORNING IN CONIL DE LA FRONTERA REMEMBERS NOTHING OF THE ATTACK.

The news was given by the teenager's sister after she visited him in Cádiz's Puerta del Mar hospital, where he is being treated for serious head injuries. Isabella L.L. says her brother, M.L.L., remembers falling to the ground but nothing more.

The attack took place at 03.00 and is said to have been without any justification. The victim was on holiday visiting his sister, who has lived in Conil for the past seven years. She alleges that he had only taken a drink with some friends when he was set upon by a group of around 15 youths.

The victim first underwent surgery at the municipal hospital in Puerto Real and was then transferred to the neurology unit at Puerta del Mar in Cádiz.

THREE ARRESTED
At press time the Guardia Civil had detained three minors, aged 15 to 17, who were allegedly involved in the attack. They made statements to the court and were returned to the custody of their parents, who were ordered to keep them at the disposition of the Cádiz juvenile prosecutor. Officials said further arrests were expected.

 


Las Pedrizas toll road to open in three years

By Dave Jamieson

Another step towards the new toll road north from Málaga has been taken with the announcement that construction contracts have been awarded. The 24.5-kilometre dual carriageway, known as Las Pedrizas, is expected to open at the end of 2009.

Eight bids were received for the construction and subsequent operation of the toll road, to be known formally as the AP-46, and last week the Ministry of Development announced that the job had gone to a consortium formed by Itinere (70 per cent), Gea XXI (20 per cent) and Sacyr (10 per cent). The group will invest 322m euros in the project, 75 per cent of which will be in the form of bank loans and guarantees, while the State will lend a maximum of 180m euros. The cost of using the road is expected to be 1.80 euros for a private car, although those who choose to travel at night will not be charged a toll; heavy lorries will have nine free hours overnight, while cars will have four.

The northern end of the road will be close to the junction of the existing A-45 and A-359, just southeast of Villaneuva de Cauche. It will then go south, initially east of the A-45 but crossing it two kilometres north of Casabermeja, where two tunnels of 430 and 1,430 metres will bring traffic towards Málaga's future second ring road, known as the Hiperronda. The two will meet close to Almogía.

The construction period is expected to be 36 months, but this can be increased to four years by agreement. When the road opens, it is expected to relieve the chronic congestion regularly experienced by drivers travelling between Málaga and Antequera. The A-45 is frequently subjected to hold-ups and delays, especially following traffic accidents.

 


Proof that size doesn't matter

Four-pound Chihuahua saves St Bernard in Antequera

By Oliver McIntyre

AS FAR AS EDWARD THE ST BERNARD IS CONCERNED, GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES.

The huge five-month-old 'puppy' - he already weighs in at five stone - was recently saved from drowning to death by a tiny four-pound Chihuahua.

"On Saturday night I went to bed at around 11 and at about 12 the dogs started barking," said owner Carole Tribue, an Essex native who for the last two and a half years has lived in the Antequera campo, where she has 10 dogs. She went out and got them sorted and went back to bed.

Then at 02.30 she was jolted awake by the tremendous squealing and yapping of usually quiet Phoebe, her five-year-old Chihuahua. She ran out to find little Phoebe frantically barking at the swimming pool, where Edward the St Bernard was struggling to keep his head above water after apparently falling in and being unable to get out. "If she hadn't woken me up he would have gone straight to the bottom and drowned," Mrs Tribue told Costa del Sol News.

THAT DOGGIE IN THE WINDOW
Heroic Phoebe is just one six Chihuahuas Mrs Tribue brought with her from England. While that was surely plenty of canine company, a soft spot for doggies in window has kept her pack growing. "When I see puppies in the window at the pet store in Eroski centre, I can't stand it - I always go in and take one home," she said. "So I don't go into Eroski any more." Besides the Edward the St Bernard and her six Chihuahuas, Mrs Tribue has a British Bulldog, a Yorkshire Terrier and a Cocker Spaniel that someone threw into her garden one day. She is clearly a lover of all dogs, but last week was especially fond of little Phoebe - her tiny Chihuahua with a big, big heart.

 


Ronda backs controversial golf scheme

NEWS Staff Reporter

At a packed recent meeting, the Ronda Town Council gave its approval to the construction of two golf courses at Los Merinos Norte. The development has been surrounded in controversy but has always had the strong support of the Town Hall. In the event only the Izquierda Unida councillor Rafael Ruiz voted against, whilst the Socialist Maribel Morales abstained. Both councillors cited the environmental and legal aspects of the development as the reason for their decision.

The golf-course project has been fiercely opposed by both environmental organisations and residents of the Cuevas del Becerro area who fear for their water supply. Indeed, the Andalucía water authority has warned that the project could affect local water supplies. Furthermore, ecologists argue it does not comply with a 1994 regional-government directive which says no more than 25 per cent of the property can be altered whereas they believe the entire site will be affected.

The legal challenges to the golf development rage on but not everybody is against the scheme. Many local people believe it will bring badly needed employment to Ronda as well as boosting its tourism appeal. In addition, the Town Hall coffers will receive 18m euros over a 10-year period, which will help fund various municipal projects in the pipeline.

 


Nerja action group seeks answers on beach parking

NEWS Staff Reporter

Visitors to Cantarriján beach east of Nerja enjoy the ability to park their cars close to the sand. Not far away, however, those wanting to bathe at El Cuñelo beach must leave vehicles a good distance from the shore, then walk to the sea or pay to take the transport provided. Both beaches are within the Maro - Cerro Gordo natural park, but the first lies in the province of Granada while the second is within the Málaga municipality of Nerja.

Opinions on the situation appear as split as the parking rules, with some arguing that all beaches should be accessible by private cars, while others cite environmental issues in their arguments to ban all vehicles from getting too close to the sea. The issue has been a subject of complaint, mainly from those on the Nerja side who want the same privileges as those in Granada.

This is not the first summer the issue has been highlighted, but now an action group has been formed in Nerja to press for conformity on all beaches in the natural park. The object is to ask for clarification of the plan defining the use and management of the area and to ensure that those who own property within the park know what their rights and obligations are. Meanwhile, those wanting to park near the sand will have to head to the Granada beaches.

 


Gil's Rolls Royce and Yagüe's BMW to be auctioned

NEWS Staff Reporter

Those seeking mementos of the Gil era at Marbella Town Hall could do worse than participate in an auction currently being held by the town's interim management commission. Up for grabs: Jesús Gil's Rolls Royce and the BMW X5 used by Marisol Yagüe during her term of office. The monies received will be given to Marbella and the cars are valued at 45,000 euros and 25,514 euros respectively.

The Rolls Royce Silver Spur of the now deceased Jesús Gil was registered in 1992. It has been used for weddings and other official functions and features an eight-cylinder, 173-horsepower motor and many additions, says Marbella Town Hall. The BMW X5, registered in 2004 though it is a 2001 model, is a four-wheel-drive with 210 horsepower.

Both vehicles have been sitting unused and as Marbella Town Hall has no specific use for them it has decided to cash in on their worth. Bids are being accepted until August 10 and the auction take place on August 21. Although the prices have been set at market value, some bidders may prove willing to pay more for a piece of Marbella's infamous history.

 


Cádiz looks towards 2012

Tall-ship regatta hailed as success - officials hope to bring it back

By David Eade

THE 2006 CÁDIZ REGATTA, HELD IN THE CITY BETWEEN TUESDAY AND SATURDAY OF LAST WEEK, HAS BEEN HAILED BY ORGANISERS AND LOCAL OFFICIALS AS A FANTASTIC SUCCESS.

It is estimated that around 850,000 people packed in to the quays area to see the tall ships and other yachts taking part in the 50th edition of the regatta, which will end in the Belgium port of Antwerp on August 19. A further 250,000 people were on the town's seawalls on Saturday to bid farewell to the fleet of 64 participants, which were escorted in to the bay by around 800 local vessels.

It was certainly a tearful farewell for many crewmembers who had been overwhelmed by the hospitality received in Cádiz. But it also marked a triumph for the hotels, bars, restaurants, Town Hall, visitors and organisers of the event, which proved that the city could host a world-class yachting race. The regatta was judged to be far more successful than the events held in 1992 and 2002 and the mayor, Teófila Martínez, observed that it had all passed off without any incident.

The councillor and vice-president of the local organising committee, Juan José Ortiz, said the regatta had been a great success not only because of the positive image it had generated, the excellent organisation and the large number of visitors, but also because local people had been satisfied with it and were very proud of the achievement. He credited the lack of any serious incident with the work of the more than 300 volunteers who it is now hoped can be tapped again for future events.

EYES ON 2012
Organisers now have their eyes set on 2012, an important date on Cádiz's calendar as the city will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Constitution of the Cortes national parliament, which was proclaimed in Cádiz. It is colloquially known as 'La Pepa' because once it was suppressed local people referred to it by that name. Needless to say, national celebrations of the 1812 Constitution will be centred on Cádiz and the city also hopes to persuade the regatta to return that year. Sail Training International, the overall organisers of the regatta, are said to be very happy with Cádiz's contribution and it is hoped that a trans-Atlantic regatta can be organised with Latin American countries participating.

ECONOMIC BOON
In financial terms the past week was of major importance to the city. Antonio de María, president of the Horeca hotel and restaurant association, said that business was up between 30 and 50 per cent whilst the councillor for Finance at Cádiz Town Hall, José Blas Fernández, estimated that local businesses benefited to the tune of 50m euros.

MINOR GLITCHES
However, the week did not pass without its down points. The ongoing cleaners' strike led to protests and the closure of various public gardens. There were also some complaints about the failure of the local bus, railway and catamaran services, which were simply overloaded. The organising committee has dismissed the latter claim, comparing the transport in Cádiz with other major cities at times of major events. Nonetheless, when 2012 comes around, be it just for the bicentenary or a regatta as well, better arrangements will have to be made for transporting the public, especially if people are being encouraged to abandon their cars.

 


Iberia strike at Barcelona strands thousands

Ground crews halt work in non-approved surprise action

By Dave Jamieson

FLIGHTS BETWEEN MÁLAGA AND BARCELONA WERE AMONGST 544 CANCELLED LAST FRIDAY AFTER IBERIA STAFF AT EL PRAT AIRPORT WALKED OUT ON STRIKE.

The scene at Prat Barcelona, the country's second busiest airport, was described as chaotic, with an estimated 100,000 travellers affected nationwide at the start of one of the most important holiday weekends of the year.

The trouble began at around 09.00 when 2,500 employees of the airline stopped work, effectively blockading the airport. Check-in staff vanished from the departures terminals, while 200 employees swarmed onto the runways, preventing aircraft from landing or taking off for most of the day. Nine workers were arrested by the Guardia Civil. Roads leading to Prat gradually became blocked as frustrated passengers tried to reach the congested airport.

The action was prompted by the failure of airports operator, AENA, to renew Iberia's contract for ground handling, prompting fears of hundreds of jobs losses. The work has instead gone to construction and services company Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas SA and to affiliates of two Iberia rivals, Air Europa and Spanair.

The Government condemned the move by Iberia staff and said that legal action against the trade unions involved was likely. However, ministers themselves were also criticised for failing to call in the police to clear the runways and for allowing the protest to continue for as long as it did.

Terminals at Prat were full to capacity as the Iberia action had a knock-on effect to other airlines. One of those seriously disrupted, the British low-cost carrier easyJet, said it would be starting legal action against Iberia. Many stranded travellers complained they had no idea when their flights would depart and complained that precious little advice was being issued. Red Cross staff distributed 7,000 sandwiches and 52,800 bottles of water to the thousands who had to spend the night at the airport.

Elsewhere, effects of the strike were felt as flights were cancelled. Worst hit was Madrid Barajas after 97 of the scheduled 120 connections between the cities did not fly. One group of around 100 people, scheduled to leave Barcelona for Málaga on Iberia flight 236 at 23.25 on Friday, finally flew out at 07.30 p.m. on Saturday.

CONFLICT RESOLVED
Union leaders finally reached an agreement in principle with Iberia which would see their ground crews continuing to work on the airline's own handling work at El Prat. In addition, Iberia and AENA are to study whether the airline's ground staff can continue handling for Air Nostrum, an Iberia subsidiary, and for Clickair, the new low-cost carrier in which Iberia has a 20 per cent stake.

Around 9 p.m. on Friday, a trickle of planes began to leave Barcelona once again, but problems continued throughout Saturday. Several dozen of the 526 flights due to arrive at or leave from the airport were cancelled, while some airlines continued to divert incoming flights to Madrid, concerned that trouble might restart as Iberia and the unions continued their talks.

 


World Cup helps reduce forest fires

By Oliver McIntyre

LOVE IT OR HATE IT, NO ONE CAN DISPUTE THE ABSOLUTE HUGENESS OF THE WORLD CUP AND ITS IMPACT AS A SPORTS PHENOMENON. NOW THE INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL TOURNAMENT IS BEING CREDITED WITH HELPING TO KICK DOWN THE NUMBER OF FOREST FIRES IN THE REGION OF ANDALUCÍA.

With so many people - including farmers, would-be campers and even arsonists - cooped up inside to watch the World Cup matches throughout June and early July, Andalucía saw a 61.5 per cent reduction in forest fires compared to the average for the same period in 2003, 2004 and 2005. From June 9 to July 9 there were 85 small countryside fires (those that burn less than a hectare), compared to an average of 170 during the same period during the previous three years. There were 24 larger fires, down 62.2 per cent compared to the average during the earlier years.

Surprisingly, the effect was actually predicted by the Junta de Andalucía's Environment chief, Fuensanta Coves, who before the World Cup stated publicly that she expected fewer fires during the tournament. She reportedly based her theory on psychological studies suggesting that many pyromaniacs are idle types likely to be attracted by easy distraction like watching football.

The simple fact that during World Cup games there are fewer people out doing all types of activity in the countryside, whether work or recreation, means there is less chance of human-caused fires. Environmental groups confirm that this trend holds not just with the World Cup but also during other major events that attract the public's attention.

Following the end of the World Cup, Andalucía has been hit with a spate of fires burning more than 900 hectares, more than double the area that was burned during the entire first six months of the year. Some of the recent fires have been attributed to arson or negligence - perhaps by people who would have been tuned into the tube had a World Cup match been on. But others were caused by factors that no sporting event would have altered - including a devastating 600-hectare blaze in the Los Alcornocales nature park in Málaga province believed to have been caused by a spark from a passing train.

To see if the World Cup effect represents a true trend or a mere fluke, observers will have to wait another four years.

 


Simulated emergency causes real traffic jam

Motorway drivers slow down to gape at the spectacle

By Oliver McIntyre

A SIMULATED EMERGENCY IN BENALMÁDENA LAST WEEK PROVED THE THEORY THAT TAILBACKS FOLLOWING ROAD ACCIDENTS ARE OFTEN CAUSED NOT BY ANY REAL OBSTRUCTION OF TRAFFIC BUT RATHER BY RUBBERNECKING DRIVERS SLOWING DOWN TO TAKE A LOOK.

On Thursday afternoon the local police and Guardia Civil officials staged a training drill around a simulated accident involving several vehicles, including an overturned coach. Around 80 emergency responders - police, Guardia Civil, medics, firefighters and others - arrived on the scene along with eight ambulances, three fire trucks, a variety of squad cars and a helicopter.

The scene of the 'accident' was a stretch of road right beside the A-7 motorway at the Arroyo de la Miel exit. Traffic on the motorway ground to a near halt as drivers slowed to check out the spectacle, causing tailbacks of up to five kilometres.

There were also other unexpected complications in the emergency drill. At one point, one of the fire trucks and its crew had to abandon the scene to respond to a real emergency. They rushed to the rescue of a construction worker who had been buried by a cave-in at the local job site where he was carrying out excavation work.

Meanwhile, one of the vehicles used in the simulated accident, which had been pulled from the municipal impound yard, turned out to be harbouring a bee hive, though in the end it caused no harm to any of the emergency responders or volunteer 'victims'.

QUICK RESPONSE
Despite these minor incidents, officials deemed the training drill a success, saying the emergency was resolved in less time than expected. The exercise came just as emergency forces throughout the country were gearing up for the surge in traffic - and accidents - as thousands of people hit the roads for August vacations.

 



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