Costa del Sol News - 22nd March 2007

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Week 22nd March - 28th March 2007

 

he taxman cometh

Hacienda to scrutinise non-resident homeowners

BY OLIVER MCINTYRE

NON-RESIDENT HOMEOWNERS IN MÁLAGA AND THE CAMPO DE GIBRALTAR AREAS ARE TO BE SCRUTINISED BY SPANISH TAX AUTHORITIES, ACCORDING TO COMMENTS MADE LAST WEEK BY HACIENDA’S SPECIAL DELEGATE TO ANDALUCÍA, PILAR FERNÁNDEZ.
Speaking at a conference regarding tax-fraud reforms, she explained that the measure is to include the creation of a database of properties owned by non-residents, listing the owner, the type of financing used to purchase the property and how it is being used.
The goal is to uncover cases where the owner is living in the home more than 183 days a year, which is the cut-off for being considered a non-resident for tax purposes. “A huge effort is being made in Andalucía to monitor taxation in the non-resident sector due to the proliferation of [offshore] shell companies whose investments remain outside of Hacienda’s control,” said Sra Fernández at the conference.

AVERAGE FOREIGNER NOT THE TARGET
Contacted for further comment and explanation, Sra Fernández told Costa del Sol News that the stepped-up vigilance is not targeted at the average foreigner who has purchased a home in his or her own name and spends part of the year here.
“We’re looking for the people or groups who use shell companies in Gibraltar, for example, to hide the true owner of the home, rather than stand up and be counted,” she said.

FRAUD CRACKDOWN
Another of Hacienda’s strategies against tax fraud has already proven quite successful. Last year it required all income tax filers to provide the cadastral (land-register) number of their residence, whether they own it or live there as renters. The measure, aimed at rooting out people who evaded taxes by not declaring rental income, had the desired effect. Nationwide there was a 16.7 per cent increase in the number of people declaring real estate income, and the total amount declared jumped by 21.6 per cent, to 11.3 billion euros.


Roca claims great luck in lottery

Malaya mastermind says he can’t remember how many times he won

By David Eade

JUAN ANTONIO ROCA, THE FORMER ADMINISTRATOR OF MARBELLA’S TOWN PLANNING OFFICE AND THE ALLEGED MASTERMIND BEHIND THE TOWN HALL CORRUPTION RING, TOLD THE COURT EARLIER THIS WEEK THAT HE CANNOT REMEMBER HOW MANY TIMES HE WON THE LOTTERY.
It was Sr Roca’s fourth appearance before the court in the ‘Malaya’ investigation following his arrest in March of last year. He told the judge, Miguel Ángel Torres, that he had bought numerous winning tickets for the lottery over recent years. His lawyer, José Aníbal Álvarez, said: “He’s unable to recollect exactly when, because we are talking of a 15-year period.”
According to investigators, on eight occasions in the last six months Roca family members bought winning lottery tickets. Last week Sr Roca’s wife, Rosa Jimeno Jiménez, their daughter María Roca Jimeno, Rosa’s brother Antonio Jimeno and a Swedish woman who works at a company Sr Roca owns in Murcia were all brought before the court to answer charges of money laundering. Investigators believe they bought winning tickets after the lotteries had been held, offering the legitimate winners more money than the prize amount they had won.
It is also alleged that Sr Roca had been putting properties in his daughter’s name to mask his ownership, and links are being sought between his wife’s shop in La Cañada commercial centre and his own network of companies. Acquaintances say that Sr Roca’s wife was always boasting of her wealth and investigators suspect her shop may have acted as a conduit for moving money to his companies.

A STRONG BLOW’
The arrest and accusations laid against his wife and daughter by the court is said to have affected Sr Roca badly. His lawyer stated: “He has received a strong blow and of all those detained in prison he is one of the few that has also seen his family arrested.”Meanwhile, it has been revealed that Sr Roca’s property empire may have extended from Marbella to Ibiza. The judge investigating the Malaya case has advised the local property registry that there are some fincas on the island in the name of one of his companies.


Vandalism leaves Costa without ambulance coverage

NEWS Staff Reporter

A potentially deadly act of vandalism left the Costa without 061 ambulance service for around an hour earlier this week. When a call came in about a traffic accident in Málaga at 04.20 Tuesday morning, the medic team at the Huelin 061 base found that all three of its ambulances had slashed tyres. Some quick calls from 061 headquarters confirmed that the city’s other four 061 ambulances, plus all three that serve the Costa (based in Marbella, Mijas and Vélez-Málaga) also had punctured tyres. Some of them had as many as three or even all four tyres deflated.
In the city, reserve ambulances at the Andalucía Technology Park were brought into service, re-establishing at least partial ambulance coverage within a half-hour. But on the Costa, it was at least an hour before the 061 teams could be temporarily outfitted with Andalucía Health Service ambulances from local health centres. The vandalised 061 ambulances were repaired and returned to service later the same morning.Investigations have been opened into the incident, which occurred in the midst of a tense collective bargaining process between emergency-services workers and EPES, the public company that operates the service. Suspicions have been raised that the coordinated vandalism attack may have been carried out by disgruntled workers, but at the time of going to press there had been no official confirmation of this theory.


Granada woman dies after removal of respirator

By Oliver McIntyre

THE GRANADA WOMAN WHO REQUESTED TO BE REMOVED FROM THE RESPIRATOR MACHINE THAT KEPT HER ALIVE FOR THE LAST NINE YEARS HAD HER WISH FULFILLED LAST WEEK.
Inmaculada Echevarría, 51, who suffered from muscular dystrophy, died at 21.00 last Wednesday night after her medical team removed the respirator. Health officials issued a brief statement saying that the doctors provided the necessary treatment to ensure that the patient died without pain or suffering.
Sra Echevarría, who had suffered from the degenerative disease for 40 years, the last 10 of them in a hospital bed, was transferred from her usual hospital, a Catholic-run facility, to a state hospital for the tube removal to be carried out. But it was her regular medical team that performed the procedure.

TOTALLY PREPARED
“She went calmly and totally prepared,” said a close friend who accompanied Sra Echevarría in her last moments. “They sedated her, she gave us a kiss, and then they disconnected her [from the machine].” Last October Sra Echevarría publicly announced her wish to be removed from the respirator and allowed to “die freely and without pain.” She submitted a formal request, which was approved earlier this month by the Junta de Andalucía. Health officials at the Junta said the case involved not euthanasia, but rather the refusal of a life-sustaining treatment after its implementation.


Brit faces nine years for attempted strangling

NEWS Staff Reporter

The public prosecutor is seeking a nine-year prison sentence for a British man going on trial for allegedly attempting to strangle to death a 27-year-old British woman in her Mijas apartment after the two spent the night together there.
The case dates to December 2005, when the accused, Justin W., now 29, met the woman outside the Tramps disco in Fuengirola, according to the prosecutor’s case summary. The two went back to the woman’s home in the La Ponderosa urbanisation of Mijas and spent the night there.
The next day at around 15.00 the accused attacked the woman “for no reason and with the intent to kill her,” hitting her repeatedly in the face and head with a drinking glass, a glass ashtray and an electric space heater, according to the prosecutor. He then allegedly strangled her unconscious with the heater cord before fleeing the scene just as a neighbour arrived in response to the noise and screams. The neighbour found the woman lying in a pool of blood with the cord still wrapped around her neck. She had a broken nose and multiple cuts and bruises and was taken to Málaga’s Carlos Haya hospital, where she spent at least 48 hours in the ICU. In addition to the nine-year prison sentence, the prosecutor is asking for a 31,000-euro restitution payment for damages suffered by the victim.


PA leader supports Estepona Golf residents

By David Eade

The Partido Andalucista’s Rafael Montesinos held a meeting on Tuesday March 13 at Estepona town hall with representatives of residents from Estepona Golf, Valle Romano and Puerto Romano who are faced with huge infrastructure charges, some of over 30,000 euros. These charges are to pay for the costs of the companies who are building developments on their urbanisations.
Rafael Montesinos told the residents “I will put the people of Estepona first and remove the red carpet for developers at the town hall”. He added: “Existing homeowners should not have to pay extortionate infrastructure charges and I agree that the doubling of charges for front line golf villas at Estepona Golf was illegal.” He also stated that he could not understand why the president of the “Junta de Compensación” at Estepona Golf had not answered letters from lawyers on this point or why homeowners had no replies from letters left at the town hall. Rafael Montesinos also agreed to turn up to support forthcoming demonstrations organised by the residents.
A resident from Valle Romano told Rafael Montesinos that his charge had just gone up from 17,000 euros to 28,000 euros because the town hall said his plot was bigger than stated on his title deeds. Yet no-one from the town hall has been to measure the plot size.
Any residents who are affected by infrastructure charges can contact: Tel/Fax 952 93 76 31 or e-mail rip-offcharges@hotmail.com for further information on the various support and protest events.


Junta say golf-developments will go ahead if legal

Project is being investigated by the public environmental prosecutor

By David Eade

THE DELEGATE OF THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT, JOSÉ LUIS MARCOS, HAS BEEN SPEAKING ON THE PROPOSED LOS MERINOS GOLF DEVELOPMENTS IN RONDA.
Currently the projects are being investigated by the Spanish Ministry of the Environment and the public environmental prosecutor after the Izquierda Unida party raised the matter in the national parliament.
Marcos stated at a meeting in Ronda that he had not taken a position for or against the projects that encompass two golf courses as well as a large residential development of 800 homes and luxury hotels. He added that the developments would be judged on their legality and if they were deemed legal then they would proceed. He believed that his role was to seek a possible solution between the various parties who are both for and against the developments.

FOR AND AGAINST
Against the project is the Plataforma Cueveña en Defensa del Agua that incorporates many residents, environmental groups and the town hall of Cuevas del Becerro. They fear that the golf and residential developments will drain the aquifers on which the municipalities and farmers depend for their water. For the scheme is the Plataforma Ciudadana, which defends it on the basis that it is vital for the future prosperity of Ronda and for bringing new jobs to the region.

COUNCILLOR FINED
Meanwhile the councillor who was accused of injuring a woman demonstrator during a protest by ecologists against Los Merinos at the end of a Ronda council meeting (CDSN last week) has been fined 330 euros by a local court. Sr Jerónimo García attempted to take a wreath carried by the demonstrators. During the brawl he knocked a woman to the ground and she later required treatment at Ronda hospital. The councillor, who had been responsible for social services, was dismissed from his post by the mayor and had stated that he would stand down from the council if found guilty. It now remains to be seen whether he offers himself for re-election at the local polls in May.


Vélez leisure complex contract awarded

By Dave Jamieson

The contract to build and operate Vélez-Málaga’s controversial new leisure complex has gone to a consortium, Rondega, made up of construction company Grupo Vera and bullfight impresario José Luis Martín Lorca. The project has a budget of 60 million euros.
The firm who have designed the centre, HCP, say it will cover 33,000 square metres and have a number distinct uses, including a multi-purpose space for concerts, bullfights and sports events, a seven storey hotel with beds for 150 guests, a commercial centre, a sports centre, restaurant and bar area, plus underground parking for a thousand vehicles.
Grupo Vera will operate the complex for a period of 50 years, paying Vélez town hall 200,000 euros per annum for the privilege. The multi-purpose zone will stage events including at least four bullfighting festivals each year with seating for 5,500 spectators. It is estimated that the centre will create 250 direct and around 400 indirect jobs. The events area will be in operation in two years, although the entire complex will not be complete for a further four years.
The site chosen is the present fairground, close to the motorway and the El Ingenio commercial centre, and is the third of four projects planned for the 250,000-square-metre space. A conference centre already has financial backing while an office block will house a number of council departments. The fourth is likely to be an educational facility for which, the town hall says, talks are underway with the University of Málaga.However, Vélez’s plans to stage regular bullfighting events are under attack from PACMA, the political party against the maltreatment of animals, whose members staged a noisy demonstration involving 300 protesters when a portable bullring was installed in the town in February. Vélez-Málaga is also on the League Against Cruel Sports list of “towns to boycott in Spain” which it asks British tourists to avoid visiting because of its support for the activity.


Dogs go dutch in new international project

By Dave Jamieson

AN OPPORTUNITY TO PARTICIPATE IN A PROGRAMME OF INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION IS BEING OFFERED BY A NERJA ANIMAL CHARITY.
The Costa Animal Society (CAS) recently launched a joint project with a similar group in the Netherlands, Hond zoek Huis (HzH), which has already seen abandoned dogs from Spain happily housed with new Dutch families. Now, CAS is looking for volunteers to help with the transportation arrangements.
Passenger Escorts flying from Málaga to the Netherlands or Düsseldorf take responsibility for a dog from check-in to arrival. An additional 15 to 30 minutes should be allowed at each end of the flight. Also required are Collectors who will take the dog from a local address in the Nerja area to Málaga airport to meet up with the Escort who has agreed to accompany the animal on its journey. Around four hours is required for each round trip. Six dogs have already made the flight and others are now waiting for their boarding cards.

VOLUNTEERS ALSO NEEDED
Anyone who would like to volunteer is asked to contact CAS’s president Wendy Thorne on 660 27 1984. The group is also looking for helpers to run their fund-raising stall at Nerja’s Sunday morning market or to give assistance in their busy charity shop. Anyone with a few hours a month to spare is invited to ring Wendy on the same number.


Good news for Nerja as Rincón water plant opens

Nerja and Torrox treatment plants will complete Axarquia’s sanitation plan

By Dave Jamieson

NERJA’S LONG-AWAITED WATER TREATMENT PLANT COULD BE LICENSED BY THE END OF THE YEAR.
The director general of water supplier Cuenca Mediterránea Andaluza, Antonio Rodríguez Leal, made the announcement last week at the opening of a new plant in Rincón de la Victoria.
The news came in the same week that agreements were signed for the construction of a treatment plant in Torrox. It will serve over 7,000 homes and two golf courses in the Circo de Calaceite and Barranco del Puerto urbanisations and will produce 4,600 cubic metres of water per day for irrigation. The project has a budget of 7.37 million euros.
The new Rincón plant is a 2.5-million-euro investment which will serve a population of 60,000. Five kilometres of piping has been installed to connect it to the town’s drainage system. Rincón’s mayor, Francisco Salado, said at the opening ceremony that the town hall would construct an ecological system next to the plant for the production of electrical energy, some of which could be sold to the power provider Endesa.
Sr Leal blamed the delays in the Nerja project on changes in the specifications and location of the planned facility, but he said it was now under consideration by both the Junta de Andalucía and the Ministry of the Environment. Along with Torrox, the Nerja plant will complete the Costa del Sol’s integrated sanitation plan for the Axarquía.NERJA’S SAGA The saga of Nerja’s water purification plant began in 2002 when the town hall purchased a 28,000-square-metre site at Fuente del Badén for its construction. By mid-2003, however, it was announced that the design would have to be revised as the proposed plant would not be adequate for Nerja’s rising population, while in spring 2004, concerned residents persuaded the town’s mayor, José Albert Armijo, to ask for the plant to be covered in order to avoid bad smells, a demand rejected by the water authority. Financial wrangles and accusations of delays continued between the town hall and the Junta, while Greenpeace criticised Nerja for failing to have the facility operating. In December 2004, the water authority dropped a bombshell by announcing that a better site had to be found for the plant which would cause a ten year delay, described then by Mayor Armijo as “unacceptable”, but a year later it was announced the original site was suitable after all for a compact, covered plant. Finally, in February 2006 the Cabinet agreed that the Ministry of the Environment should pay all the costs.


GB Airways to start services to Madrid

By David Eade

GB Airways, the British Airways affiliate, has stated that it will start services to Madrid in May. Currently the Spanish airline Iberia has been flying between Madrid and Gibraltar since December. Although GB Airways did fly a symbolic inaugural flight to Madrid it made it clear that it would not start a regular service till the spring due to aircraft commitments.
The GB Airways flights will be interlinked with the service already offered by Iberia. This means that passengers will be able to get return tickets from either airline or travel agents for either the Iberia or GB flights in one transaction. It is understood that one-way fares start at £32 plus taxes from Gibraltar and 48 euros plus taxes from Madrid.
The flights will operate on a daily basis departing from Gibraltar at 19.40 Monday to Thursdays and 19.30 Fridays to Sundays arriving at Madrid one hour and 20 minutes later. They will then depart from Madrid at 21.30 arriving at Gibraltar 22.40. Iberia flights currently operate in the morning period.Kevin Hatton GB Airways managing director stated: “Our partnership with Iberia is key to the development and the schedule opens up the possibility of short business trips to the Rock and the surrounding area.”


Jeréz set to welcome 300,000 visitors

World motorcycling championships take place this weekend

By David Eade

THE WORLD MOTORCYCLE CHAMPIONSHIPS THAT WILL BE HELD IN JEREZ THIS WEEK, FROM THURSDAY, MARCH 22 TO SUNDAY MARCH 25, PROMISE A BONANZA FOR THE HOTEL TRADE AND THOSE PEOPLE WHO HAVE FLATS TO RENT FOR THE DURATION.
All the major hotels in the city and surrounding areas are fully booked and expect to see an income only normally realised in the peak month of August. In addition apartments in Jerez are being let for the weekend at the extortionate price of 1,000 euros and many of these properties are second homes or newly acquired flats. In all more than 300,000 people are expected to visit Jerez during the motorcycling championships, and over 1,600 officers from the Guardia Civil and National and Local Police forces will be on duty over the weekend. The traffic department will be controlling 985 kilometres of roads, and extra CCTV cameras and display panels have been installed in the area around the racetrack.

SECURITY STEPPED UP
The security forces plan to use mobile radar cameras to spot people who exceed the speed limit, and will be carrying out on-the-spot breathalyser tests on roads in and around Jerez. Five helicopters with night vision systems will also be in operation. Motorbikes will not be able to go into the city centre during the weekend of the championships, but this year there will be parking for about 20,000 vehicles close to the racetrack.


Home sales dropped 7.4 per cent in 2006

By Oliver McIntyre

Figures from the Real Estate Statistical Registry confirm what many casual observers have been commenting from some time: the Spanish real estate market has cooled. The registry, which provides a snapshot reflecting the market as a whole, recorded the sale of 916,103 flats in 2006, a 7.4 per cent drop from the previous year.
The biggest fall in sales came in Aragón, Cantabria, and País Vasco, all of which saw drops of more than 15 per cent. In Andalucía, there were 6.87 per cent fewer flats sold in 2006 than in 2005. The only region of the country that did not register a drop was Navarra.
The fall in sales is widely attributed to high prices and rising interest rates – the Euribor index, on which the majority of Spanish mortgage-loan interest rates are bases, has risen every month for the last year and a half.
The size of loan taken out to buy a flat jumped 10.2 per cent in 2006, ending the year at 146, 683 euros, compared to 133,108 euros at the end of 2005. Larger loan sizes and higher interest rates also resulted in longer average payback periods for mortgage loans; at the end of 2006, the average loan had a payback term of 27 years and eight months, 23 months more than at the end of 2005. An added effect of the current real estate landscape is that more buyers are choosing second-hand properties, a worrying trend for developers. In 2006 new flats lost four per cent market share to second-hand ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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