Costa del Sol News - 5th June 2008

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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

Week 5th June - 11th June 2008


TAPAS (The Andalucia Performing Arts Society) puts on its new musical comedy Little Shop Of Horrors tonight until June 7 at the Theatre Sol Andalusí in Alhaurín de la Torre. Costa del Sol News is offering two free tickets to the show to the first reader to ring 95 244 8730 and give the name of the show's director. In the photo, Joan Winstanley presents a cheque on behalf of the show's sponsors - Francisco Camero SL, a well respected Costa del Sol funeral company (particularly appropriate given the macabre ending to the show) - to the blood eating plant Audrey II and TAPAS Chairman Mick Bradley.


Lorry drivers andfishermen are up inarms over fuel prices

By Oliver McIntyre

While motorists are feeling the pinch of sky-rocketing petrol and diesel prices, workers whose activities directly depend on fuel - such as lorry drivers and commercial fishermen - are finding their very livelihoods threatened. They say they urgently need relief, and if they don't get it they are set to launch indefinite strikes.
A lorry drivers' strike in particular could wreak havoc on the country's supply chain."We're the worker ants of the motorway and we move the economy of this country … we're going on strike and there's not going to be anything," said Antonio Llanos, president of a lorry drivers' platform, at the weekend.The government has taken note and is working to avoid the drivers' strike, holding a series of meetings with industry representatives this week to seek solutions. If unsuccessful, an indefinite strike is scheduled to start on June 8.The drivers say the way the industry is structured means they are unable to pass their increased costs through higher rates. In the last year the annual price of diesel for the average lorry driver jumped by 37 per cent, from under 44,000 euros to 60,000 euros, according to industry representatives. A year ago fuel represented 30 per cent of a driver's total costs; it is now 40 per cent.Fishermen, who already staged a one-day strike last Friday, face similar problems and are threatening to join the lorry drivers' indefinite strike if it moves forward. They say the price they pay for diesel has jumped by as much as 60 per cent just since the beginning of this year.The drivers and fishermen want a series of measures including systems to stabilise their prices for diesel. The truckers also want the government to establish a minimum price for shipping services.Other European countries have also seen strike actions over fuel prices. Several countries, including Spain France, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Belgium, have begun working together to seek the creation of a European fund to aid fishermen.

Fifty detained in Málaga Nigerian lottery operatio

The fraud is thought to have generated around 100 million euros per year

By Dave Jamieson

A MASSIVE police operation involving more than 300 officers in Málaga has led to the arrests of 53 people alleged to be implicated in a lottery fraud. All the detained are reported to be of Nigerian origin.Last Wednesday's events followed months of investigation and were orchestrated by the National Police with involvement from two units, one dealing with specialised and violent crime and the other with immigration and false documentation. Extra officers from Madrid and Valencia were drafted in for the raids on 62 premises in the city and in Vélez-Málaga, including homes and business addresses. Charges brought against the detainees include fraud, false documentation and, in some cases, illegal residence in Spain. The action was related to Operation Nilo three years ago which saw 310 Nigerian citizens arrested.The series of simultaneous raids began at 8 am. Men and women, some of whom were business owners, were taken away for questioning and various items, including computer equipment and boxes of letters ready to be sent to target victims, removed for examination. Many of the raids were on small businesses offering telephone services, internet access, photocopying and mobile phone services.The fraud being investigated is thought to have generated those responsible around 100 million euros per year. Up to 24,000 letters are thought to have been sent out every day, advising recipients that they had won a substantial sum of money in a lottery. However, to claim the cash, a tax of between 10 and 15 per cent of the total had be paid first. Those gullible enough to send the requested money, never, of course, received their non-existent winnings. Police estimate that while only one per cent of those receiving the letters respond, it is enough to generate huge profits for the perpetrators. Investigators believe that, every year, 20,000 people worldwide are each swindled out of an average 18,000 euros, and that those detained in Málaga last week are part of an international network of fraudsters operating in Europe, the US, Canada, Japan and other Asiatic countries.

Ecologists take legalaction against La Cañada

Charges are aimed only at certain businesses

By David Eade

Ecologistas en Acción in Marbella have taken legal action against the La Cañada commercial centre, which is owned by Tomás Olivo, one of the businessmen implicated in the 'Malaya' corruption investigation.The environmentalists have lodged 'denuncias' with the Málaga prosecutor and Marbella town hall alleging that certain businesses in the complex do not have the required licences.This action does not involve the major outlets. Rather it is restricted to the catering outlets in the parking zone and the walkways plus a pet shop located in the basement area of the centre.Rafael Ávila, the spokesperson for the ecologists, singled out the pet shop, accusing the owners keeping the animals in "lamentable conditions."

Planning infractions
The three formal complaints filed by the environmentalists cite infractions of town planning laws. They accuse La Cañada of not applying for licences for these businesses and state that their presence impedes the normal access routes for people visiting the shopping complex.Sr Ávila added that the group found it „unbelievable“ that this situation was allowed to exist at La Cañada, especially the poor state of the pet shop. He expressed his surprise that no action had been taken by Marbella town hall before now over the situation of these outlets not having licences.

Marbella judge to appear in the dock

The Andalucian High Court has set July date for Urquía case

By David Eade

The former Marbella judge, Javier de Urquía, is to appear in the dock of the Andalucian High Court (TSJA) between July 21-23. He will be joined by Juan Antonio Roca, the alleged mastermind behind the Malaya corruption scandal at Marbella town hall, and a third person, Arnaud F.A.These will be the first oral hearings and apart from the accused trio, over 30 witnesses are also expected to give testimony. On the final day the court will also hear recordings of telephone conversations that are relevant to the investigation.The prosecutor is seeking a prison term of three years for Urquía who is alleged to have received 73,800 euros from Juan Antonio Roca. It is said that he used this money to pay in part for a property that he was acquiring. The prosecution says that this money was paid so that the judge would prevent a television programme from being broadcast. The programme revealed the extent of Roca's assets in the days before the 'Malaya' case broke.If found guilty the prosecutor also wants Urquía to pay a fine of 213,000 euros and to be barred from being a judge for 19 years. Roca faces a three-year prison term and a fine of 177,000 euros while their mutual friend, Arnaud, could be handed a similar sentence.

Del Valle denies fraud
Lawyer Fernando del Valle Back was back in court last week. He is alleged to have been behind the Ballena Blanca corruption case. He was answering a charge that between 2002 and 2004 he commited tax fraud in more than 20 commercial transactions in which the proceeds were derived from money laundering. His lawyer, Horario Oliva, vehemently denied the accusations and assured the court that Del Valle "did not owe a cent to Hacienda". He added that the charges involved small transactions that did not have to be declared to the Agencia Tributaria.

Hundreds march against Los Merinos golf project

Project is currently stalled but opponents want it halted for good

By David Eade

Around 300 protesters marched on Saturday from Cuevas del Becerro to the site of the proposed Los Merinos golf development, according to estimates from organisers. The demonstration was called by the Plataforma Cueveña en Defensa del Agua, which is made up of local residents, ecologists, walkers and the agricultural community in the Serranía de Ronda.Although Copisa, the developer of the golf course project, has halted work because of the down-turn in the property market, the action group fears that it still intends to proceed with the construction of two golf courses, 800 luxury homes and three hotels on the site.Juan Antonio García, one of the spokesmen for the protestors, stated that they want the regional government to negotiate with Copisa to acquire "this site of great environmental value and allocate it for public use."The protest was supported by councillors from the difference municipalities affected by the development as well as Izquierda Unida MP José Antonio Castro.

Fence cutting
The action group has been holding protests against Los Merinos for the last four years. During this latest march, when the protestors reached Los Merinos they proceeded to cut one of the fences that they say impedes access to a 'cañada real' public right of way.Critics say the project does not comply with the planning laws and will draw on valuable local water supplies. It is not only Cuevas del Becerro that would be affected, as the aquifers also supply Arriate as well as the smaller communities of La Cimada and Los Prados.

Mijas inaugurates new local cop shop

The two-storey facility is strategically located on the Camino de Coín road

By Oliver McIntyre

THE MAYOR of Mijas, Antonio Sánchez, last week inaugurated the local police force's new 3.4 million-euro headquarters, which officials say will improve the police's ability to serve and protect the public.The two-storey facility on the Camino de Coín road is strategically located, sitting within the district of Las Lagunas and equidistant to La Cala and Mijas Pueblo, say officials.The police department is currently in the process of moving into the new station, which will be fully operational within the next week or so.Among the standout features of the new headquarters are a state-of-the-art dispatch office and an onsite indoor shooting range. The dispatch office, which local officials say is one of the most high-tech facilities of its kind in Europe, has touch-screen computers and a mapping system that allows dispatchers to pinpoint the exact location of an incident and immediately locate the nearest patrol units, thus improving response times.The new station also includes a 40-space underground garage for patrol cars and other vehicles.

Security improvement plan
The mayor explained that the new headquarters comes as part an overall improvement of the town's public security including "the recent enlargement of the police force, the rolling out of the neighbourhood police programme, the modernisation of material resources, and coordinating with other police forces" such as the Guardia Civil and National Police.

Blue flags for Costa beaches and marinas

More flags for Málaga, fewer for Cádiz and Granada

By Oliver McIntyre

Twenty-one beaches and marinas in Málaga province will fly the quality-conferring blue flag this summer, two more than last year, while Cádiz and Granada will both see fewer flags than in 2007.The blue flags, awarded by the Foundation for Environment Education (FEE) and announced last week by its Spanish affiliate Adeac, will be unfurled over 17 beaches and four marinas in Málaga province. The beaches to receive the nod are Sabinillas and La Colonia in Manilva; La Rada, El Cristo and El Padrón in Estepona; Puerto Banús and Guadalmina-San Pedro in Marbella; La Cala in Mijas; Los Boliches-Las Gaviotas, Torreblanca, Carvajal, Santa Amalia and El Castillo in Fuengirola; La Malagueta and El Dedo in Málaga city; and Torrecilla and Burriana in Nerja.The marinas getting the flag are Caleta de Vélez in Vélez-Málaga; La Bajadilla in Marbella; La Duquesa in Manilva; and the Estepona marina.In Cádiz, the blue flag will fly over 15 beaches - six fewer than last year - and two marinas, Sancti Petri in Chiclana and the Rota marina. The beaches include Sobrevela in La Línea; La Alcaidesa, Torreguadiaro and Calasardina in San Roque; Los Bateles in Conil; La Barrosa in Chiclana; La Cortadura, La Victoria and La Caleta in Cádiz city; Camposoto-El Castillo in San Fernando; Valdelagrana and La Muralla in Puerto de Santa María; Punta Candor in Rota; and Regla and Camarón-La Laguna in Chipiona.In Granada just one beach, Calahonda in Motril, and one marina, Almuñécar's Marina del Este, will enjoy blue flag status. Last year one additional beach, Carchuna, also in Motril, flew the flag but it was not named this year.

Quality criteria
The FEE's Blue Flag programme, launched in 1987 with the approval of the European Commission, distinguishes beaches and marinas that meet "strict criteria dealing with water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, and safety and other services."

Irish lorry drivers take Amy search across Europe

The association has agreed to distribute 50,000 flyers at stop-off points

By Oliver McIntyre

WITH five months now passed since Irish teenager Amy Fitzpatrick disappeared in Mijas Costa while walking home, her family continues to seek help wherever possible to keep the search alive and in the public eye. Now, their efforts are going international, with the Irish lorry drivers' association set to distribute flyers all over Europe.The family says the offer from the lorry drivers came after Amy's parents appeared last month on Ireland's The Late Late Show.The association has agreed to have drivers distribute 50,000 flyers at service stations, rest stops and other stop-off points along their routes through Europe. The association is providing and distributing the flyers at no charge.Meanwhile, the Guardia Civil continue to investigate the case, including following up on information from several viewers of the television programmes the parents have appeared on. The Guardia Civil have always maintained two principal lines of investigation; that Amy disappeared voluntarily, or that she came into harm's way while walking home from a friend's house on the night of January 1.Investigators have acknowledged that as more and more time passes with Amy still missing, the voluntary-disappearance hypothesis grows less likely, although it remains a principal line of investigation.

Walkers raise over4,000 euros for charity

Race 4 Life's second edition was a resounding success

By John Peatey
Almost perfect conditions for walking were Debi Bond's reward for months of hard work last Sunday. The Race 4 Life event organiser was delighted not only with the weather, but also with the numbers of walkers helping to raise desperately needed funds for the Costa cancer charity Cudeca.At 11 am 111 walkers set off from the mirador overlooking the centre of Cómpeta. Their destination was the Hotel Casa de la Mina in the beautiful Parque Natural (Natural Park) to the north-east of the town, and slightly hazy conditions did nothing to spoil the spectacular views experienced during the walk. Looking down over the large expanses of wooded areas, it was possible to see all the way to the sea, and in the far distance to the east the town of Nerja was quite clearly visible - not always the case apparently.Debi was the last walker to set off, and one of the earliest arrivals at the hotel. However first past the post, completing the walk in an impressive one hour and ten minutes were Ali and Gerhard, with their four-legged companion Muffin who had accompanied them all of the way.A huge surprise awaited Debi at the final destination when the numbers of attendees, in addition to the walkers, suddenly started to increase dramatically. Large numbers of people had obviously made the decision to forgo the pleasures of the walk and get to the venue by car, thus doubling the number of donations for the charity.It was then a case of let the party begin, and what a party it was! As he did last year, well known local chef Paco cooked up a huge, tasty paella, and some of Debi's assistants lent themselves to the task of producing some lethally potent sangria. Great live music accompanied the food and drink, while dancing continued throughout the afternoon.One hundred raffle tickets were drawn for the wonderful selection of prizes that had been generously donated in the preceding months before the big day. In addition to the raffle, a charity auction was held to boost the donation figure even further, and at the time of going to press a delighted Debi was able to confirm to CDSN that the total was already at over €4,100 and still climbing. She also asked for a big thank you to be passed on to everyone who took part in the event, and all of those who helped to organise the day. Well done everyone!

Nerja Mayor order smarket move

Stall operators do not rule out legal action

By Dave Jamieson

Nerja's weekly market is finally on the move. As expected, at last week's town council meeting Mayor José Alberto Armijo signed the papers ordering the location change, despite continued opposition from traders.The councillor responsible, José Miguel Jimena, said a firm date for the Tuesday market to move from its present town centre location to a new site at Almijara would be announced shortly, while José Miguel Harcía, spokesman for the governing Partido Popular, said that the town hall had acted within the law. The market traders, he added, have seen the favourable results of studies of the new site from the water authority, the fire service and the local police, and they should now, "accept the change."However, Juan Rojas, president of the Association of Market Traders, continues to insist that the move will prove to be "the death" of Nerja's market. The association has previously suggested that traders would refuse to use the new site, a threat dismissed by the town hall, which said their places would be filled by others on a long waiting-list for market stalls. "It doesn't matter that they say there is a waiting list of a thousand people," Sr Rojas said. "They are playing with the livelihood of 200 families." The traders are due to meet today at the offices of the Association of Municipalities to decide their final position on the move, and it is understood they have not ruled out legal action.

Conflicting views
Nerja town hall wants the market to move from its present site because of complaints of nuisance from residents and warnings of lack of access by the emergency services. The traders, however, believe the new site is too far out of the town and has serious security shortcomings.

Three more arrests inproperty fraud probe

Case linked to bank manager's suicide last August

By David Eade

Investigations by the Guardia Civil into the 'Obra Nueva' property fraud casein Chiclana continue with the announcement of three new arrests. Last week a man and two women were accused of involvement in the scam bringing the total number of those detained to 30.Officers have uncovered a network of professionals, including developers, constructors, estate agents and lawyers, as well as buyers and sellers, who allegedly have falsified information to make illegally-built properties appear they were built more than four years ago. If that was the case then no action could have be taken against them.Also had they been built before that period the properties would have been eligible for mortgages whereas if they were illegal they obviously wouldn't. Furthermore the homes had been fraudulently entered in Chiclana's property registry. Indeed, in some cases, the properties do not actually exist.It is a year since the Guardia Civil started its investigations into the affair after a person reported that he had asked a professional to handle the sale of a single piece of land. He discovered that this person had falsified the details to make it appear to be four separate plots, each with a property. To date the investigation has uncovered around 200 mortgages that appear to have been granted on the basis of false documentation.In August of last year a 47-year-old manager with the Banco Andalucía in Cádiz city hanged himself in his office. His death caused a stir in the local banking community because he was well liked and seemed to have no obvious personal problems.At the time the legal department of the Grupo Banco Popular that owns Banco Andalucía denied that any professional problems were a fact in his death. It has since emerged that he felt cheated by a group who had managed to obtain 37 fraudulent mortgages through his branch and who were then said to be threatening his family.

Smoking ban may be extended to small bars

Regional government wants to close anti-smoking law loophole

By Dave Jamieson

The regional government wants to ban smoking in small bars throughout Andalucía. Under the current national anti-smoking law, establishments of less than 100 square metres can choose whether or not their customers are allowed to smoke on the premises.The Junta de Andalucía says that since the anti-smoking legislation came into effect on January 1, 2006, only 10 per cent of the 9,000 small bars in the region have opted to be non-smoking. It now wants them to become smoke-free.News of the intention was made public last Friday, World No Smoking Day, by the head of the Junta's Health Department, María Jesús Montero, who proposes two possible lines of attack: either a complete ban, or incentives to encourage bar owners to prohibit smoking. In the latter case, she said, the Junta would undertake to publicise non-smoking bars on tourist guides. However she acknowledged the reluctance of small bars to become smoke free because of the potential damage it might to do to their income.Since the start of this year, the Junta de Andalucía has carried out 520 inspections of bars and restaurants in the province of Málaga, double the number in 2007, and has sanctioned 76 of them for infringements such as failing adequately to separate smoking and non-smoking areas. However, Sra Montero also noted that town halls, which can mount their own inspections and levy fines of up to 15,000 euros, vary considerably in the way they apply the anti-smoking laws in their municipalities.

Smoking trends
The latest figures, issued by Junta the last Friday, show that the number of smokers aged under 17 has risen by 12 per cent in the last two years, despite the stricter legislation. This means that around 60 per cent of this age group are habitual smokers, says the Junta, while 28 per cent of 13- and 14-year-olds have tried tobacco and 11 per cent of those aged 16 now smoke every day. However, the total number of smokers in Andalucía has fallen from 32.7 per cent of the population in 2003 to 26 per cent now, while the province of Málaga, with just 25 per cent, has the third lowest rate of smoking in the region.