Costa del Sol News - 9th July 2010

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Expat volunteers teach Spanish youths English

Kids will get the chance to improve their English by chatting to native speakers

By Oliver McIntyre

A GROUP of volunteer expats in Benalmádena are offering conversational English classes to local Spanish youths as part of a summer programme launched by the town hall.

"We believe that providing this type of educational opportunity to young people can help give them a boost in entering this difficult job market," said the town's councillor for youth, Rafael Obrero, who announced the scheme at a press conference last week along with foreigners' councillor María del Carmen Romero and one of the programme volunteers, Maggie Strodder.

About a dozen expats have volunteered to participate in the classes, which are taking place at the Edificio Ovoide building in Arroyo de la Miel on Mondays and Wednesdays from 11am to noon.

"The work these volunteers are going to perform - in return for nothing - is very important," said Sra Romero. "I am very proud of [the foreign resident community], which is always ready to work with us and collaborate."


Summer of scams hits Nerja

Town Hall issues advice on how to avoid being duped or robbed

By Dave Jamieson

AS WELL as attracting sun-seekers to the beach, the hot summer weather has seen the return of another seasonal visitor to the streets of Nerja: the bogus gas man. The town hall last week issued another warning that these fraudsters have been knocking on doors and making threats.

Many reports have been received by the municipal consumers office that these individuals, who can produce fake identity cards and may appear to be very convincing, have been operating in the area. They tell householders that it is compulsory for all gas appliances to be inspected and that failure to grant admission could mean serious problems. If they get in and make repairs, which are probably unnecessary anyway, they then charge an extortionate fee.

The advice from the town hall is simply to refuse to let them into the house. Gas appliances must be checked every five years but it is up to the householder to contact the gas supplier who will then send a technician to the property by appointment. The genuine suppliers never cold-call in the way the bogus inspectors do.

There are two suppliers in Nerja: Garcia y Hijos in calle Antonio Millon for the orange Repsol bottles, and Servigas in calle Ruperto Anduez for the silver Cepsa bottles.

There have also been reports of individuals with clip-boards in the streets who tell their victims that a survey is being carried out in an effort to get close enough to remove wallets and valuables, while of course the "free" flowers pressed on holiday-makers by the gypsy ladies serve the same purpose. A new scam this year, however, is the supermarket shopper, with arms full of tins and packets, who asks the victim to get an item from the top shelf. While helpfully stretching up, the good Samaritan is relieved of whatever can be snatched.


Casa del Rey Moro to be auctioned on July 27

Last minute payment of an outstanding debt could stop the court order going ahead

By David Eade

MUCH HAS been written in recent months on the historic Casa del Rey Moro that perches on the edge of the Tajo gorge in Ronda. It dates from the 13th century and has been officially declared to be of Cultural Interest (BIC), making it a protected building and giving the Andalucía government the final say in how the building is to be used.

The sad fact is that the Casa del Rey Moro is in a ruinous state and plans for it to become Ronda's first five star hotel have come to nothing despite a highly publicised sit-in on the building's roof by the German owner, Johan Knie, several months ago in protest over the town hall's delays in giving him permission to go ahead with the luxury hotel project.

The mayor, Antonio Marín, even suggested that a compulsory purchase of the property might be enforced in order to save the building as he believes Knie's plan is unlikely.

Now it appears the property might be sold at auction on July 27 after a judge ruled that the German company owning the property must pay a 150,000-euro debt to a woman who says she is owed the money after the company promised to build a home for her mother when she vacated land to allow for the five star hotel project to proceed.

The Casa del Rey Moro hotel row has gone on for eight years and it is now likely that a price tag of 3.1 million euros will be placed on the property.

The owners have stated their intention of settling the debt before that date to save it from being sold and still intend to proceed with the hotel project. Sadly while these arguments rage on an important part of Ronda's rich heritage continues to crumble.


FUGITIVE ALERT

Interpol issues appeal for wanted British child molester believed to be in Spain

By Oliver McIntyre

INTERPOL has issued a public appeal for a British man wanted in the US for allegedly kidnapping to teenage boys for sexual purposes after meeting them on the internet.  He is believed to be residing in Spain.

The search for Daren Michael Elarmo, 40, is part of a major Interpol manhunt that has already netted the arrests of more than 100 internationally wanted fugitives.  Operation Infra-Red (International Fugitive Round-up and Arrest - Red Notices) was launched on May 3 targeting 450 wanted criminals worldwide.  "They have all been convicted for, or are suspected of, committing serious offences which include murder, child sexual abuse, rape and drug trafficking," said Interpol in a statement.

Authorities say Mr Elarmo is suspected of "committing sexual acts with two teenage boys whom he met on social networking sites between 2005 and 2008."  He allegedly arranged to meet the boys in person and took them back to his house and performed sexual acts on them.

"Elarmo used the name Daren Jones when initiating contact, however in 2004 he changed his name in the United States to Daren Michael Elarmo," said Interpol.  He may also be known as Daren Michael Jones, Daren Jones, or Michael Jones Daren.

The 170cm (5ft 7in), brown-haired and brown-eyed Briton has a commercial pilot's licence and has also worked as a real estate appraiser, computer network manager and helicopter pilot.  He visited the UK in 2009 and has at times travelled to the Bahamas and South America, but is believed to now be in Spain, possibly living among the expat community.

Several other of the 26 fugitives on the latest Infra-Red wanted list may also be residing in Spain. 

Irishman John Griffin, wanted in connection with the 2005 murder of a 23-year-old woman in Galway, Ireland, is believed to be in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands or Spain.

Christopher Guest More is wanted by the UK in relation to a murder in Cheshire in June 2003, as well as the attempted murder of a second man.  His current location is unknown but he is believed to have fled to Spain following the murder and to have links to this country as well as Malta.

Swede Donald Roskic, wanted on drug charges, is believed to be in Spain or the Netherlands.

Moroccan-Finn Ayoub El Yaakoubi is suspected of killing his girlfriend in 1992 in Finland.  Her body was found buried in a forest in a plastic bag some two months after the alleged murder. El Yaakoubi is believed to be in Spain, France, Finland or Morocco.

"It is more likely that someone will recognize one of these fugitives from a social networking site or a chat room than spotting them walking down the street, but no matter how a member of the public has the information, we would ask that they pass it on," said Martin Cox, Assistant Director of Interpol's Fugitive Investigation Support unit and coordinator of Operation Infra-Red.

Interpol urges anyone with information regarding any of the wanted fugitives to send it to \n fugitive@interpol.int. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it   Information can also be given anonymously to Crimestoppers (hotline in Spain: 900 555 111) or via www.cisworld.org.


Police launch 'Petty Crime Day' surprise patrols

Officers will make unannounced one-day swoops on randomly selected towns

By Oliver McIntyre

BAG-SNATCHERS, pickpockets and other petty thieves in towns all along the Costa could be in for a big surprise this summer as the National Police launch 'Petty Crime Days' - a series of unannounced one-day swoops on randomly selected towns, focused specifically on rounding up small-time crooks.

The raids will be coordinated with local police and private security firms, said police officials, who announced the scheme last week during a briefing on Operación Verano, the national summertime law enforcement plan under which Málaga has received 175 National Police reinforcements and 47 extra Guardia Civil officers.

Police officials say that petty crime makes up 36 per cent of all offences and is the type of crime that most affects the average citizen. They say they are increasingly seeing a trend of organised, itinerant gangs of petty thieves, in some cases consisting of family or ethnic clans. Just last month the National Police shared with local police forces in Costa towns a list of 200 known petty criminals to watch out for.

While officials insist that the Costa del Sol has a low crime rate and is very safe, law enforcement authorities traditionally step up patrolling during the summer high season, especially in tourism-heavy zones.


EU residents asked to confirm empadronamiento

Not doing so could potentially lead to being dropped from the town hall register

By Oliver McIntyre

NUMEROUS town halls along the Costa have launched a process under which EU foreign residents who are registered at their local town hall (‘empadronado') must confirm their status.  Those who fail to do so could eventually be dropped from the register (‘padrón').

The move comes at the behest of the National Institute for Statistics, which, given the itinerant nature of some foreign residents and the recent trend of greater numbers of people returning to their home countries, wants to ensure that the padróns are cleared of names that should no longer be on them.  Among other things, these local census registers are used to calculate the official populations that are the basis for government funding for local town halls. 

Benalmádena town hall recently launched the process and requests that all EU residents who have been empadronado in the town for more than two years sign a confirmation form stating they still reside there.  The process will be required once every two years.  Those who have made changes to their padrón listing (such as an address change) within the last two years need not sign a confirmation form, as the data change has already confirmed that the entry is current.

Different town halls are handling the process in different ways, with some requiring the confirmation just once every five years, as is the case in Nerja, as well as in Marbella, where the town hall has sent a registered notification letter to residents, which once they have signed for, is considered confirmation of their empadronamiento. 

Residents of each town should contact their local town hall or foreigners' department for details on the frequency of the requirement and where they should go to sign the form. 


No electricity price hike after shock pact

Planned July rise put on hold as politicians agree to discuss energy policy reform

By Oliver McIntyre

CONSUMERS are not to be hit with an electricity price hike on July 1, after the government and opposition Partido Popular last week announced a surprise pact to freeze the rates as they enter into negotiations on a wider retooling of the nation's energy policy.

It was widely reported last month that officials were considering a four to five per cent rate hike - a move that was harshly criticised by consumer groups, who pointed out that electricity rates had already jumped by 26 per cent since 2008 (CDSN, June 17).

But now the roughly 26 million consumers who would be affected - including households and small businesses - are off the hook, at least for the time being.

Rate deficit

The restructuring of energy policy that is now to be discussed by the government and the PP will cover everything from infrastructure development to energy savings and sustainability - but will also have to address the fact that, with the current rate structure, the companies are charging less than what it costs them to deliver electricity.  Nearly half of the rate charged to users goes to taxes, paying down the companies' existing deficit, and other peripheral costs.

The electricity companies were themselves shocked last week by the announcement of the price freeze, which they called "very serious."  However, they also acknowledged that the incipient political détente between the government and the PP on energy policy could have positive effects.  One of the most important, they say, would be a restructuring of the costs built into the system. 

Including the projected figures for this year, the electric companies currently have an accumulated deficit of some 20 billion euros.