News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week July 3rd to July 9th 2003.
COSTA COPS MOUNT SUMMER DRUG WAR
Spain's Home Office puts 300 officers on the trail of small-scale dealers
By Oliver McIntyre
THE SPANISH HOME OFFICE HAS ANNOUNCED PLANS TO CRACK DOWN ON SMALL-SCALE DRUG DEALING ALONG THE BUSY COSTA DEL SOL THIS SUMMER, ESPECIALLY TARGETING DESIGNER DRUGS AS WELL AS THE SALE OF ALCOHOL TO MINORS.
The Guardia Civil and National Police will devote a total of 300 officers to fighting against the illegal drug trade, in what authorities have dubbed 'Plan Verano 2003'. Undercover officers and uniformed cops will be investigating suspicious activities in and around Costa nightlife hot-spots, as well as carrying out routine traffic checkpoints looking for drug-related infractions.
However, the beefed up drugs squad won't just be concentrating on the Costa clubbing scene and will operate wherever authorities believe there is a high incidence of drug dealing and use. According to police sources, surveillance will not only cover town centres where discotheques and night clubs are located and large rave parties are held, but also urbanisations, beach bars, concert venues, youth hangouts, or any other locale where drugs are believed to be sold and consumed. The long arm of 'Plan Verano 2003' will also extend inland to small villages, where drugs sales mimic coast consumption and peak in the summer months.
FIFTEEN-FOLD COP INCREASE
According to the chief of the Guardia Civil in Málaga, Francisco Gabella, there is a permanent unit of 20 officers who focus year-round on small-scale drug dealing along the Costa del Sol. With this summer's 'Plan Verano 2003', that force will be increased 15-fold, with the Guardia Civil and National Police each contributing agents to the drug taskforce.
So far this year, the Guardia Civil has carried out 143 separate operations in its fight against small-scale drug dealing along the Costa, resulting in a total of 104 arrests and 1,634 infractions. The operations included the inspection of 8,919 vehicles and identification checks on 13,140 people. Officers confiscated 201 kilos of hashish, 40.5 grams of cocaine, 4.1 grams of heroine, 34 grams of marihuana, four grams of speed, and 43 ecstasy tablets.
THE BRITISH CONNECTION
Eight Britons arrested in three separate drug busts
By David Eade
BRITISH CITIZENS HAVE BEEN ARRESTED FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING IN THREE SEPARATE LAW-ENFORCEMENT OPERATIONS.
In one operation, National Police forces found 1,300 kilos of hashish hidden in jars of olives in a Marbella warehouse. The discovery was made by Nerón, a rottweiler trained to sniff out drugs. The illegal cargo was destined for delivery to the UK.
In a joint operation, police from Madrid and Marbella discovered that the hashish was being purchased in Morocco, then stored in Marbella, where it was packaged as olives before being forwarded to Madrid for future shipment to Britain. The investigation led to the arrest of Britons Ciaran S., Simon H. and Bernard C., along with Humberto C.
The second raid took place at a warehouse in the Martín Méndez industrial estate in Estepona. According to police, a gang of British drug-runners was using the site due to its proximity to the motorway and to the local beach where the drugs were landed in bales.
The gang used hollowed-out wooden beams to transport the drugs to the UK. Police found 1,200 kilos of hashish at the site, along with a sufficient number of prepared beams to transport the cargo. They arrested three Britons, one a 16-year-old minor.
Finally, Customs agents in Gibraltar seized the yacht Perkeo after acting on information supplied by the Guardia Civil in Alicante. The Gibraltar-registered 16.5-metre-yacht was en route from the Azores to the port of Alicante when it was intercepted by Customs after docking in Gibraltar's marina.
Officers assisted by sniffer dogs and divers discovered 550 kilos of cocaine on board the yacht. The drugs were hidden in two hermetically sealed compartments designed to prevent detection by dogs.
Police arrested the two-man crew of the yacht, a Slovakian and a Spaniard. They also arrested a British woman who arrived later in the day at Gibraltar airport on a flight from the UK. All three are helping police with their enquiries.
Police believe the bust struck a blow at an international drugs network that was smuggling cocaine from South America to Spain for distribution in the UK.
NERJA POLICE INJURED BY RUNAWAY HORSE
By Dave Jamieson
Visitors in the centre of Nerja's old town witnessed an unexpected and dangerous incident last Friday when two police officers were injured as they tried to stop a runaway horse-drawn carriage. The animal pulling the carriage was travelling at considerable speed without its owner in the busy tourist area of the Balcón de Europa when the two local officers attempted to intervene. The carriage hit one of the officers' motorcycle, which fell on his leg, fracturing several toes. The other officer was struck on the leg by the carriage, but managed to hang on to the horse's neck for 25 metres until it came to rest in Calle El Barrio. Both officers were taken to hospital in Vélez-Málaga for treatment.
The runaway carriage caused damage to several road signs and four parked motorcycles, and also smashed into an ONCE kiosk, although the owner was luckily absent at the time. It is not clear why the horse bolted, but witnesses said that shouts and cries of warning simply panicked it further.
The Town Hall immediately suspended the other carriages in the town from operating until their starting point was relocated away from the Balcón de Europa. Local residents considered it a "miracle" that there were only two injuries in the incident, which occurred in an area that attracts a large number of holidaymakers. Many also speculated on what the result might have been had the horse entered Calle Diputación, where traffic travels the opposite way and where many elderly people congregate at a local social club. It was not the first time such an event has occurred in Nerja; two years ago, a runaway carriage in Calle Los Huertos caused considerable damage to 20 parked cars.
BODIES FOUND FLOATING IN THE STRAITS
Dolphin-watching tourist boat discovers victims
By David Eade
THE SPANISH COASTGUARD HAS RECOVERED THE BODIES OF TWO WOMEN OF SUB-SAHARAN ORIGIN WHO WERE FOUND FLOATING IN THE WATERS OF THE STRAITS OF GIBRALTAR.
The women, both reported to be less than 25-years-old, were brought ashore by a patrol boat based at Tarifa. The recovery operation took place at mid-day after the tourist boat Rainbow spotted the bodies six miles south-east of the Isla de las Palomas. The crew of the Rainbow, which had been taking passengers on a dolphin safari trip, immediately reported the gruesome find to the Coastguard co-ordination centre at Tarifa.
The two women are believed to have been part of a group trying to cross the Straits. Their discovery followed the rescue of 57 sub-Saharans, who were picked up by authorities when their inflatable boat, which was overcrowded and in danger of sinking, was found at 07.15 on the same day, seven miles south-east of Tarifa. Boats from the Coastguard, Guardia Civil and Red Cross brought 29 male and 22 female illegal immigrants to safety at Tarifa, including two babies. Seven of the women were pregnant.
According to the sub-delegate of the Government in Cádiz, the Coastguard has been carrying out a search operation in case there are any further bodies. A patrol boat and helicopter have been searching the zone between Tarifa and the Bay of Algeciras, but so far without further finds.
BODY FOUND IN CEUTA
In a separate incident, a group of children in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta found a body of a sub-Saharan man on the local beach whilst they celebrated the festival of San Juan. It is not believed that the deceased man, aged between 25 and 30 years, was linked to the Tarifa incident, as it appeared he was trying to swim from Morocco to Ceuta.
TWO NEW FIRE TRUCKS HUGE BOOST TO MIJAS SAFETY
TWO NEW FIRE TRUCKS HUGE BOOST TO MIJAS SAFETY
By Oliver McIntyre
Mijas Mayor Agustín Moreno, along with representatives from the town's fire department, proudly presented the municipality's two new high-tech fire trucks last week. The new vehicles represent a 600,000-euro upgrade to the town's firefighting capacity, and are the department's first full-size, fully equipped fire trucks. They are the first step in the creation of Mijas' own fire department (until now Mijas has shared fire-protection services with neighbouring Fuengirola). Mayor Moreno indicated that a complete fire station will be built by the end of 2004 or the beginning of 2005.
The trucks include such features as high- and low-pressure water pumps, on-board water and foam tanks, and specialised respiration tanks, which firefighters strap on while seated in the cab of the truck and then wear into the fire zone. The respiration tanks automatically regulate air-flow pressure, monitor temperature in the surroundings, and even sound an alarm if the firefighter remains motionless for a set period of time. The fire department's Diego Jiménez explained to CDSN that the device can measure temperatures up to 500 degrees - or the level at which the equipment starts to melt - but "once it hits 200, you better get out of there and come back when things cool down."
The trucks are also equipped with GPS-GSM vehicle-tracking devices that allow central dispatchers to provide the firefighters information regarding the precise location of fire hydrants and other resources, the existence of potential hazards, and the fastest routes to their destination (including street maps). The data is received via an on-board printer.
In the last 12 months, Mijas firefighters have responded to 629 incidents. These included 155 fire-related calls, 29 traffic accidents, 21 rescue operations and 10 animal-rescue calls. Fire department officials expect the new trucks to improve the firefighters' ability to respond to all types of emergencies in the town.
MARBELLA ON FIRE ALERT
NEWS Staff Reporter
Regional government has declared the municipality of Marbella an area of high risk for summer fires. The reason is the existence of many mountain and forest areas within its boundaries and the location of a large number of the town's roads and urbanisations near the forested zones. In response to the threat, the Town Hall has decided to put into effect a local emergency plan. The document requires property owners, associations, urbanisations, population centres, camping sites and businesses located on forestland or in nearby zones to undertake self-protection measures.
Under the plan, residential areas within fire-prone areas must have plans in place to ensure the prevention and detection of fires, and must also establish evacuation programmes and have the means to protect the area from a forest blaze. In addition, camping sites must have a 15-metre-wide firebreak around their perimeter plus a minimum reserve of 7,000 litres of water.
NINE CHARGED IN 11-MILLION-EURO TIMESHARE SCAM
By Oliver McIntyre
A Torremolinos court has scheduled a hearing for nine people charged with running a timeshare scam in which they allegedly took 11 million euros from nearly 1,000 victims. Investigations into the suspect timeshare operation began after criminal charges were filed by an ex employee of one of the companies involved in the alleged scam. According to the charges, the company Bono Club Reventas y Gestiones contacted holiday timeshare owners and indicated that there was an interested buyer for their holiday week. The timeshare owners were directed to the offices of one of two companies in Benalmádena - Comercializadora El Portón or Jomarotxe - to carry out the sale.
Once at one of the Benalmádena offices, the timeshare owners were told that the buyers wanted additional weeks. To meet this need, the timeshare owners were urged to purchase an additional 10,820-euro, four-week package, which would then quickly be turned around and sold to the interested buyer. All a mere matter of paperwork, company representatives assured the timeshare owners.
Contracts were signed assuring that the original timeshare week, along with the new four-week package, would be resold within eight months. The timeshare owners received an 1,800-euro rebate to pay the first eight monthly payments on the five-year bank loan they were given to finance the 'temporary' purchase of the new four-week package. The only catch, according to the charges against the alleged con artists, was that the four-week packages never existed and the whole claim of interested buyers was a charade.
The nine suspects, associated with three separate companies allegedly involved in the scam, have a hearing scheduled for July 7.
The case is one of as many as 80 fraudulent timeshare resale scams that police have broken up in the last two years on the Costa del Sol. According to the National Police's Fraud Unit in Málaga, the chief victims are foreigners, and in particular Britons, but more and more Spanish citizens are being targeted as well. The Fraud Unit believes the scammers somehow - perhaps from timeshare company employees - get lists of unsatisfied timeshare owners and then target those individuals for the 'resale' rip-offs.
ONE HUNDRED NEW COPS TO PROTECT AND SERVE TOURISTS
Málaga first province to receive specialised tourism units
By Dave Jamieson and Oliver McIntyre
REGIONAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WANT TOURISTS TO FEEL SAFE AND SECURE DURING THEIR HOLIDAYS ON THE COSTA THIS SUMMER. TO ENSURE THAT THEY DO, MÁLAGA IS TO BECOME THE FIRST PROVINCE IN SPAIN WITH SPECIAL POLICE UNITS TRAINED IN TOURISM SECURITY.
The specialised units, made up initially of 100 officers, will be based in principal tourist centres during the busiest months of the year. The officers will have a basic knowledge of foreign languages and specialised training in the law as it affects visitors from abroad, and they will wear special uniforms identifying them as tourist officers.
The new tourism units are to start operating first in the province of Málaga, and then Cádiz, with representation in resort towns and the capital cities. If the programme is successful, regional government will consider expanding the special force to cover other Andalucían provinces. Thirty officers received the special training last summer at the Andalucía Public Safety School (ESPA), where the rest of the initial 100 tourism officers completed their training last Friday.
According to the regional government's Home minister, Alfonso Perales, the new force is meant to "reinforce the sense of security" for tourists visiting Andalucía. Sr Perales noted that Andalucía is already well geared to tourism, with operators who can assist callers in English, French and German on the 112 emergency telephone service, and with the regional government's new tourist arbitration service, which will resolve holidaymakers' disputes with Spanish businesses.
EIGHT COSTA TOWNS TO EXTEND SHOP HOURS
Manilva bids to be included in Sunday shopping programme
By David Eade
From July 1, tourists flocking to the Costa del Sol can choose between spending Sundays on the beaches or shopping at local commercial centres. Regional government has granted special permission for shops in eight Costa tourist towns to open for business on Sundays.
Beginning July 6, shopkeepers in Marbella, Fuengirola, Benalmádena, Torremolinos, Estepona, Nerja, Mijas and Rincón de la Victoria will be able to open their doors to customers seven days a week, including holidays. The Junta de Andalucía has approved the Sunday trading hours from the start of July through to September 15, and the holiday openings through to the end of the year.
Now Manilva wants to join the eight trading municipalities, so its shop owners, too, can open seven days a week in the summer and at festivals. The Town Hall has told the regional government it wishes to be declared a 'major tourist zone', the necessary qualification for extended opening hours. The authority has responded by sending the necessary documentation for Manilva to make its case for inclusion.