News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week April 8th to April 14th 2004.
Kidnapped Briton freed
Family pays Anglo-Lithuanian gang large sum for release
BY DAVID EADE
THE FAMILY OF A BRITISH BUSINESSMAN WHO WAS KIDNAPPED TWO WEEKS AGO AT SAN PEDRO’S LOS ALMENDROS COMPLEX, HAS PAID A LARGE SUM OF MONEY TO SECURE HIS RELEASE.
The money was handed over to the kidnappers on Sunday in a location which has not been revealed by the authorities.
As reported in Costa del Sol News last week, the Briton was kidnapped on 25 March near his home on a luxury urbanization, Los Almendros, situated on the Ronda road above San Pedro in the municipality of Benahavís. A gang of men forced him at gunpoint into an all-terrain vehicle with a Málaga number plate which drove off at high speed while another member of the gang drove the kidnapped man’s own car, which was later found abandoned in Puerto Banús. Police have arrested one member of the gang, but have not revealed his identity or his relation to the kidnap.
ANGLO-LITHUANIAN GANG HUNT
Police believe the gang of kidnappers are made up of between four and six British and Lithuanian citizens. Both the British and Spanish authorities have released little information on the case as they worked towards the captive’s release and the capture of the gang involved.
The police have revealed that a specialist squad belonging to the National Police in Málaga has been assigned to the case and has been liasing with their colleagues in the province in which the victim was held.
THREE MILLION EUROS RANSOM
Police sources have confirmed that the family were asked to pay three million euros for the release of the wealthy businessman. However, it was later reported that only half a million euros was handed over on Sunday to secure the victim’s freedom. It is understood that he would first return to the family home in Benahavís before returning to the UK.
Meanwhile the hunt for the Anglo-Lithuanian gang continues with police still maintaining an open mind as to the circumstances surrounding the kidnap.
Residents protest at Rincón town hall meeting
Recent floods main bone of contention
By Oliver Mcintyre
THREE HUNDRED RESIDENTS ATTENDED LAST WEEK’S MEETING OF THE RINCÓN DE LA VICTORIA TOWN HALL, AT WHICH THE TOWN’S RECENT FLOOD DAMAGE WAS THE PRIMARY TOPIC.
The residents demanded long-term solutions to the flooding problems and an investigation into who was responsible for the factors leading to the devastating flood of two weeks ago. The group Foro Ciudadano Rincón de la Victoria presented a petition that it says it is submitting to the Andalucía High Court to request an investigation into the possibility of criminal negligence in the over-development that the Foro says contributed to the flood.
The Town Hall, meanwhile, passed a measure calling for a study of interim measures that can be taken prior to the creation and approval of the town’s new planning ordinance (PGOU), which isn’t expected to be completed for another two years. The Town Hall indicated it may enact a one-year moratorium on building and development licences and that it will allow no re-building of structures damaged by the floodwaters and located in areas infringing on the Arroyo Pajaritos. It also said that some garages and storage sheds in the area will be torn down. Finally, the Town Hall approved a measure to apply for central government assistance in infrastructure rebuilding and subsidies for property owners affected by the flood.
STORM DAMAGE ESTIMATED AT 500,000 EUROS
Meanwhile, the Junta de Andalucía has estimated the storm and rain damage to rural and agricultural roads in the Axarquía region at 500,000 euros, not including Rincón de la Victoria, which had an additional 530,000 euros in damages to such roads. Outside of Rincón, the hardest hit town was Periana, followed by Colmenar and Almáchar.
The rural highways in the area, which are maintained by the provincial government, are all open to traffic, except the Olías-to-Totalán and Cútar-to-El Borge roads.
King changes story yet again in new testimony
By Oliver McIntyre
Accused double-murderer Tony Alexander King late last week gave testimony for the third time in the judicial investigation into the 1999 killing of 19-year-old Rocío Wanninkhof in Mijas, and, as in previous declarations, he changed his version of who was involved in the crime and how it occurred. King’s latest testimony points the finger at his acquaintance Robert Graham, also British, and Spaniard Dolores Vázquez, who was previously tried and found guilty for the crime but later released from jail when the higher courts annulled the trial on technicalities.
According to King’s new testimony, on the day of the Wanninkhof murder he was given a hallucinogenic drug (possibly LSD) by Vazquez and Graham and ‘hypnotised’ by the latter. He also claimed that a fourth person was with them in the car at the time of crime, and that he remembers only that that person was a family member of the victim. In his drugged and hypnotised state, he said, Graham and Vazquez made him smoke a cigarette and then threw the butt on the ground at the scene of the murder.
JURY OR TRIBUNAL?
Coming out of the session, the lawyer for the family of Rocío Wanninkhof, Marcos García Montes, told reporters that the new testimony indicates that there was no sexual motive for the crime, which would mean the case could be tried before a jury rather than by a tribunal. He also called for testimony from the psychologist to whom King allegedly confessed to the killing. Meanwhile, King’s new lawyer, Javier Saavedra, indicated that he may call for Dolores Vázquez and Robert Graham to testify again in the judicial investigation.
Correos warns of telephone scam
NEWS Staff Reporter
The Correos postal company issued a warning last week about a telephone scam being operated falsely under its name in Málaga. According to Correos, it has received at least five complaints from consumers who were called and told that they had received a package but the address was wrong or incomplete and they needed to call the post office to claim the item. The number they were given to call was an ‘806’ or ‘807’ number, which are extra-fee lines that charge up 1.95 euros per minute. The scam is simply to get people to call those numbers and keep them on the line as long as possible to ring up excessive charges.
Correos advises that it has no ‘806’ or ‘807’ telephone numbers; the only special number it operates is its 900 50 60 70 toll-free information line. It also indicates that the only time it returns packages is when the recipient refuses to take delivery or the package sits for a specified period of time at the post office without being claimed, in which cases the item is returned to the sender.
Britons seek overturning of damages case
By David Eade
Two Britons, John Shane Smith and his father, Robert Smith, both resident in Gibraltar have gone to La Línea court to have a judgement against them overturned on procedural grounds.
The case was brought by La Línea resident Domingo Sody who was seriously injured 10 years ago when a high-speed Zodiac launch piloted by John Smith, but owned by his father Robert, ran over him on the Levante beach. Mr Sody was seriously injured in the incident and his lawyer has described him ten-years-on as an invalid and in fragile health.
The Smiths are seeking to have the judgement against them thrown out on procedural grounds stating that the court case was full of errors and defects. In addition they are demanding that Domingo Sody should bear all the costs of the case.
Mr Sody’s lawyer has demanded that the court impose the judgement already made against the pair. He has asked for their properties and assets in Spain to be embargoed or their car impounded as it passes through customs at the La Línea border or that the British father and son should pay the 63,000 euros plus interest and costs originally awarded by the court.
Ferry-landing security alert
Unions warn of danger to passengers at Spain's third busiest port
By David Eade
THE USO UNION HAS VOICED ITS ALARM AT THE LACK OF SECURITY FOR PASSENGERS TRAVELLING TO THE PORTS OF CEUTA AND TANGIERS BY FERRY FROM ALGECIRAS FOLLOWING THE RECENT TERRORIST ATTACKS IN SPAIN.
In a communiqué the union criticised the port authority for not operating the scanner controls and for lack of security personnel on the ferries leaving for Ceuta and Tangiers. The union is especially concerned about the passenger ferry that leaves for Ceuta at 06.00 and the 22.30 sailing to Tangiers.
The USO said it recently requested the port authority to put into action the security systems for both of these sailings but claims the port authority said that under the Interior plan for security it was not obligated to operate these controls.
The union said it could not understand the stance of the port authority, which controls Algeciras, the third busiest port in Spain and the country's largest container facility. USO officials stated that they were not talking about the port's responsibility for not complying with the security norms and laws but its moral responsibility after the terrorist attacks of March 11 and the explosives found on the high-speed railway line between Madrid and Sevilla.
In condemning the attitude of the port, the union said "it was playing with the lives of passengers by not hiring the necessary personnel or paying the extra hours, even more so on these ferry lines that carry more than four million passengers, where if there was an attack, the number of dead could be treble" that of 3/11.
PORT AUTHORITY RESPONSE
The port authority replied by stating that the scanners in the port have been operational since July 23 of last year and their use is only obligatory from July 1 of this year. It also stressed that the use of scanners was a pilot scheme being carried out in Algeciras, which is the first port in Spain to have such equipment installed.
Over 900 inmates transferred out of Alhaurín priso
NEWS Staff Reporter
More than 900 inmates were transferred from the overcrowded Alhaurín de la Torre prison to other correctional facilities in 2003 and early 2004, according to recent data released by the prison. The transfers occurred on a periodic basis, whenever the prison population grew to over 1,500 inmates. The Alhaurín facility has 837 cells, which by law can each hold two inmates, although one per cell is recommended. As of last week, the prison was housing approximately 1,400 inmates.
When selecting inmates for transfer to other prisons, officials try ensure that those chosen "have no link to Málaga," meaning that they have no family and no employment background in the province. Also considered is the length of a prisoner's sentence, with inmates serving sentences of under three years less likely to be transferred. First-time offenders are more likely to be retained at Alhaurín, as are those close to their release or parole date and those taking classes or performing jobs inside the prison. Often, foreign prisoners are the most likely to be transferred.
According to prison records, the percentage of foreign prisoners is on the increase. In the last year, the number of foreigners among the inmate population grew two per cent, with non-Spaniards now making up 28 per cent of all prisoners at the facility. According to the British Consulate, as of March 22 there were 34 Britons being held at the Alhaurín prison, but that number fluctuates widely and at times has been over a hundred.
Málaga regulates city beaches
By Dave Jamieson
THE CITY OF MÁLAGA HAS LONG BEEN UNIQUE ON THE COSTA DEL SOL IN ITS COMPLETE LACK OF BY-LAWS TO REGULATE THE USE OF ITS BEACHES.
However, all that changed at a recent Town Hall meeting, with the approval of a raft of regulations and associated fines ranging from 90 to 900 euros.
Amongst the most serious offences are cooking food or using a barbecue on the sands (except on the first night of the annual city fair in August and the night of San Juan in June), for which the minimum fine is 450 euros. A similar fine will be levied for contaminating the water with dangerous substances or for navigating boats or other craft into zones specified for bathers.
Camping, building a fire, fishing outside of permitted hours and taking a dog onto the beach will attract a minimum 150-euro fine, while unsociable behaviour, including playing games or music causing a disturbance to others, has a minimum 90-euro sanction.
Despite the array of new regulations, some city residents have already complained that their voices were not heard by the Town Hall when the legislation was being drafted. A spokesman for one group, Solidarity, said its members had highlighted several areas of concern to councillors, but none had been addressed in the new rules.
Another association, Unity, said it had expected a public meeting at which such issues could be discussed, but none was called. Its spokesman, Adolfo Gálvez, said the regulations should have included facilities for the disabled, which presently do not exist on all city beaches.
La Viñuela dumps 18,000 cubic metres an hour
Water-letting at Costa reservoirs following spring rains
By Oliver McIntyre
FOLLOWING THE RECENT HEAVY RAINS THROUGHOUT THE COSTA REGION, OFFICIALS LAST WEEK HAD TO OPEN THE FLOOD GATES OF THE AXARQUÍA'S LA VIÑUELA DAM, DUMPING WATER AT A RATE OF SOME 18,000 CUBIC METRES PER HOUR IN ORDER TO BRING THE RESERVOIR LEVEL INTO THE 'SAFETY ZONE'.
It was the first time since 1997 that water-letting has been necessary due to an excessively high level at the reservoir, which, with a total capacity of 170 cubic hectares, is the province of Málaga's largest.
La Viñuela's current 90 per cent of capacity guarantees the region's water supply for over four years, say officials. Its water load increased by 12 per cent in a single week during the recent storms, with the surface level rising some three metres. The high waters have attracted hundreds of onlookers curious to check out the swollen reservoir, and last week a film crew showed up to film a car commercial at the site.
25 BILLION LITRES
Between La Viñuela and two other principal reservoirs in the province - La Concepción between Istán and Marbella, and the capital's El Limonero - over 25 billion litres of water were dumped following the heavy rains.
John Cleveland band returns to Nerja
By Oliver Mcintyre
EASTER SUNDAY SEES THE RETURN TO NERJA OF THE JOHN CLEVELAND BAND FROM HINCKLEY, LEICESTERSHIRE.
The group, established in 1976 as a ‘college band’, has developed a widespread following through annual tours to cities and towns all over Europe, including previous visits to the Costa del Sol.
Directed by Eric Darlington, now retired as vice-principal of the college after which the band is named, the group, consisting of young students and other musicians, boasts an extensive repertoire, from music of the big-band era of Glenn Miller, through movie and television themes, to hits from the great musicals. “The wide variety allows for performances in both formal ‘concert’ style and ‘dance band’ mode, recalling the days of popular ballroom dancing with quicksteps, slow foxtrots, waltzes and others,” says a spokesman for the group.
Among the venues confirmed for the band’s week in Nerja (April 11 to 18) are the Balcón de Europa, where it will offer a free open-air concert, the Casa de Cultura, the Nerja Club Hotel and Oasis de Capistrano. The band will also be providing the entertainment at this year’s Royal British Legion Spring Ball.
After what the group describes as the ‘resounding success’ of its previous tour to Nerja in 2002, band members requested this year’s return visit, during which they hope to ‘further enhance the band's reputation of providing first-class entertainment for all’.