News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week April 29th to May 5th 2004.
COSTA COUNTERFEITERS UNCOVERED
Europe´s largest coin-counterfeiting scam operated from Benalmádena
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
THE NATIONAL POLICE LAST WEEK BROKE UP EUROPE’S BIGGEST AND HIGHEST-QUALITY COIN COUNTERFEITING OPERATION, RUN BY TWO ITALIANS OUT OF A BENALMÁDENA HOUSE.
Police sources have revealed that the counterfeiters – both former jewellers – had the capacity to stamp out as many as 2,000 fake two-euro coins a day and had been operating on the Costa del Sol from as far back as mid 2000. Authorities do not know the total quantity of money the men minted, but in last week’s raid police seized 80,000 falsified two-euro coins weighing 670 kilos. They also found about 2,000 fake 500-peseta coins, created by the counterfeiters before the introduction of the euro.
ALMOST IDENTICAL COINS
The police investigation, code-named ‘Operación Latón’, began in February after a suspicious Estepona shop owner reported that an Algerian man had attempted to pay for a purchase using 20 two-euro coins.
Police say the coins were counterfeited with a very high level of precision, appearing nearly identical to the real coins and differing in weight by just 0.1g. It is believed that one of the two ex-jewellers, Mijas resident Alvise B. (54), was the leader of the operation, while the other, Lotto M. (40), carried out the actual coin minting, using machinery and materials imported from Italy.
Investigators further revealed that Lotto M. would allegedly work intensive shifts from 8.00 to 17.00, without even stopping to eat, in the workshop the men had set up at number 20 Calle Maestro Segovia in the Torremuelle urbanisation of Benalmádena Costa. The gang had dug into the rock wall abutting the garage, effectively tripling the interior space without any visible changes on the exterior, and soundproofed the workshop with thick concrete walls.
The machine was set up to stamp Spanish, Italian and German versions of the euro coin. Two additional men, one Italian and the other Spanish, allegedly handled the distribution of the bogus coins and were also arrested in last week’s police operation.
Spain announces a new era of relations with Morocc
BY DAVID EADE
SPAIN’S NEW PRIME MINISTER, JOSÉ LUIS RODRIGUEZ ZAPATERO, HAS RETURNED FROM HIS FIRST VISIT TO MOROCCO. IT WAS HIS FIRST OVERSEAS ENGAGEMENT AS PRESIDENT OF THE NEW SPANISH GOVERNMENT DURING WHICH HE HELD TOP LEVEL TALKS WITH MOROCCO’S MONARCH MOHAMED VI.
Sr Rodriguez Zapatero told the media that his visit had been unsurpassable in its cordiality. He said it culminated in a firm agreement between both countries to intensify their mutual co-operation in the fight against terrorism as well as on matters relating to economic questions and illegal immigration.
During the visit, the Spanish premier and Moroccan monarch unveiled a monument in Casablanca to the 41 people who were killed in that city on May 16 2003. Four of the dead were Spanish and the attack also left hundreds injured. Both the Casablanca blasts and those in Madrid on March 11 have been blamed on Islamic militants.
The Ministers of the Interior of both countries, José Antonio Alonso and Mustafá Sahel, have agreed to meet in Madrid in two or three weeks time. They will discuss ways of improving security co-ordination on both a political and intelligence front between Madrid and Rabat.
With regards to illegal immigration the Spanish premier said both countries were working to have a joint ordinance to control immigration. He added that there would be an intensification in the fight against the mafias who traffic in these people.
Although the relations between Spain and Morocco have been given a new start there still remains a difference of opinion on the conflict in the Western Sahara. Spain is anxious to see an agreement reached with all parties involved in the territorial dispute under the auspices of the UN. Sr Rodriguez Zapatero stated that he thought this was achievable because the rights of all the parties involved are compatible.
The Spanish premier was asked by reporters whether the disputed enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla were discussed during his visit. He replied that this was the first time he had heard them mentioned adding that the position of the government was already known.
Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, will meet his British counterpart, Jack Straw, in London on May 20. The subject for the meeting will be Gibraltar. However there will be no in depth negotiations but both ministers intend to review the previous dialogue to see whether they can reactivate the Brussels Process or come up with a new type of mechanism for future discussions.
Nursery schools scrambling to meet ‘new’ codes
By Oliver McIntyre
Spain’s new national quality-in-education law, known as LOCE, has day-care and nursery school centres throughout the Costa region scrambling to meet with obligatory standards in both physical facilities and teaching personnel. According to the Junta de Andalucía’s Education Department, some 60 per cent of the day-cares and nursery schools in the province of Málaga either have not yet begun or are currently in the process of bringing their facilities up to code. The deadline is the end of August, meaning that centre’s not meeting the required standards by then will not be able to open their doors at the beginning of the new school year.
The requirements include a minimum classroom size of 30 square metres and the existence of at least one bathroom per classroom, with the appropriate number of sinks and toilets for the size of the class (maximum class size: 25 children). Also, all centres must have a playground area of at least 150 square metres and a 30-square-metre multipurpose room, and must adapt all facilities for wheelchair access. Finally, each classroom is required to have at least one licensed teacher with a specialisation in early-childhood education.
In truth, the ‘new’ regulations are not new at all. The previous education law (known as Logse) stipulated the requirements beginning 12 years ago. However, until now officials have repeatedly postponed the deadline for centres to come into compliance.
In the province of Málaga there are currently 63 private centres that officially meet the LOCE requirements, 69 that are in the process of making the necessary changes, and 16 that have yet to even begin the process. The Junta’s Education Department recommends that all parents inquire at their nursery or day-care centre to ensure that it meets the requirements or, if not, that it has begun the process and will be in compliance by the beginning of the new school year.
Gibraltar relaxes security levels
News Staff Reporter
The Governor of Gibraltar, Sir Francis Richards, has announced a relaxation in the security levels operating on the Rock. Immediately after the Madrid bombing on March 11 the level was raised to ‘Bikini Black Special’ but it has now reverted to its previous level known as ‘Bikini Amber’.
In his statement the governor stressed that security was the responsibility of all. He said that the rising of the security level to ‘Bikini Black Special’ had meant an increased workload for the armed services and he thanked the population for their patience during the inevitable inconvenience.
Since the tragic events in Madrid there have been a number of bomb scares on the Rock, which have caused the closure of the border and the evacuation of a shopping centre. The governor stressed that despite the fact that the security level had been lowered it was still important that people should keep an eye open for suspicious behaviour or objects.
The security of Gibraltar is the responsibility of both the Royal Gibraltar Police and the Ministry of Defence both of whom answer to the governor and not the civil government.
Small businesses win fight against British mall
Torremolinos business association celebrates end of 15-year battle
By Oliver McIntyre
THE TORREMOLINOS BUSINESS ASSOCIATION (ACET) REPORTED LAST WEEK THAT IT HAS FINALLY WON ITS 15-YEAR BATTLE AGAINST A BRITISH-OWNED DEVELOPMENT COMPANY THAT WANTED TO BUILD A COMMERCIAL CENTRE IN THE TOWN.
A decade and a half ago, when Peel Developments España S.L. announced plans to build a mall on a property near the Torremolinos Aquapark that was not zoned for commercial use, local small-business owners protested against the rezoning of the site. Indeed, it was from this battle that ACET was born, bringing the shop owners together to create a united front against the project.
ACET says that at the time it filed its initial lawsuit against the proposed mall, there were several other companies besides Peel, as well as the Town Hall and the Junta de Andalucía, involved in the case. However, as the courts began ruling against the mall development, all but Peel gradually ceased appealing the court decisions. The case finally reached the Andalucía High Court, and when it decided in favour of ACET on November 20 of last year, Peel was the only one left that might appeal yet again. Now the time limit for it to do so has passed, finally bringing the marathon case to an end.
According to ACET, while the property where the mall was to be built is currently zoned as non-commercial, its zoning could still be changed in future modifications to Torremolinos' town planning ordinance (PGOU). Whatever the case, the association says it plans to continue supporting traditional traders by promoting the so-called 'open-air mall' concept, which includes the creation of pedestrian-only streets and other measures to make town-centre shopping more attractive to the public.
ETA supporters demonstrate at Algeciras prison
NEWS Staff Reporter
Around 300 ETA sympathisers demonstrated outside the Botafuegos prison in Algeciras on Saturday, demanding that the terrorist prisoners held there be transferred to the Basque country. Family members and supporters of the 12 terrorists incarcerated in the Algeciras jail had travelled in five coaches from Vizcaya and Álava. The demonstration was noisy and festive in nature, accompanied by traditional Vasca music, and without any violence.
Ion Emparantza, a lawyer and member of the Movement Pro Amnesty, explained that the objective of the journey was to protest at the dispersal of the prisoners to jails far away from their families. He stated that the Algeciras protest would be followed by a pro amnesty week, which would develop into a national demonstration and an international conference.
The demonstration at Algeciras was held at the same time as another protest at the French prison of Bapaume. These two locations were chosen as they represent the two jails holding ETA terrorists that are the furthest away from the Basque region.
Trains, planes and roads get Madrid support
New Development Minister says infrastructure promises will be met
BY DAVE JAMIESON
THE NEW MINISTER FOR DEVELOPMENT HAS CONFIRMED THAT THE AREA’S MAJOR TRANSPORT DEVELOPMENTS WILL CONTINUE TO RECEIVE GOVERNMENT SUPPORT.
Speaking in Málaga last Thursday, shortly after formally taking up her position, Magdalena Álvarez said that all promises made during campaigning for the General Election would be met. This would include the capital’s second ring road, and the Las Pedrizas motorway towards Antequera, plus a second runway for Málaga airport. The minister said that the previous administration had ‘forgotten’ Andalucía and how to conduct democratic consultation with the autonomous communities, adding there were many questions which had to be resolved while warning that the new Government ‘could not immediately repair everything not done by the Partido Popular over the last eight years’.
Sra Álvarez, who was born in Cádiz and studied at Málaga University, also underlined the importance of the new railway line, planned for the eastern Costa del Sol and terminating in Nerja, describing it as ‘the star’ amongst pending transport services. She talked of the importance of medium and long term infrastructure planning and suggested adequate transportation projects for the area could be place within ten or fifteen years, and confirmed that Málaga’s ambitious plans for a new metro service would continue to receive support from Madrid. The Minister also expressed awareness of the state of deterioration of many of the region’s roads, and undertook to address the issue.
NERJA RAILWAY LINE CONCERNS
Meanwhile, Nerja business leaders have expressed concerns about plans for the east coast railway line, presently on the drawing board. Their local association says the project would have a detrimental visual impact, particularly at the entrance to Nerja where a station is planned around the site of the present coach stopping area. Provisional plans for the track’s approach to the town include a tunnel under the Punta Lara hill and a bridge across the River Seco which, they say, would have a considerable effect on buildings in the area.
The association suggests as an alternative that a monorail, running alongside the N-340 road, should be considered. Meanwhile, their colleagues in Maro have asked for the tracks to be extended, to take trains an extra four kilometres further east, with the line terminating at the Nerja Caves.
Málaga plans regal reception for new sea Queen
News Staff Reporter
Málaga is planning a major reception for the Queen Mary 2 when she docks in the capital on June 1. The world’s largest cruise liner will be making her first voyage to the Mediterranean with 2,600 passengers on board in luxury accommodation. On Saturday, Málaga’s councillor for tourism, Antonio Urda, took advantage of the opening of Expocruceros, a trade fair based in the city, to confirm that special events would be staged to mark the arrival of the vessel, which is higher than the Eiffel Tower and has an area equal to three and half football pitches. She will arrive at 8.00 and the councillor is hoping to attract many of her passengers to disembark for the day in order to enjoy a special cultural itinerary presently under discussion.
Málaga is clearly making a major impact on the cruise industry, as evidenced at Expocruceros where delegates remarked on the city’s climate and culture which, they say, now place it amongst the best European ports of call for liners. Last year, Spanish ports received more than 3.3 million cruise passengers, a fifth up on 2002, and the sector is anticipating further increase of more than 30 per cent in the next two years. June’s visit by Queen Mary 2 will be the first of three she will make to Málaga this year, with returns planned for September 6 and October 21.
Motril sea rescue after two days and nights adrift
Youngsters’ fishing expedition turns into a nightmare
BY DAVE JAMIESON
THREE YOUNG LEISURE SAILORS ARRIVED AT MOTRIL’S PORT LAST FRIDAY AFTER A FISHING TRIP WHICH LASTED A LITTLE LONGER AND TURNED OUT TO BE MUCH MORE DANGEROUS THAN THEY EXPECTED.
The trio, aged between 18 and 20 - Wayne, originally British but now nationalised Spanish, Carlos, a Spaniard and Nicolás from Switzerland - set sail at on Tuesday morning from Puerto Banús, planning to spend a pleasant few hours around the fishery banks off Estepona, but ended up many kilometres away and three days later, when they were rescued 25 miles off the Motril coast.
Relating the adventure, the three said that, once their five metre motor boat, the Relax I, was at sea, the weather changed quickly, with the wind rapidly increasing from a gentle force one to a strong force seven. They tried to return to shore, but their craft did not have the power to fight against the wind and strong currents, so gradually drifted east as its crew began to lose their sense of direction. A flat battery on the mobile telephone left them without any means of communicating with the shore, and with fuel running out, their situation began to look desperate. The fishermen spent the next two days and nights on the powerless boat with only two bottles of liquid yoghurt, a dozen chorizo sandwiches and three litres of water which they rationed carefully. Two of them even resorted to eating raw fish to stave off hunger pangs.
IGNORED BY TANKERS
They reported feeling in particular peril at night when several large tankers passed close by them, although none heard their cries for help. The youths claimed, however, that one vessel did spot them but ignored their shouts because, they suggested, they looked like a group of illegal immigrants heading for the Spanish coast. Between them, the three had one small torch which they switched on only when trying to attract the attention of a passing ship.
Their families raised the alarm later on Tuesday when the trio failed to return as expected, and the Marine Rescue service launched an immediate search. Three helicopters, two aircraft and two boats were involved in the attempt to locate the missing fishermen, but without result.
At 09.00 last Friday morning, the three were finally rescued, when they were found by the crew of a fishing boat, the Manolo Puyol, who stayed with them until a craft from Marine Rescue arrived to take them ashore. Apart from being exhausted and suffering some sun burn, the adventurers were in perfect health on arrival at Motril, where they immediately headed to a restaurant for a good square meal. Their simple fishing expedition was completed when they arrived home in Marbella at 20.00 on Friday, more than 80 hours after setting out.
Converting used cooking oil into diesel
By David Eade
A special campaign has been launched in Fuengirola that will benefit the many restaurants, hotels and colleges in the resort. In the coming days the company Sernfran, working in collaboration with the Town Hall, will start sending containers to the major producers of used cooking oil to collect this kitchen waste that is extremely contaminated.
According to the councillor for the environment, María Jesús Pascual, not only do catering establishments currently throw away litres of this cooking product but also a large amount of it ends up in the sea. Now thanks to the agreement between Sernfran and the Town Hall an information campaign will be started to seek the co-operation of all catering businesses to use this new free collection service. There are a number of laws that govern the disposal of waste cooking oil and a series of penalties for kitchens that do not comply with these norms. However by using this new service these establishments can now let Sernfran handle the problem for them.
Sernfran director, Soledad Roldán, said the oil would be collected at no charge to the catering establishment and sent to the company’s storage facility in Alhaurín de la Torre. From there it would be transported by tanker lorry to a recycling plant in Cataluña, which is the only one of its type in Spain. The plant will then convert the used cooking oil into bio diesel. This fuel is currently being used by a number of town halls in Cataluña to fuel their municipal vehicles. Sra Roldán said the company had been operating for two years and the end results have proved to be ‘very positive’.
Call for change to 'Hospital Rey Juan Carlos'
Málaga’s Carlos Haya Hospital could change name
BY DAVE JAMIESON
COULD MÁLAGA’S CARLOS HAYA HOSPITAL BE ABOUT TO CHANGE ITS NAME? AND WHO WAS CARLOS HAYA ANYWAY?
If workers at one of the city’s most important health care facilities have their way, the name will change to Hospital Rey Juan Carlos, honouring Spain’s present monarch. Trades unions representing the 5,000 employees at Carlos Haya have asked its management for the name change, following a unanimous vote of approval at a meeting early this month.
The hospital’s director, Francisco José Juan Ruiz, described the proposal as ‘a very interesting idea’ but said no decision had yet been taken on whether or not it would be put to Health Service chiefs in Sevilla. He added that the impact of a name change would have to be assessed, pointing out that the present name is very well known in the area and it was important not to cause confusion. A Málaga deputy in the regional parliament, Antonio Romero, has already supported the move, but if the change gets a final go-ahead, the approval of the Royal family would have to be sought by the Junta de Andalucía.
THE CARLOS HAYA HISTORY
The first buildings of the hospital were opened in 1956 in the presence of Francisco Franco, and were named after Carlos de Haya González, born in Bilbao in 1902, who became an important figure in the history of Spanish aviation. In 1929, he set speed records and in 1931 flew over the Sahara and the jungles of Niger. He flew more than 300 raids during the Civil War, and died in 1936 during the offensive on Teruel. His link to Málaga comes from his marriage to Josefina, daughter of a prominent city doctor.
HOSPITALS NAMED AFTER THE ROYAL FAMILY
The workers’ representatives at Carlos Haya point out that many institutions have already changed from names with Civil War connections to those unconnected with any political ideology, and say that King Juan
Carlos has always been emblematic of all Spanish citizens. Precedents cited include the Hospital Reina Sofía in Sevilla, the Hospital Infanta Elena in Huelva, and the Hospital Juan Carlos I in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. However, they say no hospital in the country yet bears the name Rey Juan Carlos.