News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week July 22nd to July 28th 2004.
SUMMER TELEPHONE SCAMS
Post Office and Endesa Sevillana used by fraudsters
By Dave Jamieson
THE POST OFFICE AND ENDESA-SEVILLANA HAVE ISSUED WARNINGS AND ASSURANCES THAT THEY ARE NOT INVOLVED WITH TELEPHONE SCAMS CURRENTLY TAKING PLACE.
The Spanish post office has officially complained of fraud throughout Málaga, this time with the perpetrators claiming to be Correos employees trying to confirm delivery addresses. When victims call the premium rate number, a long series of questions on personal data is asked with the intention of prolonging the call and maximising income to the operator.
‘ELECTRICITY CUT OFF’ THREAT
Endesa-Sevillana has also complained of such calls, but in this case victims are told that their electricity supply is to be cut off in two hours because of an outstanding bill, and the only way to avoid this is to call another number, which results in an extended, premium rate conversation.
Correos and Endesa Sevillana have assured customers that they never approach clients in this way.
THE NERJA ‘FREE GIFT’ SCAM
Residents of Nerja are the latest to complain that they have been conned into making long, premium rate telephone calls on the promise of prizes which never materialise.
Nerja’s Municipal Consumer Information Office has received many complaints from people who had been invited to call an 803, 806 or 807 prefix number to confirm the address to which a gift should be sent, resulting in calls of up to 30 minutes.
The fraud is similar to one reported from Torrox and other Costa del Sol towns in the spring, when victims, mainly foreigners, received telephone calls advising them that a parcel was awaiting delivery, but that they would have to call to confirm the details.
The “free gift” scam which has surfaced in Nerja promises goods from one of the country’s best-known department stores, which was contacted by Nerja’s Consumer Office after the latest complaints. The store knew nothing of the matter and confirmed it did not operate in this way.
The Office has warned residents to be aware of the cost of calling an 803, 806 or 807 premium rate line, where a 30 minute call can cost as much as 100 euros.
Spain, France and Germany to share crime database
By Oliver McIntyre
“TONY ALEXANDER KING.” THE NOW INFAMOUS NAME OF THE BRITISH ACCUSED DOUBLE MURDER WAS ON THE LIPS OF LOCAL, REGIONAL AND NATIONAL LAW-ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS EARLIER THIS WEEK AS THEY ANNOUNCED AN ACCORD THAT WILL ALLOW SPAIN, FRANCE AND GERMANY TO SHARE CRIME DATABASES.
Although King is from England – and prior to his arrest for the murders of two young Spanish girls in the Costa area was known back home as the ‘Holloway Strangler’ – his case was cited as a prime example of the need for such international co-ordination of information about potentially dangerous criminals.
The new accord, which comes after a year and a half of research and discussions between the three countries, will enter a testing phase late this year and take full effect in 2005, according to Spanish law-enforcement and Justice officials. It will allow a daily interchange of data regarding convicted criminals, meaning law-enforcement agents in one country will have full and up-to-date information on people living within its borders who are citizens of one of the other countries and have a criminal record. In the case of Tony King, as cited by police officials, Spanish Justice Minister Juan Fernando López Aguilar and Junta de Andalucía Justice chief María José López, such information sharing could have potentially allowed law-enforcement agencies to prevent one or even both of the murders of which he is accused. Although British police officials had provided Spain information on him prior to the first of the two killings, it was not held in Spanish databases due to privacy laws. The new accord with France and Germany, which officials hope to later extend to other countries as well, would make such data immediately available.
TARGETING TERRORISM AND ORGANISED CRIME
The accord is also meant as a tool to fight against terrorism and organised crime. In the province of Málaga, organised crime related to prostitution, drugs and other activities has been a growing concern. The last statistics made public by the government, in 2002, counted the number of organised crime groups in the province at 104, of which 87 were composed of 10 or more individuals, the majority of them foreign.
The province of Málaga has a foreign population of about 130,000 people, of which about half are European, according to official numbers. Britons are the largest European group (33,674), while Germany and France– the countries involved in the new accord – have 10,207 and 4,222 citizens living in the province, respectively. According to the National Police in Málaga, Britons, French and Eastern Europeans are the groups most frequently involved in Costa crime.
Dangerous-dog owners get hefty fines
By Oliver McIntyre
Alhaurín de la Torre announced last week that it has issued large fines against two residents for having potentially dangerous dogs that were not officially registered as such, as required by law. In one case, the owner of an Afghan hound, who had been instructed to register his dog after Guardia Civil officers reported that it had bitten someone while loose in the street, was hit with a double fine (one for failing to register the dog and another for having no licence for it) totalling 4,808.10 euros. Although the dog is not of a breed that falls under the ‘potentially dangerous’ category that requires registration (pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire bull terrier, Rottweiler, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro, Tosa Inu and Akita Inu.), the fact that it had demonstrated aggressive behaviour meant it had to be registered. The other case involved a woman who owns a Rottweiler – a breed that does fall under the ‘potentially dangerous’ category – that was not registered. After failing to heed two notifications that the dog had to be registered, she was fined 2,404.05 euros, according to the Town Hall.
Beginning in November of this year, even bigger fines could be faced by dog owners in Andalucía who do not have identification microchips inserted in their canine companions. Starting then, the regional Animal Protection Law (passed in November 2003) requires that all dogs be microchipped, and fines for breaking the law can potentially run as high as 30,000 euros. The Veterinarians Association estimates that about 73,000 dogs in the province of Málaga – roughly 40 per cent of the total number of dogs in the province – currently have microchips.
Murder attempt in Marbella urbanisation
Police call it a 'pay-back' crime between gangsters
By David Eade
A 40-YEAR-OLD MAN IS SERIOUSLY ILL IN MARBELLA'S COSTA DEL SOL HOSPITAL AFTER SOMEONE ATTEMPTED TO MURDER HIM AS HE WAS DRIVING HIS CAR NEAR HIS HOME IN THE URBANISATION LOS OLIVOS IN NUEVA ANDALUCÍA.
The victim, identified by the initials D.M, was born in La Línea and has previous convictions. Investigators' initial theory is that the shooting was another so-called 'settling of accounts' between drug or crime groups. Doctor's state that the victim is in a serious condition but his life is not in danger.
The shooting happened around midnight on Saturday. Eyewitnesses stated that the man had been driving his Porsche around the urbanisation and was being followed by two men on a motorcycle. The motorcycle drew close to the Porsche and a number of handgun shots were fired at the driver, who was hit twice in the back. The exact number of shots is not yet known; people who live nearby say they heard a number of loud bangs but thought it was fireworks being let off to celebrate the 'Carmen' festival. Residents of the Los Olivos and Los Naranjos urbanisations reported that police carried out an intensive search of the area after the shooting, including the nearby golf courses, looking for the attempted murderers.
ANDALUCÍA TOPS MURDER LIST
Last week's incident occurred even as new government figures were released showing Andalucía to be the Spanish region with the highest number of murders recorded in the first three months of this year, with a total of 76. Almería tops the province list with 17 followed by Sevilla 13, Málaga and Cádiz 12, Granada 9, Jaén 5 plus Córdoba and Huelva with 4. Andalucía was followed by Valencia and Madrid in the murder league table.
The latest incident is also the third shooting in Marbella in the last eight months. On December 1 a local policeman was shot by two foreigners minutes after they had fired at a British man in a mobile telephone shop in the town. Then in January a man was shot dead late in the evening at La Cañada shopping centre.
Toppled crane lorry smashes Guardia Civil patrol
By Oliver McIntyre
Two Guardia Civil officers were seriously injured last week when an oversize crane lorry rolled over and smashed their patrol car on the A-366 road between Coín and Alhaurín el Grande.
The crane lorry, en route from Marbella on the A-355, was turning onto the A-366 when the driver lost control of the vehicle due to a brake malfunction and crashed into the oncoming Guardia Civil patrol unit, according to police reports. The lorry crushed the front, roof and part of the left side of the Guardia Civil vehicle, trapping the two officers inside. The 30-year-old officer driving the patrol car was the more severely injured of the two, and it took firefighters two hours to extricate him from the gnarled mass of crumpled steel. Other smaller cranes had to be brought in to lift the overturned lorry off the patrol car before its roof could be cut away to free the trapped officer. Both Guardia Civil agents were taken by 061 helicopter to Málaga's Hospital Clínico and treated for head wounds and other injuries. The driver of the lorry was uninjured.
The intersection where the accident occurred, marked by a downhill approach from the A-355 road to where it connects with the A-366, is considered one of the worst 'black spots' in the Guadalhorce Valley. In recent months there have been numerous lorry and car accidents at the intersection, including one fatality.
Torremolinos Gym-scam case
400 people had paid membership payments
By Oliver McIntyre
POLICE IN TORREMOLINOS HAVE ARRESTED THE OWNER OF A GYM THAT NEVER OPENED FOR BUSINESS AFTER ADVERTISING ITS UPCOMING INAUGURATION AND TAKING MEMBERSHIP PAYMENTS FROM AS MANY AS 400 CUSTOMERS.
Investigators estimate the total amount of payments taken in could top 260,000 euros. Earlier this year, the then supposedly soon-to-open ELG Centro de Bienestar gym placed advertisements and brochures at the San Miguel commercial centre. The new facility was to offer workout machines, massage, beauty treatments, haircutting and more. Monthly membership fees were 55 euros, but there was also a sign-up fee of between 50 and 60 euros. Some people paid an entire year’s fees up front, many taking out financing arranged by the company.
Some of the customers considered the situation a scam and reported it to police (CDSN, July 1 – 7). Last week the owner of the business, Oscar R.R. (29), was arrested on suspicion of large-scale fraud. After making statements to the investigative court, he was released without formal charges being made.
OWNER ‘RAN OUT OF MONEY’
The gym owner’s lawyer insisted that his client was never physically detained, but rather received a phone call from police telling him to appear in court to give a statement. He says his client did not commit a scam, as he did not intentionally defraud the clients, but simply ran out of money in the process of trying to launch the new gym.
Fire protection plans not popular
By David Eade
Many of the urbanizations in Marbella that have a high summer fire risk have not complied with the requirements of the ‘Andalucía Law for the Prevention of Forest Fires’. According to official figures only two of the municipality’s 60 urbanisations that were advised of the need to create their own self-protection plans in the case of fire have done so.
The environment department at Marbella Town Hall has stated that the Jardines Colgantes and Los Verdiales urbanizations have complied with the requirements of the regional government’s law. Their self-protection plans detail the activities of keeping watch and detection, the means of evacuation and fire protection within the residential zone.
As reported in last week’s Costa del Sol News the first serious summer fire on the coast took place on July 9 destroying 90 hectares of scrub and forest land in Marbella between Elviria Norte and Los Molineros. The blaze came close to the Rosario urbanization, which is one of those with no self-protection plan.
However it is not only urbanizations that are required by the new law to make adequate fire protection provisions. A total of 296 businesses, eight golf courses, three camping sites and the hospital also have to comply with the law but only 20 have done so. That 20 includes La Cañada commercial centre, the Incosol, Don Carlos, Oasis Club, Marbella Club and Puente Romano hotels as well as the Hospital Costa del Sol and the Buganvillas and Cabopino camp sites.
Benalmádena businesses want end to 'El Botellón'
By Oliver McIntyre
THE BENALMÁDENA BUSINESS ASSOCIATION (ACEB) LAST WEEK FILED A WRITTEN REQUEST ASKING THE TOWN HALL TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST THE SO-CALLED ‘BOTELLÓN’ STREET PARTIES – LARGE CROWDS OF YOUNG PEOPLE WHO GATHER AT PLACES LIKE PUERTO MARINA AND PLAZA SOLYMAR ON WEEKEND NIGHTS TO DRINK AND SOCIALISE. According to the association’s president, José Montiel, the street parties represent both a public nuisance and unfair and illegal competition to local bars and clubs.
NOISE AND MESS
Sr Montiel cited the large amounts of rubbish – bottles, bags and other trash – that are left behind by the botellón revellers, both in the streets and on the nearby beaches. But beyond the noise and the mess, he complained that the parties take place right outside night-clubs and bars, whose owners say they are losing money because of the uncontrolled drinking taking place in public areas. Finally, Sr Montiel claimed that liquor is illegally sold at the botellón parties by ‘furtive’ vendors who peddle bottles of booze out their car trunks, without concern for the age of the buyers.
ACEB said it wants the Town Hall to crack down on el botellón by enforcing existing laws against drinking on public streets. If it doesn’t have the mechanisms necessary to curb the problem, it should create new laws to do so, says the association.
In an initial response to ACEB’s complaints, the Town Hall indicated that it does all it can under existing legislation to address the street-drinking parties, but that there are no laws that specifically prohibit such gatherings and the police can do little but ask the participants to take the party elsewhere in the event that they are bothering local residents. In such cases, said the Town Hall, the parties generally migrate to nearby beaches like Fuente de la Salud, where they cause less nuisance to others and generally don’t result in vandalism or property damage to beach furniture, though they do tend to leave behind a mess of bags and bottles.
MAYOR TAKES A TOUGHER STANCE
Later in the week, Mayor Enrique Bolín appeared to take a tougher stance, issuing an edict stating that the issues associated with the botellón parties – night-time noise nuisance and littering – are in fact prohibited under a recently passed municipal law, meaning the street drinking parties are themselves prohibited. “The local police will adopt the necessary measures to prevent this activity,” he said in his edict.
Nerja Festival opens with prestigious prize winner
By Dave Jamieson
NERJA’S ANNUAL CAVES FESTIVAL GOT UNDERWAY ON MONDAY WITH AN ADDED SENSE OF KUDOS.
The first concert in this year’s Nerja week of music and dance was given by the latest recipient of one of the country’s top honours, the Prince of the Asturias Arts Prize. Paco de Lucia was named last week as the 2004 winner, after the selection panel chose him out of 39 candidates from 18 countries for his “integrity of interpretation” and his capacity to “transcend frontiers and styles” which have given his music a “universal dimension”.
Before his concert in Nerja, Paco de Lucía had also performed before a sell-out audience at the Jimena international music festival
‘ONE OF THE GREATEST LIVING GUITARISTS’
Francisco Sánchez Gómez, known as Paco de Lucia, is regarded as one of the greatest living guitarist in the world. He was born in Andalucía in 1947, and made his first public performance, aged just 11, since when he has played at Carnegie Hall and other world class venues, sold thousands of recordings, and explored the relationship between flamenco and jazz alongside Chick Corea and John McLaughlin amongst others. It was the mayor of his home town, Algeciras, who nominated the guitarist for the prestigious award, De Lucía himself describing it as an acknowledgement of the culture of Andalucía.
Passing through Málaga Airport last week en route to France on the day after the news was announced, he said that flamenco is a badly-treated music and he was delighted the prize had been awarded within Spain. Nerja’s Caves Festival continues until Saturday, with María Joâo Pires from Brazil and Ricardo Castro from Portugal playing piano for four hands tonight, while the final two days are given over to stars and soloists from the Ballet of the National Opera of Bordeaux.
Tourists ‘overwhelmed’ by beggars in Torre del Mar
By Dave Jamieson
Businesses in Torre del Mar are taking steps against begging in the town, because, they say, the Town Hall will not. Their association says that the increase in the number of individuals asking passers-by for money since the start of the peak holiday season is indicative of the “permissiveness” of the local authorities. They say that situation has become so extreme that that tourists have difficulty in finding somewhere to sit where they will not bothered while they eat a meal or simply enjoy an ice-cream in a café.
The association’s president, Juan Antonio Pérez, said they estimate that, in the space of an hour, between eight and 12 approaches will be made offering the sale of some kind of illegal product, predominantly pirated CDs and DVDs, or just demanding cash. He added that his members have received a notable increase in complaints from clients in different commercial premises and while staff can prohibit beggars from entering a shop, it is more difficult to stop them pestering customers on the outside terrace of a bar. “The tourists,” he concluded, “are literally overwhelmed.” The campaign to combat the problem includes posters displayed in commercial premises discouraging clients from supporting beggars, and the distribution of leaflets to holidaymakers explaining the reasons why. In addition, the Association is calling for an increased police presence on the town’s streets and a greater input from the municipal social services department.
Sr Pérez says the situation in Torre del Mar cannot be compared with other resorts along the Axarquía coast because of the failure of the authorities to develop a means of controlling it. The areas most affected by the problem are reported to be the paseo marítimo and the busiest shopping streets, especially where there is a concentration of bar and café terraces.
Nerja and Rincón under ecologists’ attack
By Dave Jamieson
Greenpeace has launched a scathing attack on coastal development, with particular criticisms levelled at Rincón de la Victoria and Nerja. The environmental campaigners last week asked for a moratorium on further construction along the Spanish coast in general, but added that it was “imperative to put the brakes on the degradation” in Andalucía and along the Costa del Sol, saying that it had unveiled “the true face of speculation which the Andaluz coast has suffered for 30 years”.
Greenpeace says that it considers the floods in Rincón in March as key to understanding that the development of tourism must respect the processes of nature. It says building work in natural flood water channels and a paseo marítimo without an escape for water to the sea – a situation which the group denounced in 2002 – should lead local administrations to a re-evaluation of the development models presently in place. Nerja’s failure to have its planned water processing plant operating yet is also seriously criticised by Greenpeace, which says the town is now the subject of proceedings instigated by the European Commission for a breach of its directive on the treatment of residual water. The report has harsh words for other resorts along the coast and specifies seven beaches which it claims are contaminated, according to EU standards. The ecologists recommend that the Junta de Andalucía take action to halt further degradation and that it prepares a decree to limit the “irrational” expansion in the number of new golf courses planned.
Meanwhile a telephone hotline has been set up to report incidents of beach contamination. The Junta’s tourism, commerce and sport department has launched the scheme which will alert the six cleaning vessels operating along the Málaga coast to sail to areas of concern. The number, which is open from 9.00 until 14.00 and operates until September 6, is 951 03 81 90.