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Week September 9th to September 15th 2004.
CREDIT CARDFRAUD ARRESTS
Police discover shop owners who collaborate with fraudsters
By Oliver McIntyre
NATIONAL POLICE HAVE UNCOVERED A DOZEN SHOPS IN THE PROVINCE OF MÁLAGA THAT COLLABORATED WITH CREDIT CARD FRAUDSTERS BY ALLOWING THEM TO CHARGE LARGE SUMS OF MONEY WITH STOLEN OR DUPLICATED CARDS.
All of the identified collaborators have been arrested and handed over to the courts, and their access to credit card payment systems automatically revoked.
According to the National Police Fraud Unit, the crooked shop owners knowingly allowed the criminals to make charges on the falsified credit cards in return for a commission of 30 to 50 per cent. Typically, say the police, the fraudsters approach the owners of the shops - usually high-price establishments like jewellers, electronics stores or adult entertainment clubs, where single sales of up to 3,000 euros are not uncommon - and propose the 'business' arrangement. The owner of the establishment gets a cut of the false charges by simply allowing the criminals to make bogus purchases without actually receiving the merchandise or services. In some cases a single card has been used to pay as much as 60,000 euros in one day, according to the Fraud Unit.
Other credit card frauds uncovered by police include shops or establishments set up solely for the purpose of stealing and then using customers' credit card numbers, such as the 'Dream Shop' case in the city of Málaga last February. The bogus shoe store closed shop after scamming 35 customers for as much as 7,000 euros each.
Still more establishments end up being unwitting contributors to fraud, according to police, when the criminals either plant one of their own members as a worker in a shop or pay off an existing employee to steal customers' card information. The planted or bought-off employee swipes the cards through a magnetic-strip reader that records the information, which is then passed on to the fraudsters.
FRAUD NOT ON INCREASE
The police say they are not seeing an increase in credit card fraud, in fact numbers are remaining fairly constant. National Police in Málaga receive some six complaints a day regarding stolen or duplicated cards, and since January they have arrested over 20 people. In recent months, they have detected Britons, Belgians and Italians committing such frauds, but they say the majority of the criminals specialising in card fraud on the Costa are Romanians.
THE COSTA IBI TAX DISPARITY
Homeowners in Marbella and Torremolinos pay the highest tax
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
HOMEOWNERS ON THE COSTA PAY RADICALLY DIFFERENT IBI REAL ESTATE TAX BILLS DEPENDING ON WHICH TOWN THEIR HOME IS IN, SHOWS A STUDY BASED ON DATA FROM THE LAND REGISTRY AUTHORITY AND PUBLISHED THIS WEEK.
Owners of homes in Marbella and Torremolinos pay the highest average IBI tax, at 383 euros and 347 euros, respectively, though in Torremolinos registered (‘empadronado’) residents receive a small discount by way of a subsidy from the Town Hall. In Ronda, by contrast, the average IBI bill is just 198 euros, meaning homeowners in Marbella pay 93 per cent more on average than their neighbours in the town of the Tajo.
After Marbella and Torremolinos, the next most expensive IBI tax in the province of Málaga is in Estepona, where the average is 295 euros, followed by Benalmádena (281 euros). The least expensive municipalities include Mijas (248 euros), the city of Málaga (247 euros), Fuengirola (204 euros) and the aforementioned Ronda. Falling somewhere in the middle are Vélez-Málaga (269 euros), Antequera (267 euros), Rincón de la Victoria (258 euros) and Alhaurín de la Torre (252 euros).
REAL ESTATE VALUE
The amount of IBI tax paid by homeowners is not just a function of what each local town hall charges, but also of the official assessed value of the real estate, as recorded in the Land Registry. That value is multiplied by a coefficient set by the central government and another coefficient set by the individual town halls. The town halls can set their coefficient up to a limit of 1.3 per cent. In the province of Málaga, for example, Marbella, Estepona and Vélez-Málaga have coefficients of 0.85 per cent, Benalmádena 0.83 per cent and Antequera 0.81 per cent, while the capital city of Málaga has a relatively low 0.67 per cent.
Air search for missing Briton
By David Eade
The Guardia Civil command in Algeciras is heading a search for a missing Briton, along with the help of the National Police in Marbella.
The man, who is said to be around 40-years-old, has not been seen since August 22. On the last Sunday in August his motor caravan was parked outside the Restaurante Troyano in Estación de Jimena. After the vehicle had been there for two days, the restaurant owner contacted the local police.
The Jimena officers used the database of the National Police and discovered that the vehicle and its owner were listed in its files as being missing. The report of the disappearance had been made in San Pedro de Alcántara.
The Guardia Civil ordered a helicopter search of the remote areas around Jimena de la Frontera but with no success. The three police forces managed to track down the girlfriend of the missing man, who had first reported his disappearance.
The woman had a set of keys for the motor caravan and police carried out a search of the vehicle. The interior was in a perfect state and gave no clues to the whereabouts of the Briton. CDSN contacted the Guardia Civil in Jimena, but they are not yet revealing the missing Briton's identity. A photocopy of a photograph showed him to be well tanned and of a stocky build.
Plasterers' strike sets back Alhaurín health centre
Two-month strike ended last week after affecting thousands of projects
By Oliver McIntyre
THE OVER TWO-MONTH-LONG STRIKE BY PLASTERERS IN THE PROVINCE OF MÁLAGA, WHICH BY THE TIME IT ENDED LAST WEEK WAS SAID TO BE DELAYING WORK ON MORE THAN 35,000 RESIDENTIAL UNITS, HAS ALSO RESULTED IN SETBACKS TO THE CONSTRUCTION OF ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE'S NEW HEALTH CENTRE.
Despite a restructuring of the project plan in an attempt to work around the absence of plasterers, the strike caused delays that the Town Hall says were out of its hands. The initial plan called for the health centre to open its doors this December, but to date work has only been able to advance on the facade and the parking lot, according to Mayor Joaquín Villanova. The Town Hall has not indicated what the expected completion date is following the strike-related delays.
Mayor Villanova said the Town Hall's architect met with the project architect to discuss the possibility of bringing in workers from outside the province, but the option was ultimately discarded due to cost and pressure from the striking workers. The initial budget for the health centre project was set at 300,000 euros.
PLASTERERS GO BACK TO WORK
The plasterers' strike began on June 28, with workers demanding an updated contract with higher pay and revised working schedules. Late last week the parties involved came to an agreement that convinced the plasterers to end the strike while negotiations continue on the details of pay and working conditions.
Bus violence prompts security review
By Dave Jamieson
Some of Málaga's buses have been fitted with security cameras to provide improved safety for passengers. The city's municipal transport company, EMT, decided to install the equipment on two routes - line 17 to Palmilla and line 2 to Ciudad Jardín - where violence or robberies have been experienced in the past.
In recent weeks, passengers have been subjected to two robberies on these routes, one of them at knifepoint. Police have detained an 18-year-old and two minors in connection with the offences.
With the new security cameras, pictures are relayed in real-time from the buses to the EMT control centre, where they are monitored and recorded. Police can quickly be alerted if a problem arises and the recordings are erased after 48 hours if they have not been requested by investigating officers.
The President of the workers' committee at EMT, Francisco Palomo, welcomed the new technology, which is similar to that already in use on some buses in Madrid and Barcelona, saying that the recent robberies on line 17 had increased feelings of insecurity amongst staff, despite the presence of local police on some of the vehicles. He added that no complaints had been received from members of the public whose images would be recorded. Security vigilance has also recently been improved at Málaga's bus station with an increase from five to 12 cameras covering the area.
Two Costa towns address pets and strays
NEWS Staff Reporter
Both domestic pets and stray animals made headlines in two Costa towns last week, with Estepona creating a municipal pet register, and animal-protection groups in Nerja helping to create a safe haven for stray cats.
Estepona Town Hall says that to comply with the 'Ley de Protección de los Animales' introduced by the regional government, owners of dogs and cats in the municipality are obliged to register them with the Town Hall before November 1. Failure to do so could result in a fine. People with a newly acquired pet or pet owners who have moved to Estepona from another location will have one month to register their animals. Newly born puppies or kittens must be registered before the age of three months. Before a pet can be registered it must be fitted with identification 'chip' by a veterinary surgeon.
Meanwhile, two animal care groups have joined forces with one of Nerja's biggest hotels to install a 'Cat Café' feeding station for stray cats. The agreement between the Costa Animal Society (CAS), the Sociedad Protectora de Animales (SPA) and the Hotel Monica, part of the RIU Group, has permitted a small shelter to be built on the hotel's grounds where food and water will be available for the cats at all times. CAS and SPA say the project, funded by the hotel, will reduce the randomly scattered bags of food left by kind-intentioned individuals, will keep the area tidy and will make it easier for their members to monitor feline numbers and health.
Renewed calls for Guadalhorce valley hospital
Tolox death due to slow ambulance arrival re-ignites issue
By Oliver McIntyre
RESIDENTS AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS OF TOWNS IN THE GUADALHORCE VALLEY HAVE LONG BEEN REQUESTING THE CREATION OF A REGIONAL HOSPITAL TO SERVE THE AREA, AND THOSE CALLS WERE REPEATED LAST WEEK BY THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT OF THE CC.OO TRADE UNION.
The renewed push came partly in response to the death of a man who suffered a heart attack in the small town of Tolox and received no medical attention until over an hour later, when an ambulance finally arrived from Álora, 40 kilometres away (CDSN, September 2-8).
CC.OO's general secretary for Health, José Ramírez, said: "The Guadalhorce region has always been discriminated against - it is the only region in Málaga that does not have its own hospital." He said it "makes no sense" that the 109,406 residents of the region have to be taken to the city of Málaga or the Serranía de Ronda for medical emergencies, when other regions with smaller populations, like Antequera (pop. 103,000), have their own hospital. Sr Ramírez said the CC.OO applauds the Junta de Andalucía's promise last week to provide greater ambulance coverage in the Guadalhorce Valley, but views it as a short-term solution. To avoid tragedies like the one that occurred in Tolox, he said, what is needed is a regional hospital with its own 061 emergency service.
ALHAURÍN OFFERS LOCATION
By the weekend, Alhaurín el Grande had issued a statement reiterating demands that it says it has long been making for a hospital for the region. The town "solicited the construction of a hospital in the Pedanía de Villafranco del Guadalhorce four years ago, offering the Junta de Andalucía 40,000 square metres," according to the Town Hall. It says it is also prepared to offer an additional 5,000 square metres of land near the municipal day nursery for the creation of a specialised diagnostic centre. Mayor Juan Martín Serón stated: "Alhaurín is not just asking for a hospital for itself, but for the whole Guadalhorce region, which is why we're offering the land in Villafranco, located equidistant to various municipalities and even closer to some others than to our own town."
MP slams Gibraltar's speculators
Offshore companies affect Spain, says IU
By David Eade
AN MP FOR SPAIN'S ULTRA-LEFT IZQUIERDA UNIDA (IU) PARTY, JOSÉ LUIS CENTELLA, HAS INTRODUCED INITIATIVES IN MULTIPLE GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS TO CREATE A JOINT PLAN BETWEEN BRITAIN AND SPAIN TO COMBAT WHAT HE claims is 'MONEY LAUNDERING' IN GIBRALTAR.
The proposals are being made at various levels of government, from the Junta de Andalucía in Sevilla to the European Union in Brussels. Sr Centella claims that money moving through Gibraltar-registered companies affects the coast of Spain, where the money is invested. He points out that the companies carry out their business from the Rock without registering in Spain, thereby avoiding Spanish taxes and regulations. Official figures show that the number of offshore companies registered in Gibraltar and carrying out property transactions in Málaga and Cádiz provinces has risen to 7,958, he says.
IMPACT ON REAL ESTATE
For the IU, these figures prove the existence of “an important focus of capital that, in the main, is reflected in the construction sector.” The party claims that the situation is causing important economic losses to the Spanish economy, and that it is distorting the property market by producing a speculative cycle that will create problems once demand is saturated.
Sr Centella condemned what he describes as tax avoidance in the property sector, which he says creates unfair competition for the smaller Spanish companies that are meeting all their legal and fiscal obligations.
Mildew cripples Axarquía raisin production
Worst losses since 1971 could cost region over two million euros
By Dave Jamieson
FOLLOWING EARLIER WARNINGS OF A POOR GRAPE HARVEST COMES THE WORRY OF A POTENTIALLY COSTLY REDUCTION IN RAISIN PRODUCTION ALONG THE EASTERN COSTA.
A wet spring and hot summer has led to a very high incidence of mildew on vines, with a forecast of low grape yields throughout the Axarquía. Experts say that as a consequence the industry may produce as much as 30 per cent less than its usual quantity of raisins this autumn.
The regional government's spokesman for Agriculture and Fishing, Isaías Pérez Saldaña, said last week that the situation had not yet been declared a disaster, although the Junta had the necessary mechanism in place if it decided to call for EU support. He reported that a month ago, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing had been asked to reduce the minimum yield below which community aid can be claimed, from 520 to 300 kilograms per hectare, but added that across the entire Málaga province, output from vineyards was expected to be about the same as last year.
END OF A GRAPE TRADITION?
However, in the Axarquía, some 1,360 of the 1,700 hectares of vine cultivation are said to have been infected with mildew - the most serious infestation since 1971, according to local cultivators of the muscatel grape - leading to anticipated losses of more than two million euros. Some are even pessimistic enough to predict the disappearance of such traditional growing methods by 2010, citing the village of Iznate as an example. This year's harvest, expected to be around 5,000 kilos, will be only a fifth of last year's, with little prospect of compensation anticipated. They say that much of the land which previously supported vines has been given over to the growing of sub-tropical fruits, principally the avocado, in areas where the muscatel grape has for decades represented a substantial part of the local economy.
Meanwhile, about 1,000 workers from Málaga province are this week amongst the 8,000 from Andalucía who are presently helping with the French grape harvest. It's a traditional labour migration every September to the northern region of Burdeos and to Perpignon, Montpellier and Avignon in the south.
Huge Benalmádena park moving forward
By Oliver McIntyre
The planned 200,000-square-metre Al-Baytar park in Benalmádena is going ahead, with earth moving already largely completed and the construction contract now being put out to bid so that work can start at the beginning of 2005, announced the Town Hall last week. The new park, named after famous 13th-century Moslem botanist Ibn Al-Baytar, who was born in Benalmádena, will be the town's largest, bigger even than the existing crown jewel of the municipality's park system, Parque de la Paloma.
The Al-Baytar park, to be located between the town's new water treatment plant and the Maravillas school, will be split into three main zones, explained Mayor Enrique Bolín last week. One area will be dedicated to a Moslem-style garden in homage to the park's namesake, who will also be immortalised in a bronze statue by sculptor Hamilton Armstrong. Another area will feature what is known as 'xeriscaping', a type of landscaping that uses native and drought-resistant trees and plants to favour water conservation. Finally, the main flatland of the park will include trees and open areas, including sports and recreation facilities and an artificial lagoon, creating an environment similar to that at Parque de la Paloma. The total cost of the park is budgeted at six million euros, to be shared between the Town Hall and European Union funding.
Brit named 'Resident of the Year' in Torremolinos
NEWS Staff Reporter
A long-time British resident of Torremolinos was named 'Resident of the Year' as part of the town's 'Day of the Tourist' celebration last week. Englishwoman Eileen Dorrity, who, the Town Hall points out, prefers to be referred to by the more Spanish-sounding 'Elena', first visited Torremolinos with her husband in 1960, and the couple regularly visited the town until 1970, when they purchased an apartment in Eurosol. They used it as a vacation residence up until 1976, when they decided to move in on a permanent basis and "establish themselves definitively among us," said the Town Hall in its announcement of the award, praising Mrs Dorrity for being "completely integrated" in the town and its culture.
After becoming a widow seven years ago, Mrs Dorrity "has turned her Torremolinos home into an important gathering point for family and friends" visiting from England or elsewhere, becoming something of an ambassador for her adopted town. The Town Hall says it chose to honour Mrs Dorrity as an excellent representative of the very best aspects of the phenomenon known locally as 'residential tourism'. "Elena especially values the hospitality and friendliness of the people of the town and has truly become a genuine resident," it said in naming her 'Resident of the Year'.