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Week April 14th to April 20th 2005.
CABBIES TARGET PIRATE TAXIS
Taxi drivers fight foreign-resident competition
By Oliver McIntyre
TAXI DRIVERS IN THE AXARQUÍA AREA HAVE MET WITH POLICE IN TORROX TO PROVIDE OFFICERS INFORMATION REGARDING AT LEAST 150 FOREIGN RESIDENTS WHO THEY CLAIM ARE PROVIDING ILLEGAL TAXI SERVICES TO FOREIGNERS.
The cabbies say the typical ‘pirate’ taxi operator is ‘a resident who has come to live on the Costa del Sol and provides a series of services to others who don’t spend the entire year’ in the area. Among other domestic services, ‘they take their customers to and from the airport for a lower price than our official rates’, they complain.
Torrox Police Chief Jose Roque Fernández confirmed to Costa del Sol News that his department met the taxi drivers to coordinate efforts at cracking down on the unofficial taxi services. When the police do catch people providing illegal taxi services, they report the information to the Junta de Andalucía’s Transport Department, which is the regulating agency for issues surrounding taxis and other public transport, he said.
Though the police have not opened a formal operation specifically targeting the illegal drivers, they are working with the cabbies to address the problem, said Chief Roque Fernández, indicating that the Transport Department has received a significant number of complaints.
IDENTIFYING PIRATE TAXIS
Identifying the non-official taxi operators is difficult, say the cabbies, because they tend to make direct contact with clients in local English and German bars. They say that while official rates for a ride from the airport to the eastern part of the Axarquía can range from 45 to 60 euros, the non-licensed taxi services charge around 20 per cent less, creating what the official cabbies view as unfair and unregulated competition. On the other hand it is worth noting that whereas official taxis are fully licensed, privately owned cars offering the ‘airport run’ service may not be fully insured which could result in serious problems in case of an accident.
‘TAKING A FRIEND FOR A RIDE’
Patrolling against unofficial taxi operators can be difficult because unless they are caught in the act of being paid by the client, they can simply state that their passenger is a friend or family. Non official taxi drivers can receive fines of up to 1,000 euros.
More nuclear subs on the rock?
The Ministry of Defence does not rule out future repairs on nuclear submarines
By David Eade
ACCORDING TO PRESS REPORTS THE BRITISH MINISTRY OF DEFENCE HAS NOT RULED OUT THE POSSIBILITY OF NUCLEAR SUBMARINES BEING REPAIRED IN GIBRALTAR IN CASE OF NECESSITY.
A MoD spokesperson, Charles Moron, is quoted as saying that the ministry had not changed it policy of submarines such as HMS Tireless and HMS Sceptre being repaired on the Rock.
Mr Moron clarified the situation by stating that the MoD had no intention of repairing nuclear submarines in Gibraltar as a matter of course. However should an emergency arise as was the case with HMS Tireless then the MoD would not hesitate in carrying out the repairs at the Rock’s naval base.
The Spanish government has asked Britain for a written undertaking that it would not carry out any future repairs to nuclear submarines in Gibraltar. Following the tri-party meeting between Britain, Spain and Gibraltar in Málaga in February the Foreign Office seemed to indicate that such a formal undertaking would be forthcoming.
In the interim, the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, has expressed his impatience at the non-arrival of the written undertaking and has stressed its importance to Spain. The remarks made by the MoD spokesperson seem to contradict the stance taken by the Foreign Office with the MoD seemingly categorising it as “political” whilst it is more concerned with operational necessities.
PROTESTS OVER ARRIVAL OF USS GONZALEZ
Ecologist groups in the Campo de Gibraltar have protested at the recent arrival of the US destroyer Gonzalez (DDG66) in Gibraltar. The American warship is said to be heavily armed with Tomahawk and Harpoon nuclear missiles. Spokesperson for Ecologistas en Acción, Antonio Muñoz, has criticised representatives of the association of town halls of the Campo de Gibraltar for holding talks with Gibraltar on the Rock whilst the vessel was in port. In addition the Greens party, Los Verdes, are to raise the issue in the Andalucía parliament.
The USS Gonzalez is an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, weighs 8,500 tonnes, is 153 metres long, 20 wide and has a top speed of 32 knots. On board the warship are said to be a crew of 303 sailors and it’s believed that the vessel is in port to take on board supplies.
British murderer sentenced to 16 years
NEWS Staff Reporter
The provincial court has sentenced a 53-year-old British man to 16 years in prison for murdering an elderly woman, also British, while robbing her home in Torremolinos. Richard M. received 13 years in prison for murder and three years for violent robbery, according to the sentence. His wife, A.M.M. (50), was sentenced to one year and six months for receiving stolen goods, based on charges that she stashed the jewellery that was stolen from the victim’s home.
The crime occurred in March of 2002, when, according to the court’s findings, Richard M. and an accomplice robbed the home of 66-year-old Diana Dyson, located on Calle Casablanca. The victim opened the door for the men because she recognised Richard M.’s voice, according to the sentencing statement. The men entered the home and Richard M. hit the victim on the head with a blunt object, cut her with a kitchen knife and finally suffocated her with a pillow.
Guardia Civil mounts speeding crackdown
NEWS Staff Reporter
Beginning on Monday of this week and running through April 29, the Guardia Civil is carrying out an anti-speeding campaign, with beefed up patrolling and special control points. In many cases, they are using what they call the ‘cascade’ method of patrolling, with several Guardia units spread along a single stretch of road in one direction. The method is considered the most effective at catching speeders, says the Guardia’s Traffic Department.
In the province of Málaga, the controls have been announced for main motorways, highways and toll motorways including the AP-7, A-7, A-45, A-92, A-357 and A-359. Other smaller but highly trafficked roads are included as well, such as the MA-21 (old N-340), A-335, A-366, A-376, A-384, A-387, A-397, MA-401, MA-402 and MA-5001. In all, some 60 controls are scheduled for the province.
Where possible, the control points are to be announced to drivers via electronic message boards on the affected roads. The Málaga control points will be coordinated with those in the neighbouring provinces of Sevilla, Cádiz, Córdoba and Granada. In addition, the Guardia’s Traffic Department has asked the town halls of 12 towns in the province (Málaga, Alhaurín de la Torre, Antequera, Benalmádena, Estepona, Fuengirola, Marbella, Mijas, Rincón de la Victoria, Ronda, Torremolinos and Vélez-Málaga) to support the campaign with local speeding controls of their own.
Officials defend 'White Whale' operation
Local politicians charge investigation ‘criminalised’ Marbella’s image
By David Eade
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR SECURITY, ANTONIO CAMACHO, HAS REJECTED CLAIMS MADE BY ÁNGELES MUÑOZ, THE PARTIDO POPULAR DEPUTY AND PRESIDENT OF THE PARTY IN MARBELLA, THAT THE ‘BALLENA BLANCA’ OPERATION WAS AN ATTEMPT TO CRIMINALISE THE IMAGE OF THE JET-SET RESORT.
The minister insisted that ‘Ballena Blanca’ (‘White Whale’) was an important attack on a money-laundering network on the Costa del Sol. It was aimed at the mafias and organised criminal gangs that have established themselves in Marbella, he said.
Sra Muñoz stated that the PP is totally supportive of the fight against crime but criticised the Interior Ministry of singling out Marbella when the problems exist throughout the Costa del Sol. She argued that the claims against Marbella were exaggerated and damaged the image of the thousands of people who live in the town, many of whom are investors.
In response, Sr Camacho attacked the previous PP national government, stating that the present problems faced by Marbella exist because those in power had long allowed criminals to progressively take root in Marbella. The PP government reduced the policing levels in the town on a steady basis since 1997, he said.
Agents from the tax authority, acting on the orders of the Marbella judge investigating the case, have examined the bank accounts of one of the detained, Pierre Elbaz. He was arrested in Sotogrande at the same time the Marbella police raids were carried out and is one of those currently being held in Alhaurín de la Torre prison along with the alleged mastermind of the money-laundering operation, lawyer Fernando del Valle. People close to the operation have indicated that investigators studied some 10,500 transactions in Elbaz’s bank accounts.
Meanwhile, early this week the Ministry of the Interior announced two further arrests in the ‘Ballena Blanca’ investigation. The ministry stated that a Spanish lawyer and an Israeli administrator of property companies had been detained. Both are said to have direct links with Fernando del Valle’s DV Abogados law firm. The international investigation continues open and officials have stated that further arrests may be imminent.
King trial suspended due to lawyer’s illness
By Oliver McIntyre
The trial of Briton Tony Alexander King for the August 2003 murder of 17-year-old Sonia Carabantes in Coín was suspended last week due to King’s lawyer being hospitalised in Madrid for a virus-related infection. The trial had been scheduled for April 11, 12, 18, 19 and 25, but has now been postponed to an as-yet unspecified date.
Representatives from the law firm of King’s lawyer, Javier Saavedra, told the court that the attorney had been admitted to the La Zarzuela clinic in Madrid (he has offices in Marbella and Madrid), where doctors were running tests and estimated that he would not be able to return to work for about a month. Judge José María Muñoz Caparrós ruled that the trial be temporarily suspended and the court began contacting the witnesses that had been called to testify. Among those scheduled to testify on the opening day of the trial were King himself, the parents of the victim and three of her friends.
The prosecutor in the case is seeking a 34-year prison sentence for King on charges of murder, sexual aggression and illegal abduction, plus a 300,000-euro restitution payment.
Meanwhile, there is still no date set for King’s trial for the 1999 murder of another young woman, 19-year-old Rocío Wanninkhof, in Mijas. The judge in that case is still awaiting certain items of evidence, such as forensic analyses, before the process can move forward.
Plaza Mayor security problems addressed
‘Substantial’ increase in police presence promised at first meeting
By Oliver McIntyre
REPRESENTATIVES OF PLAZA MAYOR MET LAST WEEK WITH THE GOVERNMENT’S SUB-DELEGATE IN MÁLAGA, HILARIO LÓPEZ LUNA, TO DISCUSS THE ISSUE OF SECURITY AT THE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE FOLLOWING THE RECENT YOUTH BRAWL THAT LEFT ONE PERSON WITH A STAB WOUND AND ANOTHER IN A COMA (CDSN, APR. 7 – 13).
According to Sr López Luna, the option of arming the centre’s private security guards with guns is not one of the solutions being considered. Rather, he promised a “substantial” increase in the number of the National Police patrolling the centre on weekend nights, though he did not specify the number of officers. (After a previous violent incident at the centre in February, the National Police began stationing three officers there on weekend nights.) Other measures include improving co-ordination between the police and the private security guards, increasing inspections of cars and visitors to prevent knives or other illegal arms from being brought in, and cracking down on the youth gangs that some say frequent the centre.
Sr López Luna expressed a concern shared by business owners at the centre regarding “the bad image the centre can receive in the press due to these aggressions, which, although sporadic, when they occur create public alarm” that can affect business.
SECOND MEETING FOR JUNE
A second meeting between Sr López Luna and Plaza Mayor representatives is scheduled for June to follow up on the security issues at the centre.
Last weekend, heightened police presence was already in evidence at Plaza Mayor, as officers monitored vehicles entering the centre’s parking lot and searched some vehicles. Particular attention was put on cars loaded with large groups of young people.
The young man who was in a coma following the recent youth brawl last week has come out of the coma. Both he and the young man he stabbed in the stomach have been arrested by police, along with one other alleged participant in the brawl.
Sewage in La Viñuela reservoir
By Oliver McIntyre
The Axarquía environmental group GENA-Ecologistas en Acción last week filed a complaint with the regional water authority against the town halls of Periana and Los Romanes, saying they are allowing untreated wastewater to flow into the La Viñuela reservoir. According to GENA’s complaint to the Cuenca Mediterránea Andaluza, laboratory analyses have shown elevated levels of ammonium, nitrates, foam, aerobic bacteria and faecal coliforms in water samples from local streams that flow into La Viñuela.
The contaminant levels are well above the legal maximum allowed in water that is to be subsequently treated for human consumption, says GENA, indicating that some water from La Viñuela is used for this purpose. It says the untreated wastewater is coming from Arroyo Cantarranas and Arroyo Cagaoros in Periana and several streams from Los Romanes. GENA charges the two town halls of allowing the “continual dumping of residual wastewater” into the reservoir, and urges the water authority to require the towns to pre-treat the wastewater before it is released. “The lack of wastewater-treatment measures that still exists in the majority of the towns in the Axarquía is having a negative impact on both surface and underground hydraulic resources,” says the group.
Alhaurin launches five-year plan
By Oliver McIntyre
ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE TOWN HALL LAST WEEK OFFICIALLY PRESENTED ITS FIVE-YEAR STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN.
The plan is aimed at converting the municipality "from a dormitory town to the town of reference in the Málaga metropolitan area." It has been drawn up by a consulting firm based on "hundreds of consultations and surveys," and it consists of five major strategic lines of action, encompassing 21 principal objectives broken into 65 concrete action steps. The details of the plan, including the assignment of each of the action steps to different Town Hall departments, can be consulted at www.alhaurin.com/boletin/plan.htm or www.aytoalhaurindelatorre.es.
Much of the plan addresses roads and transport, including lobbying for the construction of a motorway north of the airport to connect the town directly with Málaga without passing through Churriana, the extension of Málaga's future metro to Alhaurín and the creation of a bus interchange system. Other items include the creation of a wireless Internet network in the town, the construction of a tie-in to the main Costa del Sol water network, and the renovation of commercial areas. Heightened security in neighbourhoods and urbanisations, and increased promotion of sport-related and residential tourism are also addressed in the plan.
CITIZENS TO PARTICIPATE
While the plan has been broken into specific objectives and action steps, the Town Hall insists that it is "an open, flexible and dynamic document, in no way static or invariable." The Town Hall expects citizen input to shape future modifications or fine-tuning of the plan.
Los Limones restoration underway
By David Eade
The finca of Los Limones covers a 2,161 square metre site on the outskirts of Benalmádena Pueblo close to the Jardines del Muro. For years it has been in a semi-abandoned state but several months ago Benalmádena Town Hall announced a project to restore it to its former glory for the enjoyment of the local residents.
The first part of the project is now nearing completion. It has involved the cleaning up of the site that has lain neglected for years. A tree specialist has worked with two town hall employees to help bring back to life the 30 orange and lemon trees on the site. They also have worked on palm and fig trees and the cuttings have been used to improve the soil.
In clearing away the dead undergrowth the work team discovered an old laundry area connected to the spring of Chorrillo. The more elderly residents of Benalmádena Pueblo remember very well that for decades the local women used to wash their family's clothes and linen at the site.
Another part of the history of the site has also been uncovered. Within the grounds is an old rustic dwelling with an ancient water mill. This will be restored so that it can be visited by the public and will be converted in to an attractive tourist zone.
The finca played an important part in bringing new sources of energy to Benalmádena Pueblo at the start of the 20th century. The water mill was used to generate electricity by using the power of the Chorrillo spring to light the homes of the village. Earlier it had been used to grind cereals but fell into disuse with the arrival of the tourism boom in the 1960s but is bouncing back as part of Benalmádena's tourism offering.
New book helps bridge language gap at hospitals
NEWS Staff Reporter
The University of Málaga and the Mediterranean Institute for the Advancement of Biotechnology and Medical Research (IMABIS) have published a new book to help bridge the language gap between doctors and patients in Costa hospitals and health centres. The 350-page book, titled 'Guía de Conversación Básica para Personal Sanitario y Pacientes en 19 Lenguas', provides medical-related translations in 19 languages.
For each language there are several sections, covering information like personal data (name, date of birth, etc.), critical information (medicine allergies, etc.), symptoms, medical history and basic hospital forms and procedures. Each section has two columns, one with the terminology in the language in question and the other with the corresponding Spanish translations.
The languages covered in the book are Albanian, Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, English, Italian, Lingala (Republic of the Congo), Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, and Swedish.
The new medical language guide is the product of the combined efforts of 32 interpreters and three nurses. The first printing of 400 copies is to be distributed to hospitals and health centres in the province of Málaga, as well as in some other areas of Andalucía.
Small-print clauses increase mortgage interest rat
NEWS Staff Reporter
Spanish banking consumer groups have raised concern about what they consider abusive small-print clauses in mortgage loans, which they say can result in higher interest rates, and thus higher mortgage payments, than the loan-holder expected at the time of signing.
Many banks, say the consumer groups, attract customers with flashy rock-bottom interest rates, based on Euribor plus 'X' per cent, but then include clauses in the loan agreement that set a minimum total interest rate beginning the second year of the loan. For example, a 150,000-euro loan with an opening interest rate of the Euribor plus 0.7 per cent might have a monthly payment of just over 700 euros during the first year of the loan (based on a Euribor rate of, say, 2.3 per cent). But then a clause in the loan agreement states that beginning the second year the minimum interest rate on the loan will be 3.5 per cent - so even if the Euribor remains at its low 2.3 per cent, the interest rate on the loan jumps from 3.0 per cent to 3.5 per cent, meaning a jump of 40 to 50 euros in the monthly payment.
Two banking consumer groups, Ausbanc and ADICAE, have stated that such small-print clauses are abusive in the face of low advertised interest rates to attract customers. While consumers can file suits against banks for provably abusive or unfair clauses, the groups say the first course of action is to demand full disclosure of all the loan conditions before signing, and to carefully study the details, with expert assistance if necessary. If consumers feel they have been misled or treated unfairly, they should shop around for a different bank that will give them more favourable conditions, says Ausbanc, noting that the banks cannot charge a cancellation fee of more than 0.5 per cent on loans taken out since 2003.
Green corridors to connect towns to countryside
NEWS Staff Reporter
The Junta de Andalucía has announced plans for the creation of a network of green corridors throughout the region that will connect towns with populations of greater than 50,000 to the surrounding countryside. Called 'Puertas Verdes', the 71 million-euro, several-year plan envisions some 6,900 kilometres of such green belts, created by converting ancient livestock routes ('vías pecuarias') into trails for hiking, bicycling or horseback riding.
In the province of Málaga, the plan calls for 543 kilometres of green corridors connected to five municipalities: Málaga, Marbella, Vélez-Málaga, Fuengirola and Mijas. The Mijas corridor will connect the coast with Mijas Pueblo, which the Fuengirola route will also connect to, and the Marbella corridor will run from the town up to the Sierra de las Nieves and Ronda. In the Vélez area, one route will travel up through Viñuela and Arenas, while another will connect Torrox with the Sierra Almijara. The city of Málaga's corridor will run all the way to Antequera via the Montes de Málaga.
Many of the 'Puertas Verdes' routes will ultimately tie into a more ambitious, multi-country green belt plan, Rever Med, which calls for a 10,000-kilometre corridor linking Portugal's Algarve with Southern Italy by way of Mediterranean Spain and France.