News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week May 19th to May 25th 2005.
TELEPHONE FRAUD DIALS NEW HIGH
Nearly six hundred 806 numbers reported for fraud in Andalucía
BY DAVID EADE
FIGURES ISSUED BY THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT REVEAL THAT A TOTAL OF 586 HIGH TARIFF TELEPHONE NUMBERS WERE THE SUBJECT OF OFFICIAL COMPLAINTS BY THE PUBLIC IN ANDALUCÍA IN 2004.
In addition there were 489 claims against the companies that held these numbers. The claims were sent to the ministry of industry, tourism and commerce with the result that to date 61 of the numbers have been withdrawn whilst another 76 cases have been dropped due to lack of evidence of any offence.
The high tariff numbers are those that charge an additional amount over and above the normal telephone rate. These have the prefixes 803, 806, 807 or 907. Many of these lines are dedicated to Tarot card readings, erotica or competitions but on many occasions are used to commit frauds against the users.
The swindles most frequently detected are in the form of calls to telephone users who are then invited to call one of the high tariff numbers on the pretext of claiming a prize or to collect a postal package. In other cases the numbers are included in press advertisements offering employment at very high salaries for jobs that do not exist. Once the telephone user has called the number, the object is to keep them on the line for as long as possible in order to run up a large bill. The price of these calls can exceed three euros per minute.
BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY
The owners of these types of high tariff numbers are subjected to a code of conduct that obliges them to inform the caller of the price of the call and to have a maximum duration of call. If a caller believes he or she has been cheated by the company operating the number then the first recourse is to make a claim to the company itself with a copy being sent to the delegation of the government or a consumer association. In any event, the public is warned that the best way to avoid these frauds is to be at all times extremely wary of these high tariff numbers.
Guadalhorce hospital to by ready by 2008
By Oliver McIntyre
The Junta de Andalucía’s Health chief, María Jesús Montero, announced last week that the regional hospital for the Guadalhorce Valley will be completed by 2008. “We are prepared to sign the agreement or protocol for the construction of the hospital soon,” she said at a press conference held with other regional and provincial officials, as representatives from Cártama, which is to be the site of the hospital. Architectural plans are to be drawn up immediately and construction is expected to begin in early 2006, with a timeline of 24 to 26 months, she said.
Sra Montero also divulged some of the details of the hospital’s projected facilities and case load. It will have 44 rooms, possibly increased to 96 in the future, as well as four surgery theatres and six observation beds, she said. There will also be a full-service emergency room, an outpatient unit covering 22 areas of medical specialisation, a rehabilitation unit, a radiology department and a heliport. The hospital is expected to handle 100,000 outpatient visits a year, 3,500 surgical procedures and 4,200 emergency cases, according to Sra Montero.
The hospital is to be built on a 44,000-square-metre site at Finca Manguarra in the Casapalma area of Cártama.
Spain denies Rota will be USA anti-terrorism base
Defence Minister Bono pacifies anxious Rota population
BY DAVID EADE
THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE, JOSÉ BONO, HAS SPOKEN OUT AGAINST THE ‘FALSE NEWS’ ON THE CONVERSION OF THE MILITARY BASE IN ROTA (CÁDIZ) INTO A FORWARD BASE FOR USA SPECIAL ANTI-TERRORISM TEAMS IN EUROPE.
Sr Bono denied any such move whilst speaking at the weekend to journalists at a Spain-USA forum held in Sevilla. The news had an immediate calming effect on the administration at Rota Town Hall that had been set against any such development.
The defence minister stressed that the US bases in Andalucía at Rota and Morón de la Frontera in Sevilla province would continue to strictly observe the provisions of the existing bilateral defence agreement signed with the Washington administration.
The Spanish national daily, El Pais, had previously reported the comments of General James Jones, the commander in chief on the US forces in Europe, who in an American defence magazine interview had suggested that Rota was one of two locations being looked at by the army to be the central base for special operations teams to combat al’Qaida in North Africa. The other option was said to be Sicily.
SHOCKWAVES IN ROTA
The initial reports had sent a shockwave throughout the municipality of Rota. The Mayor, Lorenzo Sánchez, accused the Spanish government of using Rota “as the price of change” to bring about a reconciliation with the Bush administration. He also claimed to have known about the plans “for months”. The left-wing Izquierda Unida party had also described the plan as a “tragic error” that would make the province of Cádiz a prime objective for terrorist attacks.
Dutchman shot in real-estate office
NEWS Staff Reporter
In what appears to be an attempted robbery gone bad, two armed men entered a Benalmádena real estate office Monday afternoon and, when the business’s Dutch owner attempted to flee, shot the man twice, leaving him with wound in the buttocks and in one thigh.
According to initial reports, the two men, armed with pistols and wearing blue coveralls and yellow construction hardhats, arrived at the office on a motorcycle at about 17.30. They entered and demanded to be taken to the office safe, threatening the owner, J.N., 59, with their guns. According to a company employee, R.K., the owner attempted to flee the building and the men shot at him three times, once while he was still inside and twice more after he’d made it out the door. Emergency-services reports later confirmed that he had been hit twice. The company employee and a client who was in the office at the time were uninjured. After the shooting, the two men sped off on their motorcycle.
The victim was taken to the intensive-care unit at Clínica Santa Elena in Torremolinos to be treated for his wounds, which were described as non-life-threatening.
Ecologists want Costa gas exploration banned
Testing and extraction threaten ecosystem, they say
By David Eade
THE ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP ECOLOGISTAS EN ACCIÓN’S REPRESENTATIVE FOR MARINE ECOSYSTEMS IN CÁDIZ, JORGE SAEZ, HAS CALLED UPON SPAIN’S MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT TO PROHIBIT REPSOL YPF FROM EXTRACTING NATURAL GAS FROM THE STRAITS OF GIBRALTAR AND THE MAR DE ALBORÁN OFF THE COSTA DEL SOL.
The ban is necessary to avoid massive damage to the cetaceans and turtles that live in the region, said Sr Saez. He stated that Repsol’s seismic studies preliminary to future exploration and extraction in the two zones would commence next month, but that it should not be permitted because of the damage it would cause to the ecosystem.
The ecologist explained that the surveys would involve blasts of compressed air at a frequency that would be damaging to turtles, dolphins and whales as well as the ecosystem in general. In addition, the sounding requires drilling in the same locations to look for deposits, which would cause even more damage to the seabed, he said. These actions could cause a reduction of 30 per cent in the fish stocks in the area, which would not only have repercussions for humans but also on the food stocks for cetaceans, he warned.
SEEKING JUNTA SUPPORT
Ecologistas en Acción is hoping that the Junta de Andalucía’s Environment Department will back the group’s stand. The organisation stated that the province of Cádiz registered a total of 70 different species of cetacean and turtles in 2004, which showed an increase over the previous year.
Benalmádena hash boats busted
By Oliver McIntyre
A National Police operation in Benalmádena has resulted in the arrest of five people and the seizure of 500 kilos of hashish, two motorboats and five vehicles. Agents of the ‘Udyco’ drug and organised crime unit had been watching two recreational motorboats that they felt were exhibiting suspicious use patterns, according to police reports. The five-metre-long boats, used mostly on weekends and holidays when there is lots of activity around the marina, stayed out of port for many hours at a time, even overnight, despite their small size and lack of cabin quarters for the crew.
It was during the May Day holiday weekend that the police finally closed their net after observing the boats head out of port and toward Morocco. When the vessels arrived back in port, the assembled police team tracked the suspects as they put the boats on trailers and towed them to a Málaga warehouse. The officers made their move and, after finding the half-ton of hash stashed in the boats’ false bottoms, arrested the five suspects, aged 23 to 40.
Marbella illegal homes to be legalised
NEWS Staff Reporter
Marbella’s new draft local development plan (PGOU), which has yet to be approved by the Town Hall, envisages that between 80 and 85 per cent of the illegal homes in the municipality would be legalised. It is estimated that there are around 30,000 illegally built properties at present and those not covered by the provisions of the new PGOU would be left to face their fate in the courts.
The plan also provides for the construction of 50,000 new legal properties and includes land-categorisation provisions to make up for the present lack of open spaces, leisure and green areas. It calls for an average building density of 15 dwellings per hectare. An area of 1,518 hectares is given over to public spaces and 216 hectares to public infrastructure. There are also plans for a recreational port in San Pedro. The PGOU provides for a projected population growth from the current 140,000 inhabitants to 200,000 over a 10-year period.
The regional government received the draft of the PGOU ahead of Marbella Town Hall and urged the local administration to approve the document this month. However, Mayor Marisol Yagüe is, at least in public, resisting the pressure from the head of Public Works, Concepción Gutiérrez, arguing that it would not be appropriate to approve the new PGOU until the council and other interested groups in the municipality had had time to study it and make their comments.
Eighteen luxury cars seized in Estepona
Three German nationals, including a minor, arrested
BY DAVID EADE
THE GUARDIA CIVIL HAVE ARRESTED IN ESTEPONA SIX PEOPLE, ONE OF THEM A MINOR, IN OPERATION ‘PINOS VERDES’ AIMED AT BREAKING UP AN INTERNATIONAL GANG OF LUXURY CAR THIEVES. IN THE SAME RAID OFFICERS SEIZED 18 LUXURY VEHICLES PLUS A QUANTITY OF DRUGS.
‘Pinos Verdes’ is part of an on-going campaign being carried out by the Guardia Civil to combat organised crime on the Costa del Sol. Investigations started in March when officers noticed that in a number of premises dedicated to the trading of cars the appearance of luxury all-terrain vehicles at a price well below their market value.
There followed an investigation by the judicial team of the Guardia Civil in Estepona who discovered that a German married couple and their 17-year-old son were allegedly behind the sale of these luxury vehicles. All three plus three people from the Balkan region made up the group of six people arrested.
STOLEN VEHICLES FROM ABROAD
The stolen vehicles had been taken from Germany, Madrid and eastern Spain and were then transported by road using false number plates including temporary plates from Germany and Poland. Once on the Costa del Sol the cars were hidden in the garages of three rented dwellings in Marbella. The gang then changed the chassis and production numbers and altered electronic security systems before offering the vehicles for sale.
Pollution study leads to protests
Air quality report causes widespread alarm
By David Eade
A STUDY BY THE SUPERIOR COUNCIL OF SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATIONS (CSIC) INTO THE POLLUTION LEVELS AT PUENTE MAYORGA CLOSE TO THE CEPSA REFINERY IN SAN ROQUE HAS CAUSED WIDESPREAD ALARM THROUGHOUT THE CAMPO DE GIBRALTAR REGION.
The report was carried out at the request of the regional government and with the assistance of the University of Cádiz and has detected high levels of benzene and nickel in the atmosphere far superior to those permitted by environmental law.
Speaking at a press conference to announce the results of the study Juan Luis Ramos, director of the CSIC experimental station at Zaidín, stated that the air quality at Puente Mayorga had been analysed over a 12-month period. He reported: “we detected very high values in conditions when the westerly wind is blowing superior to those with the easterly Levante.”
The CSIC found levels of benzene six times higher than the environmental norms whilst the levels of nickel far exceeded those allowed by the EU. In addition there was air contamination from various other agents that were on the limit or higher than the norms permitted in the region.
Soon after the results were announced the environmental group Verdemar-Ecologistas en Acción announced that it would be organising a protest in Puente Mayorga at 10.30 on Thursday, May 19, against the massive contamination that existed in the zone. It will be held in the plaza San Fernando and will be supported by ecologist and residents groups and has the full backing of San Roque town hall. The councillor for the environment, Miguel Núñez, called for investment to reduce the dangerous emissions from the contaminating industries.
The ecologists believe the pollution not only stems from the refinery but from more than five industrial sites on the Bay of Algeciras. The Spanish Green Party, Los Verdes, has called for a moratorium on the opening of any new industries in the Campo de Gibraltar region. It has also proposed that an observatory of health and the environment be set up in Andalucía.
For its part the regional government has announced that it is to carry out a study on the possible impact on human health of the contaminated emissions. The director for public health, Josefa Ruiz, called for calm amongst the residents of the zone whilst the study was carried out. The health survey will be wide ranging and include analysis of blood and urine to ascertain if they contain benzene and nickel as well as studying 4,000 children for the prevalence of asthma and other allergies.
Briton denies real-estate fraud
By Oliver McIntyre
A British man arrested by National Police in Málaga for alleged real-estate fraud denies that he committed any crime and insists that his failure to make good on his log-home sales was due to circumstances out of his control.
National Police in Málaga arrested 55-year-old Ian J.S. for allegedly selling homes in a non-existent development in Cártama called Parque Paraíso. Licensing applications for developing the site had been submitted by a separate company but were not yet approved, and were not likely to be, according to the police. They told reporters of one British client who paid an 11,700-euro deposit for a wood home that never got built, and indicated that Ian J.S. may have defrauded as much as 300,000 euros by selling the log homes over the Web site www.designer-log-homes.co.uk, under the name of his company Applied Networks.
Ian J.S. told Costa del Sol News that he did not defraud any clients. Only two customers had paid him deposits for homes at the Parque Paraíso site, and both were refunded their money when he realised he was not going to be able to build the homes, he said. The situation stemmed from a deal he had made with the company that filed the licensing application for the development, which was to allow him to sell and build wood homes for the site, he said. But once he’d sold and started work on the first couple of houses, he realised the project was faltering and he was not going be able to continue building, he told CDSN. He indicated there was a falling out with the other company, the owners of which filed a police complaint against him.
Ian J.S. confirmed to CDSN that he was arrested, but noted that he had been immediately released and not formally charged with anything. He has now hired a solicitor in order to continue with the legal process. The Spanish police told reporters that Ian J.S. had a previous record in the UK, with 14 arrests for fraud and four for robbery. He flatly denied that to CDSN, saying he has never been arrested for robbery and his only previous arrest was in the early 1980s in connection with a company he owned that went out of business.
Nerja fire cover sparks political row
Councillor calls for all towns to be treated equally
By Dave Jamieson
AS IT WAS CONFIRMED THAT NERJA WILL HAVE IMPROVED FIRE COVER FROM NEXT MONTH, A NEW POLITICAL ROW BROKE OUT OVER UNPAID CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE AREA’S FIRE SERVICE.
The permanent presence of a fire crew in the town will become a reality next month when ten staff and one vehicle implement 12-hour cover, with further resources becoming available in July to permit 24-hour cover. However, the politics surrounding the development have brought into focus, once again, Nerja Town Hall’s claims that it is treated unfairly within the region.
Confirming the new arrangements, the councillor responsible for Civil Protection, Francisco Adriano Fernández, called for all municipalities to be treated equally, no matter their political colour. He said that although Nerja’s Town Hall has already paid around 80,000 euros to the Axarquía Fire Service, there is presently in the municipality, “not a single hosepipe” and claimed that other towns already have personnel and equipment despite being behind with payments. He alleged that between them, Vélez-Málaga and Torrox presently owe 316,000 euros for provision of fire cover, a situation which he described as “particularly serious” in Vélez since one of its councillors, Sara Sánchez, is an office holder of the Fire Service. Councillor Fernández said it was “unjust that small municipalities with few resources are pressured into settling their respective debts while others are not,” and suggested the situation could put the salaries of the fire staff at risk.
He also rejected the recent statement from the president of the provincial government who claimed that the reason Nerja did not already have adequate fire cover was that the Town Hall had not made premises available. In fact, said the councillor, the Civil Protection base had been provided as a temporary measure until a new centre, to be shared by all of Nerja’s emergency services, is constructed on a site off the motorway link road, west of the centre.
Red tide spreads along coast
Mollusc fishing banned in Málaga
By Oliver McIntyre
THE RED TIDE THAT A LITTLE OVER TWO WEEKS AGO CAUSED THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA TO SHUT DOWN TWO EASTERN COSTA FISHERIES TO MOLLUSC FISHERMEN (CDSN, MAY 5 – 11) HAS NOW SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE COAST OF MÁLAGA PROVINCE.
The Junta de Andalucía ’s Agriculture and Fishing Department has now ruled that all nine fisheries in the province be closed to the fishing of bivalve molluscs and gastropods until testing indicates that the red tide has subsided.
The type of red tide currently being experienced is the result of an algae containing a species of phytoplankton known as Pseudonitzschia, which can produce a toxin called domoic acid. When the toxin is ingested by some shellfish, particularly bivalves like clams, mussels and scallops, it can make them unsafe for human consumption. If eaten, the contaminated molluscs can trigger amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP), causing gastrointestinal and neurological problems within minutes or hours of ingestion.
Agriculture and Fishing said that “far from improving, the high levels [of the toxic algae] continue, leading to the decision for a total closure.” The algae had been detected in numerous fisheries, and the few where it had not were being over-fished by fishermen coming over from their own closed fisheries, according to officials. It was decided that a total closure until conditions improve was the most appropriate route.
Fishermen affected by the closure for more than 21 consecutive days can apply for subsidy payments. The Junta expects subsidies to the province’s 54 mollusc boats will reach a total of around 250,000 euros.
MARKET MOLLUSCS ‘SAFE’
The fishing ban includes numerous types of clam (‘concha fina’, ‘coquina’, ‘chirla’, ‘almeja chocha’, ‘almeja blanca’, ‘bolo’, and ‘corruco’), mussels, scallops and whelks. Officials say the closure of the Málaga fisheries will not greatly impact the supply of these products in local markets and restaurants, as most of the molluscs sold in the province are from Cádiz Huelva, Levante, Italy, Morocco and Portugal.
Power cuts to continue
NEWS Staff Reporter
Despite a 119 million-euro upgrade plan that is already underway in the province of Málaga, the frequency of power cuts is likely to remain largely unchanged for another two years, according to the president of electricity company Endesa, Manuel Pizarro. The results of the ongoing construction of generation plants and beefing up of distribution networks “will not be seen in one year,” he said, indicating improvements should be evident by 2007.
The major spending on the Málaga infrastructure comes as part of the company’s Andalucía-wide ‘Plan Alborada’, which calls for a total billion-euro infrastructure investment in the region. Sr Pizarro expressed confidence that the programme will bring the performance of the region’s electricity grid up to “the level of quality of a country like Spain.” He said that following a similar investment push in Cataluña, “the supply-interruption time has lowered to the levels [seen in] Madrid.”
Works planned for this year in the province of Málaga include the construction of five new substations and the installation of 160 kilometres of high-tension lines. Just last week the city of Málaga saw a power-supply improvement with the coming online of two new transformers at the substation in the Guadalhorce industrial park.