News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week June 9th to June 15th 2005.
WHITE WHALE FRAUD HITS BRITS
Expats’ homes embargoed
BY DAVID EADE
THE ‘BALLENA BLANCA’ – ‘WHITE WHALE’ MONEY LAUNDERING OPERATION HAS INVOLVED 250 MILLION EUROS IN MARBELLA ALONE AND AFFECTED MANY SPANIARDS AND EXPAT INVESTORS WHO ARE NOW SUFFERING EMBARGOES ON THEIR PROPERTIES AND ASSETS.
The lawyer alleged to be the mastermind behind the scam, Fernando Del Valle, is currently in prison awaiting trial along with a number of other people from Spain, Morocco, Israel, France, Finland, Russia and the Ukraine. Two hundred and fifty one ‘fincas’ have been embargoed, thousands of documents have been seized and the investigation involves the police forces of several nations.
It has become quite clear that whilst the Marbella judge, Miguel Angel Torres, carries out his investigation, many innocent people are suffering for no fault of their own. Amongst them are many Britons.
THE MILLMANS CASE
Costa del Sol News recently talked to Jackie and David Millman, two successful business people from Boreham Wood, Herts, who in the year 2000 decided to buy a plot of land adjacent to Julio Iglesias’ home at ‘La Reserva de la Quinta’ in Marbella after attending a property exhibition in the UK. Mrs Millman, who speaks fluent Spanish, took over their pet project.
The estate agent who sold them the property advised them to use Del Valle lawyers and they were duly instructed in September 2000. Jackie Millman told CDSN: “The lawyer advised us that the way to handle the purchase of the lot and the development of the subsequent building was by forming a Spanish company.” However all did not run smoothly and Mrs Millman stated: “We stopped using their firm in August 2003 because we were increasingly unhappy with the way in which the company was being run. We felt we had no alternative but to go elsewhere and from that moment we used a separate lawyer and accountant and I administer the company myself.”
Mrs Millman was shocked in March of this year, just days after Del Valle was arrested, when she found that her company and its bank account had been embargoed by the Marbella court despite the fact that she had stopped dealing with the firm 18 months before. She has had no official communication from the court and the only notification has been between her bank and her lawyer. It means she cannot touch her company bank account, sell or do any work on her land and capital payments are due to start this month on her mortgage.
NOT ALONE IN THEIR PLIGHT
Jackie and David Millman are not alone. Her life-long friend, Danny Habel, a well-known furniture retailer in Winchester and Andover, decided to buy a plot at La Quinta alongside hers at the same time. He too appointed the same lawyer and was also advised to buy the property through a Spanish company but instructed a new lawyer in February 2003, as Mr Habel too was unhappy with the situation. The court embargoed his company at the same time as the Millman’s and now both have an anxious wait whilst the Spanish courts decide who are the guilty and innocent parties in Spain’s largest ever money laundering case.
Government restates Marbella demolition threat
Controversial zones to be reinstated to their original public land status
BY DAVID EADE
THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT’S MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT HAS RESTATED ITS DETERMINATION TO DEMOLISH ALL THE BUILDING WORKS IN MARBELLA THAT HAVE BEEN DECLARED ILLEGAL BY THE COURTS FOR BEING BUILT ON PUBLIC LAND BOTH ON THE COASTAL STRIP AND INLAND.
The Andalucía authority’s strong stance was stated in a reply to a parliamentary question laid by the Izquierda Unida deputy in Congress, Isaura Navarro. She wanted to know what provision the ministry was making for the demolition of dozens of properties declared illegal by the Marbella courts. The Andalucía high court has also declared illegal many properties including those currently occupied by their owners.
In its answer the environment ministry expressed its intention to demolish all the works built on public land that have been declared illegal by the courts. It intends to reinstate all these zones back to their original public land status, be they on the coastal strip or inland, in accordance with the legal zoning laws relating to Marbella.
The ministry made clear that it intends to defend rigorously the public domain over coastal and other land and amongst other means intends to take back in to public ownership all spaces that have been occupied illegally.
MARBELLA MAYOR AGAINST DEMOLITION
The tough ministry stance comes as Marbella town council considers a new draft local development plan (PGOU) that would make legal an estimated 80 to 85 per cent of properties that break the existing planning code. However, the Mayor of Marbella, Marisol Yagüe, has publicly stated that she will not approve of any plan that would permit the demolition of existing properties.
Maro fears damage from motorway construction
By Dave Jamieson
Residents of Maro have expressed concern about the effects that motorway construction work is having on their village. Those who live nearest to the area where the Nerja to La Herradura stretch is presently being built say that the regular blasting to clear rocks has resulted in cracks appearing in the walls of house, while others say that the tourist trade is also being badly affected.
The cracks in properties in El Cerrillo, San Antón, San Miguel and the Maro Club complex are not thought to threaten the structures at present, but owners fear that a continuation of the explosions could produce long-term damage. They have asked Nerja Town Hall, which administers Maro, to mediate with the constructors on their behalf in order to reduce the strength of the blasts which produce sensations described by some residents as “like an earthquake”. At least one home owner has complained directly to the construction company but claims that they have failed to send a representative to examine the structural damage.
The problem is also causing economic damage to the tourist sector in the village which is home to Nerja’s famous complex of caves. Manuel Casanova, who runs the Hotel Playamaro and is president of the local business association, says that in the last month, “numerous” clients have cut short their stay, forcing him to return money to them, as a result of the nuisance caused by the blasting operations.
Major NATO exercise in the Straits and Andalucía
News Staff Reporter
A major NATO exercise is underway involving around 10,000 troops and 47 warships. It is the most important aero-naval exercise to be organised by the Spanish Navy in 2005 and carries the code name ‘Neotapon 05’.
Vice-Admiral José Martínez Sainz-Rojas announced to the media that the exercise would run until June 10. It would be carried out in the Straits of Gibraltar, the Mar de Alborán off the Costa del Sol as well as at land sites at ‘Alvarez de Sotomayor’ in Almería and the Sierra del Retín in Cádiz.
Taking part are military units and personnel from ten European countries including Britain plus Turkey and Morocco. On the high seas there will be 27 Spanish naval vessels plus 19 from NATO countries and one from Morocco. King Juan Carlos has already visited the troops taking part in the exercise in Almería.
Benalmádena strike could shorten school year
Janitors’ work stoppage creates unsanitary conditions
By Oliver McIntyre
A STRIKE BY JANITORIAL WORKERS IN BENALMÁDENA COULD RESULT IN THE SCHOOL YEAR BEING CUT SHORT, ACCORDING TO TOWN HALL SOURCES.
Four schools in the town were closed for several days last week and early this week due to unsanitary conditions caused by the janitors’ strike, which began on May 23. The scheduled two-week strike ended on Friday of last week, but the janitors, who work for a private company that is contracted by the Town Hall to clean municipal buildings, have announced plans to begin a second, open-ended strike on June 13.
“Our Health Services Department may propose that all the town’s schools be closed at the beginning of the strike,” a Town Hall representative told Costa del Sol News. He said that the workers were likely to strike at least through the end of the school year, June 23, in order to put as much pressure as possible on the Town Hall. “They don’t meet the [required] minimum service” while striking, he said, “which creates chaos and disaster” in the schools.
The Town Hall’s idea behind possibly requesting the early closure of the schools is to avoid the confusion of continuous health inspections at each school and piecemeal closures of different centres on different days, explained the source. But whether and when to close the schools is ultimately the decision of the Junta de Andalucía, he said.
Tomorrow Town Hall and janitorial-staff representatives are scheduled to meet at a labour-conflict resolution agency in an attempt to come to terms before the June 13 start date for the new strike. But the prospects do not appear bright; the workers are demanding pay equal to that of municipal staff in similar jobs and the Town Hall insists that it has no ability, or even legal authority, to meet that demand, as the workers are employed by a private company.
Britons arrested in Costa drugs raids
BY DAVE JAMIESON
FOUR BRITONS ON THE COSTA DEL SOL HAVE BEEN DETAINED IN TWO SEPARATE OPERATIONS INTO DRUG TRAFFICKING.
In the first, three British subjects now in detention are amongst eleven people arrested in Andalucía and Galicia as part of a police investigation into the international movement of drugs. The trio, reported to be from Málaga, Frigiliana and Marbella, are accused of working with a contact in Portugal, who was a member of the Galician group, known as “Los Caneos”, to smuggle cocaine to various parts of Europe. Police say those arrested in Galicia include Spanish and Colombian citizens. The detentions came last week at the end of a two-year operation involving security services in Spain, Portugal and the U.K. which culminated in a high seas raid on a trawler found to be carrying quantities of the drug across the South Atlantic, and heading for either Spain or Portugal. Police say 5,000 kilos of cocaine, hidden in 157 bales, was confiscated.
The gang leader in Galicia, considered by police to be one of the most important in Spain, is understood to be the son of a known drugs dealer who specialised in clandestine transportation, and who was killed in 1994 by Colombian assassins. The three men arrested on the Costa del Sol are thought to have been responsible for coordinating the movement of drugs between their countries of origin and their distribution points across Europe.
DRUGS OPERATION BASED IN NERJA
Meanwhile, in a separate operation, a British man living in Torrox has been detained by the Guardia Civil as part of an investigation into a Nerja-based drugs operation. 515 kilos of hashish was confiscated when the 38-year-old was arrested. Officers began enquiries in the spring when it was thought that a unit on the Castillo Alto industrial estate in Nerja may have been in use as an operations base for drugs distribution to the U.K. Suspicions were aroused when it was noted that, although no work activity was seen to be taking place in the unit, it was frequently visited by the detained man.
On the night of June 1, a large wooden crate was moved from the unit by lorry, and was intercepted by officers with sniffer dogs. When opened, the consignment, destined for Manchester, was found to contain the drugs split into packets each containing no more than a kilo. Police say their operation remains open, pending the detention of others involved.
‘Business Angels’ programme launched in Mijas
NEWS Staff Reporter
Mijas Town Hall last week hosted an informational seminar about a new government-sponsored programme to bring together entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The programme, called ‘Business Angels’, is a province-wide initiative launched by the Diputación de Málaga’s Planning and Development Company (SOPDE) with support from the Junta de Andalucía and other public and private entities.
The Business Angels programme has already lined up investors prepared to inject some 36 million euros into new or expanding small and mid-size businesses with strong growth potential. The programme is seeking to identify businesses that are in need of capital in excess of 30,000 euros and are interested in taking on an investment partner. The businesses can be in any sector, as long as Business Angels analysts deem them to have strong prospects for medium-term growth, say organisers. Entrepreneurs interested in the programme can find out more at SOPDE’s Centro de Apoyo al Desarrollo Empresarial office, located at the Parque Tecnológico de Andalucía in Campanillas.
Hundreds at bay contamination demo
Protestors march from Puente Mayorga to Guadarranque
By David Eade
AROUND 500 PEOPLE TOOK PART IN A DEMONSTRATION ORGANISED BY ECOLOGIST GROUPS IN THE CAMPO DE GIBRALTAR AREA.
They marched from Puente Mayorga to Guadarranque carrying a large banner proclaiming “In defence of the environment and the health of the people.”
The protest was the second in recent weeks against the pollution caused by the industry in the Bay of Algeciras zone. It also coincided with World Day for the Environment but the marchers’ concerns were much closer to home with demands for controls on the contaminating emissions from the nearby factories and for a study to be carried out to evaluate the damage caused to local residents’ health.
All the leading politicians in San Roque were keen to take part to show their support for local people over this issue. Mayor, José Vázquez, led the march for a few minutes through Puente Mayorga. Members of the Partido Popular, PSOE, PIVG and local union representatives also took part.
At the end of the march the provincial president of the PP, Antonio Sanz, and the party’s president in Andalucía, Javier Arenas, were waiting to greet the marchers. Sr. Arenas stated that the PP would present this week a motion in the Andalucía parliament calling on the environment and health departments to take all necessary steps to control emissions and carry out the health study.
Song, jazz and flamenco in Nerja’s caves
By Dave Jamieson
The silence of Nerja’s famous caves will be broken once again next month, when the 46th annual festival of the arts, with concerts performed deep underground, gets underway. The programme has been announced this week and is a rich mix of lyrical song, jazz and flamenco spectacular, continuing a tradition which in recent years has welcomed to the Caves world-class artistes, such as Rostropovich, Montserrat Caballé and Kiri Te Kanawa.
This year, the event will run from July 19 to 23, and will open with an evening of dance in which the traditional Andalucían art form will play a central role. The presentation by the company of Sevilla’s Manuel Carrasco is entitled “Tronío” and is described as a montage of the happy events of a fiesta. It will feature the singer Arcángel, regarded as one of the fine new talents of the genre.
The second night will see the visit of the Málaga-born baritone Carlos Álvarez who will include arias from “The Barber of Sevilla” and “Carmen” in his recital. He will be accompanied by the Málaga Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Miguel Ortega, whose settings of about a dozen of Federico Garcia Lorca’s poems to music promises to be a highlight of the week.
The mood will change on Thursday 21 July, when the Cuban jazz pianist, Bebo Valdés, brings his quartet to the Caves. At the official launch of this year’s festival programme, the president of the Caves Foundation, Hilario López Luna, described Valdés’ appearance as evidence that the event was “open to other styles of music”.
The final two nights will be given over to performances of a music and dance spectacular, led by Málaga’s Jesús Reina, said to be one of the top five young violinists in the world. He will be joined by dancers Iratxe Ansa, Joan Boix, Laura Bruña, Iván Gil Ortega, Alicia Olleta, Goyo Montero, Ander Zabala and Mónica Zamora, with the classical guitar of Marco Socias and the piano of Albert Guinovart, in a programme centred on the music of Bach, with choreography by Goyo Montero.
Each night’s concert is scheduled to start at 10 p.m.(22.00h.) and tickets, with a uniform price of 50 euros, are now available but, as usual, will be in heavy demand.
Roman artefacts sold on the internet
NEWS Staff Reporter
Seprona, the environmental and heritage protection arm of the Guardia Civil is investigating the on-line sale of historic items stolen from the Roman site at Acinipo near Ronda that dates back to 100BC.
In recent months plunderers have raided the ancient ruins taking coins, old bones, vessels, small statues and other archaeological items. These have now started to appear on the internet where in the case of the coins they are being offered for sale from 220 euros each and officers are trying to track down the sellers.
In April the director of the Ronda museum, Bartolomé Nieto, and local police chief, Francisco Moreno, held a night vigil at Acinipo. Thanks to the bright moon they were able to spot five intruders with torches. They alerted the Guardia Civil and Seprona who were on the scene in minutes and in the chase that ensued officers arrested two of the plunderers.
The alarm was first raised in February over the theft of artefacts and it was for this reason that Nieto and Moreno decided to take up watch over the site in their free time although this could only be a short-term solution. The socialist group at Ronda town hall has now presented a motion asking the administration to set up a local police squad specifically to protect local heritage and archaeological sites.
Councillor Pepa Becerra has appealed to the town hall to adopt as a matter of urgency all the necessary means to safeguard the assets of Andalucía heritage. She pointed out that in Ronda there are 227 documented historic sites and many of these are open to attack by plunderers, as there is not sufficient personnel to keep watch over every once. She hoped that all political groups would support her call for a higher level of local police vigilance.
Her appeal has been quickly acted on by the town hall. Members of the council have met with the provincial delegate for culture, Francisco López, and have decided to set up a security commission for the historic site that has suffered plundering since its discovery in the 17th century.
Beaches get blue flags
Costa to fly one less blue flag
By Oliver McIntyre
THE BEACHES AND MARINAS OF THE PROVINCE OF MÁLAGA ARE TO RECEIVE A TOTAL OF 21 QUALITY-CONFERRING BLUE FLAGS THIS YEAR.
The news was announced by the Spanish Association for Environmental and Consumer Education (Adeac). This group is a member of the Foundation for Environmental Education, which awards the blue flags each year. The number of flags to be awarded this year are down by just one from 2004.
Benalmádena is the Costa town to receive the greatest number of flags this year, with three at beaches (Malapesquera, Bil-Bil and Fuente de la Salud) and one for its marina. The other Costa marinas receiving flags are Caleta de Vélez, Fuengirola, Estepona, Puerto Banús and La Bajadilla in Marbella, and Manilva’s La Duquesa.
Besides Benalmádena, towns receiving flags for their beaches include Fuengirola (Los Boliches); Torrox (Ferrara and El Morche); Nerja (Torrecilla); Málaga (San Andrés); Marbella (Río Verde and Guadalmina); Estepona (La Rada, El Cristo and El Padrón); and Manilva (Sabinillas).
Nationwide, Spain is to receive 478 blue flags on beaches this year, 28 more than last year, while the flags will fly at 82 marinas, up 14 from 2004. Internationally, the blue flags have been awarded to 2,442 beaches and 632 marinas in more than 30 countries.
Massive Madrid march
Opposition party joins demonstration
By David Eade
SATURDAY SAW A MASSIVE MARCH THROUGH THE STREETS OF MADRID IN THE DEMONSTRATION ORGANISED BY THE AVT (VICTIMS OF TERRORISM) TO PROTEST AT A POSSIBLE DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT AND ETA.
Estimates of those taking part varied wildly with the National Police saying 200,000, the Madrid police 500,000 and the association for the victims of terrorism (AVT) more than a million.
The march was made up of three parts. The first marched behind the victims of terrorism’s banner, which declared: “For Them. For All. Negotiations in my name No!” The second belonged to the Partido Popular whose banner stated: “Liberty with Dignity” and the third group made up of civic groups read: “Civic collectives. For liberty not for negotiation.”
No members of the Spanish government took part nor were there members of the ruling PSOE or left-wing Izquierda Unida parties present. This left the day to the present leader of the opposition Partido Popular, Mariano Rajoy, and the former PM, José María Aznar who attended with his wife Ana Botella. Also amongst those present was the sister of Miguel Ángel Blanco, the councillor murdered in Ermua, and a victim of the March 11 bombings in Madrid.
The participation of the PP in the march has led to accusations of “manipulation” from the governing party. José Blanco, organisation secretary of PSOE, condemned Mariano Rajoy for demonstrating against the anti-terrorism policy of the government instead of supporting it. He added that Sr. Rajoy had demonstrated against a policy that did not even exist.
Summer risks highlighted
By David Eade and Dave Jamieson
The Spanish government has given its approval for a series of measures that are aimed to tackle the problems that recur each summer in the country. These include the drought, fires, delinquency in coastal zones, traffic accidents, the hidden economy and the effects of the heat.
The vice-president of the government, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, announced the ‘Plan Verano’, which would see 9,000 officers assigned to traffic control with another 5,000 personnel for the fight against fires.
A campaign was also announced to save energy in relation to the use of air conditioning units that has risen in recent years. Various zones of Spain suffered power cuts last summer because of the jump in electricity demand.
The Guardia Civil are to put in to effect a fire prevention plan in forest areas that will run from June 1 to September 30. It will be carried out by officers assigned to Seprona and other wings of the force.
The ministry of agriculture is also implementing a plan to control the irrigation of crops so as to save water and to ensure its rational use to counter the effects of the drought.
The prevention of traffic accidents is also a major concern. There will be major campaigns on the use of seat belts, drink driving and high speeds. Over 8,000 Guardia Civil with more than 1,100 personnel from other units will be involved in these campaigns.
Heat wave health fears
With predictions of a very hot summer head, plans are underway to combat the negative effects of a prolonged heatwave. The National Meteorological Institute says temperatures in Andalucía will be a degree above average in the next three months, and has established four levels of risk, with the highest to be activated when maximum temperatures rise on five consecutive days.
Now, the health department at the Junta de Andalucía has launched a prevention plan against the effects of high temperatures, but say there is no cause for alarm. Regional health councillor María Jesús Montero underlined the importance of the particular need for over-65s and children under 4 to take precautions. On days when meteorologists are predicting particularly high temperatures, the latter group will be contacted by nurses either by phone or in person. 300,000 leaflets are being placed in health centres and nursery schools warning parents of the dangers posed to their children by excessive temperatures. Health experts recommend that physical activity should be avoided between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., that shade should be sought, and that plenty of non-alcoholic drinks are consumed along with fresh fruit and vegetables. They also recommend that windows are curtains are closed against the sun, and that light-coloured clothing is worn. The regional health service is also offering a text-messaging service to warn of days when particularly high temperatures are forecast.