News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week February 16th to February 22nd 2006.
BURGLAR SHOT AT EXPAT HOME
Briton arrested for alleged shooting of intruder
By David Eade
THE NATIONAL POLICE IN MARBELLA HAVE ARRESTED TWO MEN, ONE OF THEM A BRITON, AFTER A SHOOTING INCIDENT IN CALLE COPENHAGEN ON LAS BRISAS URBANISATION IN NUEVA ANDALUCÍA.
Officers rushed to the scene after local residents reported hearing a number of gunshots at 01.20. On arrival, the police found a man suffering from gun shot wounds who admitted to breaking into a nearby house. The intruder said he had entered the garden and had been shot by the presumed owner of the house. The injured man had a knife and screwdriver in his possession.
Acting on the injured man’s description of the house and owner, officers followed a trail of blood to the house where the incident had supposedly taken place and found seven calibre 9mm spent cartridges.
The owner of the property, 49-year-old Briton Paul M, initially denied having been involved in the incident despite the evidence of the blood, cartridges and burglar’s description. It is understood that he later told police that he’d heard the alarm and on going into the garden had fired the gun into the ground to scare off the intruder.
The National Police are now certifying whether the homeowner had a licence for the gun and whether he has a criminal record or is wanted in the UK.
The victim is 43-year-old San Pedro resident, Antonio C who has 15 previous convictions for forced entry to homes as well as other offences. He is presently under police guard in Marbella’s Costa del Sol hospital. His condition is said to be serious but not life threatening as the gun wounds are to his legs.
HOME ROBBERIES A MAJOR PROBLEM
Home robberies are an increasing problem on the Costa del Sol, and the police force is looking at ways of combating this. The area surrounding Marbella has especially been targeted over the last years and in neighbouring towns such as Estepona action has already been taken.
The new National Police chief of Estepona, Antonia Mena, has announced the boosting of her force by 10 officers. She stated that their aim was to combat the activity of organised gangs and that the battle against home robberies was high on their list of priorities.
Residents angry over lack of phone service
By Oliver McIntyre
RESIDENTS IN THE HUERTAS ALTAS ZONE OF ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE ARE TIRED OF HAVING TO RELY ON THEIR MOBILE PHONES TO MAKE AND RECEIVE CALLS AT HOME.
They say around 70 homes in the urbanisation cannot get land-line phone connections, despite the fact that it in many cases it has been two or even three years since the homes were built.
The residents say phone company Telefónica blamed the problem on the Town Hall, because the necessary utility box for the zone had not been installed. But last summer the box was installed, they say, and still no phone lines. The company’s last communication with the residents indicated that the phone lines would be installed by mid-November, but the date came and went with no change in the situation, say those affected.
Not only are the residents forced to use their mobile phones at home, but some of them suffer the added inconvenience of poor reception, meaning they have to walk outside to make calls, they say. And if they want to use a land line, the nearest public phone is more than half a kilometre away.
In addition to multiple complaints to the phone company, the residents say they have collected signatures and are consulting with consumer-protection groups for advice on what further action they can take.
Guardia officers held in Airport charges scam
By Dave Jamieson
Nineteen Guardia Civil officers have been detained at Málaga airport in connection with illegal charges made to air travellers. The arrests on Saturday and Sunday came following a top-secret internal investigation after the suspected activity was first reported last September. It appears to have been the Chinese embassy in Spain which first complained to the authorities that some of its citizens had been obliged to pay 50 euros “to avoid customs problems” before being allowed to take away their luggage. Reports also say that, if an item which should have been declared to Customs was found in luggage, a much larger charge – sometimes hundreds of euros – would be made.
In a statement, the Guardia Civil said that the subsequent enquiries revealed that such action had become common practice amongst a small number of its officers based at the airport. It added that small sums of money had been demanded to speed up or omit completely routine customs checks on luggage belonging to travellers arriving from outside the E.U., or as a charge for non-existent procedures on Europeans.
120 Guardia Civil officers are based at Málaga airport undertaking security and customs duties, and despite the weekend’s detentions, work was reported to be continuing as normal with no disruptions for passengers after the duties of the detained men were covered by officers brought in from Málaga Port. On Sunday night, a Málaga court ordered five of the officers to be detained in prison while the other 14 were released on bail.
Dead Briton was a Belgian
By David Eade
It has now been established that the unidentified man who died whilst being arrested last week in a Marbella street by four local policemen was not a Briton but a Belgian. Although the man had no identification on him the arresting officers and eye witnesses believed he was British as he spoke in English and good Spanish but with “an English accent”.
The victim was finally identified two days after his death when the gardener of his property in the Casablanca urbanisation recognised his photograph in a newspaper. This led to his identification as Lieven Franz Herman de Wilde and within hours his distressed mother had made the journey from Belgium to her son’s Marbella home. She stayed in the town for little more than 24-hours before returning to Brussels and leaving her son’s affairs in the hands of a Spanish solicitor.
His mother described Lieven as ‘a good and educated person’ who had worked in the Nicaraguan Embassy in Brussels and at the Belgian Foreign Office as a Spanish translator. He learnt Spanish at the University of Málaga and had been visiting Spain for many years. She added: “My son was more Spanish than Belgian, he loved the country and had travelled extensively in Spain.”
On the matter of his alleged aggressive behaviour at the time of his arrest she stated: “He did not have problems with alcohol but was taking medication for the grief he has suffered since the death of his father at Christmas.” She was adamant that he ‘never’ had problems with his heart and was ‘very strong and healthy’.
The four local police officers that arrested Lieven are suspended from duty pending the judicial enquiry being carried out by a judge of the Marbella court. After the initial post-mortem in Málaga failed to provide a cause of death the victim’s body was sent last week to Sevilla for more detailed tests, the results of which are still awaited.
Explosives blow out cashpoint in Nerja attack
News Staff Reporter
A British-owned business in Nerja has been attacked by robbers armed with explosives. Nerjamar, an estate agent on the town’s Burriana Beach, was the target for thieves during the early hours of Saturday morning in an attempt to steal the cash held in a cashpoint (ATM).
The gang responsible appear to have broken into the offices by smashing windows and then set explosives behind the cash dispenser machinery, blowing it out of the wall and causing massive damage to the inside of the premises. Neighbours in apartments above heard a huge explosion which they at first thought was a road accident. One reported seeing banknotes fluttering through the air in the aftermath of the blast.
According to Deustche Bank who operate of the cashpoint, 27,000 euros was taken from the machine. National Police, whose specialist explosives unit Tedax was called to the scene, later said that three men of Italian origin had been arrested in connection with the theft.
Cocaine ring smashed - 41 people arrested
Costa-wide gang was ‘perfectly organised’, say police
By Dave Jamieson
IN AN OPERATION COVERING THE COAST FROM ESTEPONA TO VÉLEZ-MÁLAGA, THE POLICE HAVE DETAINED 41 PEOPLE ALLEGED TO BE PART OF A COCAINE DISTRIBUTION NETWORK.
Amongst those detained in Marbella, Fuengirola, Torremolinos and Vélez were 17 Colombians and 20 Spanish nationals. The culmination of the police operation came with the raid of seven private homes in the La Palma – Pamilla district of Málaga.
Investigations began at the end of last year after authorities identified the gang, which was split into four groups of individuals described by police as “perfectly organised.” The gang was alleged to be distributing supplies of cocaine all along the coast. The drugs, brought south from storage in Madrid, were believed to be sold on to intermediaries who then made them available to the end users.
During the operation 16 kilos of cocaine were confiscated, along with 32,000 euros in cash, a number of real and replica weapons, and a number of other items. The police operation, which included tapping mobile phone calls made by the accused allegedly to arrange their transactions, also uncovered the laundering of the money raised by the sale of cocaine.
Major Marbella protest planned
By David Eade
The momentum of protest against the Marbella administration is growing by the day, with over 20 local groups now having stated that they will support the demonstration planned for March 30. They are demanding the resignation of the tri-party government team, which they argue has caused irreversible damage to the town.
Under the protest slogan ‘Marbella – San Pedro for change’, a coalition of local resident groups, small and medium-sized businesses associations and other organisations has come together to demand immediate action. Coalition spokesman José Luis Hernández said that while none of the political parties in the municipality are directly involved in the demonstration, they have been contacted and many back the action.
The coalition has sent an open letter to the people of Marbella explaining the purpose of the protest and calling for their support. The letter speaks of the council ruining the local economy and accuses it of decadence and damaging the prestige of the resort. It accuses the administration of “incompetence and immorality.” Sources close to Mayor Marisol Yagüe have responded by dismissing the coalition as being a creation of the opposition Partido Popular.
PAYBACK TIME FOR MUÑOZ
Meanwhile, the former GIL party mayor of Marbella, Julián Muñoz, and two other ex-managers of the municipal company Jardines 2000 have been ordered by the State audit tribunal to pay back more than 3.5 million euros.
Financial irregularities were discovered in the management of the company during the period 1994 and 1999. The case was first brought to light by the opposition Partido Popular, which said Muñoz and the others were responsible for a drain on municipal funds of 2.7 million euros. That is the amount that now has to be repaid, plus interest set by the tribunal.
Muñoz and the two others have 15 days in which to appeal against the ruling. The tribunal’s 57-page report finds the trio guilty of “serious negligence” in the management of Jardines 2000 and cites instances of more than 900,000 euros being paid out to unknown people or companies as well as 360,000 euros paid for non-existent works.
Madrid finally funds Nerja water plant
By Dave Jamieson
NERJA IS TO GET ITS WATER TREATMENT PLANT AT LAST. THE TOWN’S MAYOR, JOSÉ ALBERTO ARMIJO, HAS BEEN EXPRESSING HIS SATISFACTION ABOUT A RECENT DECISION BY THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS IN MADRID TO GO AHEAD WITH A 100 MILLION EURO PROJECT TO BENEFIT SEVERAL MUNICIPALITIES ALONG THE COAST, DESCRIBING IT AS SOLVING ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEMS ON THE COSTA DEL SOL.
The Association of Businesses in the town said it would enhance Nerja’s tourist image. The long-awaited plant will be sited in the area known as Aguahierro, close to the Fuente del Badén urbanisation on the town’s eastern outskirts. The Ministry of the Environment will foot the bill for the improvements, and while the budget for the Nerja plant is not known, Mayor Armijo said a previous estimate of 36 million euros had been made by the Ministry’s technicians. The final cost will include all the necessary infrastructure.
THE NEVER-ENDING SAGA
The on-off saga of Nerja’s water purification plant began in early 2002 when the Town Hall purchased a 28,000 square metre site at Fuente del Badén for its construction. By mid-2003, however, it was announced that the design would have to be revised as the proposed plant would not be adequate for Nerja’s rising population, while in spring 2004, concerned residents persuaded Mayor Armijo to ask for the plant to be covered in order to avoid bad smells, a demand then rejected by the water authority. Financial wrangles and accusations of delays continued between the Town Hall and the Junta, while Greenpeace criticised Nerja for failing to have the facility operating.
In December 2004, the water authority dropped a bombshell by announcing that a better site had to be found for the plant which would cause a ten year delay, described then by Mayor Armijo as “unacceptable”.
Then last December, it was announced the original site was suitable after all for a compact, covered plant, and with last week’s decision, it appears that the years of waiting may finally be over.
Burriana bach fails the language test
Nerja Town Hall calls for businesses to learn Spanish
By Dave Jamieson
BURRIANA BEACH HAS BEEN NAMED AS ONE OF THE LEAST SPANISH-FRIENDLY AREAS OF NERJA.
The comment came as councillors debated a motion bemoaning those foreign-owned businesses in the town which deal only in their native language. The motion, raised by the spokesperson for the socialist group, Carmen Jiménez, sought to “facilitate access and information for the majority of the residents who speak our language” and came after complaints from the public that a number of such businesses could not handle enquiries or orders in Spanish.
During the debate at the Town Hall, councillors were reminded that the Junta de Andalucía’s work and welfare regulations require food and drink menus, price lists and other publicity to be available in Spanish, but that in many foreign-owned establishments in Nerja, the language used was the native tongue of the proprietor.
Sra. Jiménez added that a business open to the public should offer its services to everyone and not just to a minority group of people who know the language, whether it is German, English, French or Italian. In addition to the town’s important Burriana Beach area, she said most complaints have stemmed from non-Spanish businesses in the centre of the old town, including bars, restaurants, estate agents and gift shops.
Foreign-owned businesses in Nerja are now to receive a warning from the Town Hall that they must cater for an international clientele, while those applying to open a new business will receive a letter reminding them of their obligations. Around 30 per cent of all businesses in Nerja are foreign owned, the majority by Britons.
Ronda’s historic centre to be pedestrian
By David Eade
After a two-month trial period Ronda’s traffic department has taken the decision to make the historic quarter of the town a pedestrian only zone. The move was announced by councillor María de la Paz Fernández who voiced her satisfaction with the results of the pilot scheme carried out in December and January.
Initially the move had been resisted by residents of the area as well as parents of pupils at the music school and Las Esclavas college. However their fears have evaporated over the trial period and all are now agreed that the pedestrian only ruling will enhance the historic heart of the town.
Whilst visitors will not be able to park in the area arrangements still have to be made to accommodate the cars of the local residents. One possible solution is to make an agreement with the El Castillo college for the use of its internal courtyard that could hold around 500 vehicles.
The move to protect the historic zone of Ronda has not met with universal support in the town of the Tajo. Some residents believe the move favours that area to the detriment of others, all of which suffer from a chronic lack of parking. They are urging the town hall not to impose the pedestrian only rule on the historic quarter until additional parking has been provided elsewhere.
British businesses give back in Alhaurin
3,000 euro donation presented to Town Hall
By Oliver McIntyre
A GROUP OF BRITISH BUSINESSES IN ALHAURÍN EL GRANDE HAS PRESENTED THE TOWN HALL WITH A DONATION OF NEARLY 3,000 EUROS FOR MUNICIPAL SPORTS PROGRAMMES. A representative of the British group called the donation “a gesture of support for the Alhaurín community, which has so warmly welcomed [us] to live and work here.” The group, including some 35 British-owned local businesses, said it planned to make similar donations to the Town Hall each year.
Mark Taylor, owner of Bed Linen Direct, was one of the organisers of the fundraising auction the businesses held to raise the money for the donation. He told Costa del Sol News it was a way for the British businesses to show that they are full-fledged members of the community. “We live in Alhaurín and we care about Alhaurín,” he said. “We’re not just here for the sunshine.”
Each of the 35 participating businesses donated goods or services to be auctioned off. The local British community showed strong support, filling the auction hall to over capacity and, in most cases, bidding the prices up to well beyond the market value of each item, said Mr Taylor.
“The most important thing is not the amount of the donation but the gesture of support for the community,” said Mayor Juan Martín, expressing the Town Hall’s gratitude to the British business owners. He called it “a clear demonstration of their integration in Alhaurín life, where foreigners are participating more and more in our sporting and cultural events” and becoming “ever more established in our town.”
Brits top foreigners list
Foreign residents make up 19 per cent of Alhaurín’s official population of 21,862, according to Town Hall data. The town has 4,159 foreign residents, of which more than half – 2,285 – are British. The next largest group, Romanians, come in at a distant 357, followed by Moroccans (260), Argentines (226) and Germans (163). In all there are 63 nationalities represented in the town’s population.
Strong British market for inland properties
By David Eade
TRADITIONALLY THE MAJORITY OF THE PROPERTIES IN THE PROVINCE OF CÁDIZ SOLD TO BRITISH BUYERS HAVE BEEN IN THE BEACH RESORTS OF CHICLANA AND CONIL.
Now the trend is changing and the so-called ‘second line’ of inland villages such as Benalup, Medina Sidonia, Vejer and Alcalá de los Gazules are now being strongly marketed to overseas buyers.
Indeed it is not just the British who are being wooed to these inland locations. Estate agents in Ireland, Germany, Holland and Belgium are also actively selling properties just a short drive from the coast. These villages are attractive to overseas buyers because of their golf developments, peacefulness and outstanding scenery.
Many retired Britons, Germans, Dutch and Belgians, married and aged over 50 are now heading for Benalup, which has seen more than 400 new homes built in recent years. Likewise Medina Sidonia has more than 1,500 new properties whilst Alcalá de los Gazules and Vejer have more than 450 each.
There are several other factors that make these locations attractive to the new influx of buyers. Much investment has been made in these inland villages in creating luxury golf and leisure developments. At the same time the improved roads mean that whilst the homes are set in the countryside they are just a short drive from Sevilla and Jerez airports which have direct flights to the UK and other European countries.
Call for calm on bird flu
By Oliver McIntyre
With the bird-flu scare once again taking flight in Europe following the detection of infected birds in Greece, Italy and Bulgaria, Spanish officials have issued a call for public calm.
While the government has admitted that the likelihood of infected birds arriving in Spain is increased with the onset of the migration period for birds heading north from Africa, officials insist that preparations are in place to quickly detect any potential cases and take appropriate action.
The government’s vice president, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, said that the most important thing right now is “to transmit a message of calm to the public.” She reiterated that in Spain there is “no alarming situation and no cases of bird flu.”
A spokesperson for the country’s Central Veterinary Laboratory, Concha Gómez, stated: “If a suspicious case appears, we would detect it within four hours.”
A previously created permanent commission on bird flu, made up by representatives of the Ministries of Health and Agriculture, is constantly monitoring the situation, said officials. Agriculture Minister Elena Espinosa stated that the government has activated a “veterinary alert,” but not a public health or food alert. “There is no risk in human consumption” of poultry products, she said.
Prevention measures, like the prohibition of poultry farming within 10 kilometres of wetlands, are being strictly enforced, said Sra Espinosa. In addition, Spain has gone beyond EU recommendations in identifying wetlands that pose high risk for infection due to the arrival of migratory birds, she said. While the EU had identified 18 such wetlands in Spain, the Spanish government has categorised 25 wetlands as high-risk.
Tobacco tax up as kiosks win concession
By Dave Jamieson
As expected, the recent cigarette price-cutting war has led the Government to increase the taxes on tobacco. Kiosk owners, however, received some good news over their demands to be allowed to sell cigarettes.
On Thursday last week, Deputies agreed to raise the tax rates for the second time in three weeks and the third time in the last five months. According to the State Bulletin published on Saturday, sales tax on all cigarettes sold in Spain will rise by 3.7 per cent to 57 per cent. Once IVA is added, taxation will account for about 76 per cent of the price of a pack, one of the highest rates in the EU. The Ministry of Health hopes that the move, which imposes a minimum 1.10 euros tax on a pack of 20 cigarettes, will force a price rise in the cheapest brands, which they allege are targeted at young people, although this failed last time when manufacturers lowered prices to compensate. However, by Tuesday this week there was some evidence that the government’s move might be successful this time as some of the cheaper tobacco brands began to increase their prices.
Meanwhile, there was better news for kiosk owners who were prohibited from selling tobacco products by new legislation which came into force on January 1. They argued that some were suffering huge losses as a result, with predictions of many going out of business. On January 30, some 300 owners from across Spain gathered outside the Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs in Madrid, protesting for the right to sell cigarettes once again. Last week, the Government went some way to meet their demands by agreeing that vending machines could be installed by kiosk owners, provided that the installation is inside the kiosk and that the kiosk is not situated in place where smoking is prohibited along with tobacco sales.
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