News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week 7th December - 13th December 2006
BRITS DEMAND MONEY BACK
Marbella land scandal hits foreign buyers
By David Eade
OVER 300 FOREIGN RESIDENTS AND BRITISH INVESTORS ARE DEMANDING THEIR MONEY BACK FOR PROPERTIES THEY HAVE AGREED TO BUY ON SANTA MARÍA GREEN HILLS AND LOS LAGOS DE SANTA MARÍA URBANISATIONS IN ELVIRIA SUR, MARBELLA.
The buyers have taken the action as the licences for the developments were granted during the reign of Jesús Gil and Julian Muñoz as mayors of Marbella and when Juan Antonio Roca presided over the town’s planning.
The urbanisations’ fate now lies with the court but whilst the purchasers are demanding their money be returned the developers and banks involved are refusing and insisting they proceed with the contracted purchases.
It is claimed that the licences were granted in 2002 and 2003 by Marbella town hall in clear violation of the local development plan (PGOU). The case is being examined by the management team now looking after the municipality’s affairs but it is alleged no licence of first occupation has been granted for the development.
If no licences are forthcoming the would-be owners who have paid out between 90,000 and 110,000 euros each to date are unwilling to proceed with the purchases.
The developer, Los Lagos de Santa María Golf that is based in Granada, says they have no reason not to complete their purchase as the works licences are legal, they were granted by the town hall, are now being reviewed by the management team and will be declared legal. However on the lack of the licence of first occupation it is saying nothing.
For the developers, Víctor Sánchez alleged that the reasons the buyers are not proceeding with the purchases is not due to the lack of the licences but because of the change in the property market. His view would also seem to be supported by the banks involved in the developments.
Six Málaga arrests in massive tax fraud
IVA tax rip-off may involve more than 400 million euros
By Dave Jamieson
MÁLAGA IS AT THE CENTRE OF THE BIGGEST IVA TAX FRAUD UNCOVERED IN SPANISH HISTORY. A city court last week authorised the early-morning arrest of a number of local people who are amongst 40 detained throughout the country. Thirty businesses have been investigated in an enquiry which is reported to have uncovered irregularities of at least 400 million euros going back to 2003.
Málaga has been at the heart of the operation, which was launched in June 2005 when a tax office inspection at a company in the province noted anomalies in its IVA (valued-added tax) returns. Investigations began at other businesses in the computer-equipment and mobile-telephone sectors and when it became clear that the problem existed at a national level, a judicial enquiry was launched.
The extent of the operation became public last Thursday when the director general of the tax office, Luis Pedroche, described it as “the largest IVA fraud plot discovered in Spain.” Practices believed to have been used included the importation of tax-free material from other EU countries and failure to pay taxes on it in Spain, as well as the fictitious sale and purchase of non-existent goods.
Amongst those detained nationally are the proprietor of the telecommunications group Mefleur, one of the most important companies in Aragon, and an employee of Infinity System, which manufactures the Airis range of computers. Of the six arrests made in Málaga province, three women and a man were released on bail the same day while two other men were held in jail. Sources indicated that more arrests may follow. The ongoing operation, which has involved authorised phone tapping and has been conducted in secret until now, has included investigations in eight autonomous regions in Spain and several EU countries.
Submarine drug-runners go under
NEWS Staff Reporter
Eight people have been arrested for allegedly using a homemade submarine to smuggle cocaine to the coast of Galicia. The arrests were made in Galicia, Madrid and Cataluña as well as in Estepona and La Línea. National Police officials said ample documentation related to the construction and operation of the submarine was found at the individuals’ homes.
Investigations led to the arrests of the seven Spaniards and one Venezuelan
after the submarine was found by a Guardia Civil patrol in August. It had been abandoned in the Ría de Vigo with 4,400 litres of fuel in its tanks. The submarine was handmade in Gondomar and measured 11 metres long by two metres wide. It was made of metal and could be operated several metres below the surface with a crew on board.The vessel had three propellers and three motors, two of them electric, and was equipped with electronic communications equipment. There was also a sail so that the submarine could travel on the surface without using its engines.
AVE to arrive in Antequera next week
NEWS Staff Reporter
High-speed trains are scheduled to arrive in Antequera within 10 days. The Ministry of Development has announced that the first AVE services will start operating on Saturday, December 16. It is thought that the prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, may participation in the inauguration ceremony.
The opening of the 100 kilometres of line from Almodóvar del Río, 22 kilometres south-west of Córdoba, to Antequera is a significant move towards bringing AVE trains into Málaga. The two new stations on the route, Puente Genil and Santa Ana at El Torcal, are said to be 95 per cent ready to receive passengers.
Renfe plan to run six trains a day in each direction on the line as part of its Madrid-Málaga route, although the service will run at normal speeds on the final stretch towards the coast until the new tracks are ready late next year. Nevertheless, the new service will cut the journey time between Madrid’s Atocha station and Málaga’s new María Zambrano station to under four hours, about half an hour quicker than at present. When the line into Málaga is fully open, that will be further reduced to two and a half hours, or less.
From next week, the quickest journey from coast to capital will be the Talgo service which leaves Málaga at 07.00 a.m.. arriving 51 minutes later in Antequera, where the train passes through a special converter to change the width between carriage wheels from the Iberian broad gauge of 1,668 mm to the international gauge, used by the AVE, of 1,435 mm, an operation which will take nine minutes. Then travelling at high speed, it will make stops at Puente Genil at 08.17 and Córdoba at 08.46, before continuing non-stop to Madrid Atocha, where it will arrive at 10.50 – a journey time of three hours and fifty minutes.An average of 960,000 passengers use the existing rail service between the two cities, a figure which travel experts expect will increase by 20 per cent with the arrival of the AVE trains.
Costa del Sol hospital to have 150 more beds
Major expansion budgeted at 27 million euros
By David Eade
OFFICIALS HAVE ANNOUNCED PLANS FOR A MAJOR EXPANSION OF THE COSTA DEL SOL HOSPITAL IN MARBELLA THAT WILL INCREASE ITS INPATIENT CAPACITY BY 60 PER CENT.
According to the director of the national health medical centre, José Antonio García, the annex will give the hospital an additional 150 beds and will also convert it into an official specialist centre.
“The project is a little delayed but we hope that it will be ready by the end of the month,” said Sr García, referring to the architectural plans for the expansion.
The hospital opened to the public in 1993 and it has always been intended that it would be enlarged and its services expanded. Sr García explained that the hospital will have new technologies such as nuclear medicine and vascular surgery, and that preparing to incorporate these services has been more difficult than anticipated.
It is estimated that in four years the hospital will serve a population of around 650,000 people and the present facilities would not be able to cope with that number. The new annex will bring the total number of beds up to 400. There will also be increased parking and expanded shopping and cafeteria facilities. In addition, the management is seeking to improve the telephone installations at the hospital.
HOSPITAL TO REMAIN OPEN DURING WORK
The enlargement programme, included in the regional government’s 2007 budget, is expected to cost over 27 million euros. The work will be carried out in phases and will not interfere with the normal running of the medical centre.
Ikea construction underway
NEWS Staff Reporter
After numerous delays and setbacks, construction work on the future Ikea store next to the Plaza Mayor commercial centre in Málaga is finally getting underway this week, with a completion timeline of 11 months, meaning the store could be open to shoppers by late 2007. Company officials say they will do all they can to speed up construction in order to open for business as soon as possible.
Significant site-preparation work has already been carried out, and was in fact one of the causes of delay in moving forward with construction. Due to a flood risk at the site, which sits two metres below the level of the Río Guadalhorce, the town hall required the company to build up the ground level by at least two metres, a major and costly undertaking.
That was not the first setback to the project. When the company first announced plans for a Málaga location several years ago, it had to wait out a yearlong moratorium on the construction of large commercial centres. Other snags have included road and traffic issues around the site and concerns that the building would cause interference with an antenna at the Málaga airport.
Ikea has agreed to pay part of the 6.7 million-euro cost of creating a wider road between the motorway and the old N-340 to improve access to its new store and Plaza Mayor. Last week it also signed an agreement with Málaga town hall under which the company will provide 1.5 million euros to be used for the promotion of local small businesses. Ikea estimates it will spend 60 million euros on the construction of the store, which will have 20,000 square metres of retail space and parking for 2,000 cars.
King trial recess until December 11
NEWS Staff Reporter
With the calling of witnesses finished and only the closing arguments left to deliver, the judge in the trial of Tony Alexander King for the 1999 murder of Mijas teenager Rocío Wanninkhof has called a recess until December 11, following the long weekend.
On Friday, the last day of trial before the recess, the different parties in the case indicated the exact charges and sentences they would plea before the jury.
The public prosecutor will maintain his original charges of murder and attempted sexual assault, as well as his request for 26 years and nine months in prison for King. The private prosecution, brought by the victim’s mother, Alicia Hornos, has amended its original charges, coming into line with the prosecutor by adding attempted sexual assault to its initial charge of murder. King’s defence team altered its initial plea for an innocent verdict, saying it would now accept the possibility of a verdict finding him guilty as an accomplice, with the mitigating circumstance of being in an altered mental state. King “never denied that he was there” at the time the crime was committed, said his lawyer.On Monday, December 11, the trial will reconvene for final arguments before the jury enters deliberations to determine the verdict against King, who is currently serving a 36-year sentence for the murder of 17-year-old Sonia Carabantes in Coín and a seven-year sentence for an attempted rape in Benalmádena.
Benalmádena hotel buzzes with unwanted guests
'Clients' occupied three floors
By Oliver McIntyre
WHILE MANY COSTA HOTELS REDOUBLE THEIR EFFORTS TO ATTRACT CUSTOMERS DURING THE OFF-SEASON, ONE BENALMÀDENA ESTABLISHMENT FOUND ITSELF POSITIVELY BUZZING WITH GUESTS
– but unfortunately not the paying kind. Last week a team of firefighters assisted by a beekeeper ‘evicted’ an enormous bee colony that had created a series of hives in the air ducts of the Hotel Velázquez. The hives extended a total of some 10 metres, from the fourth to the seventh floor.
The population had grown over time, and had become so thick that residents of the neighbouring Residencial Rubens complained to the town hall. Some said they couldn’t even go out on their balconies during times of peak bee activity, as the swarms – and sometimes stings – became unbearable. Others said they sometimes couldn’t even sleep at night because of the buzzing racket.
The residents and other curious onlookers watched with great interest last week as bee specialist Juan José Rodríguez, decked out in his white beekeeper’s suit, ascended in the fire truck’s extension basket to begin chipping away at the building’s façade to get at the hives. His first objective was to locate the queen bees, so that he could then remove all the others, he said. The work wasn’t easy, but it did have at least one sweet reward; Sr Rodríguez estimated he’d be able to harvest several dozen kilos of honey from the hives.
National recognition for library's foreign section
Arroyo de la Miel library has more than 20,000 foreign-language titles
By Oliver McIntyre
THE EXTENSIVE FOREIGN-LANGUAGE SECTION AT BENALMÁDENA’S ARROYO DE LA MIEL LIBRARY WAS HELD UP AS AN EXAMPLE AT THE THIRD NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF PUBLIC LIBRARIES LAST WEEK IN MURCIA.
The head of the library, Mari Carmen Martín, was selected as one of 12 featured speakers at the conference. Her talk, titled Books in Other Languages: Responding to the Demand, gave library professionals from around the country a peek at how the now 19-year-old programme was started and developed into its current selection of more than 20,000 titles in at least seven different languages.
The foreign-language section was launched in 1987 at the request of English-speaking residents of the town, Sra Martín told the conference attendees. Within the first two months it collected 1,000 books, all donated. Since then it has grown steadily, always by way of donations and always under the management of a team of volunteers from the foreign-resident community. In 2002, when the library moved into its current building, the section was expanded to include other languages besides English. It now occupies about a third of the library’s ground floor.
The work of the volunteers who built and operate the foreign-language section – there have been 26 of them over the years – has not gone unappreciated by local officials. Indeed, the dozen current volunteers, who include residents from Britain, France, Canada, Argentina, Poland, Germany, Finland, Holland and the United States, were recently named for the town hall’s Medal of Merit and Honour, which they were scheduled to receive yesterday at a ceremony at the Casa de Cultura.
Allen Carr dies of lung cancer
His Easyway method helped millions kick the habit
By David Eade
ALLEN CARR, THE ANTI-SMOKING CAMPAIGNER WHO HELPED MILLIONS OF PEOPLE TO QUIT THE HABIT, HAS IRONICALLY DIED AFTER LOSING HIS BATTLE WITH LUNG CANCER.
The 72-year-old, who smoked 100-a-day before stubbing out his last cigarette 23 years ago, died at his Marbella home. Carr, who was married with four children and 11 grandchildren, passed away with his family at his bedside.
Carr had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer earlier this year. It is not known whether the condition was caused by his previous addiction or during the spent years in smoky rooms helping smokers.
It was in 1983 that the former accountant who became an anti-smoking expert developed his Easyway method of giving up smoking. He opened a clinic in London in the same year and then established 70 clinics in 30 countries, which treated a total of 45,000 people last year alone. Allen Carr’s “Easyway To Stop Smoking” book has sold more than seven million copies and amongst the famous names to use his methods to quit smoking were Hollywood actor Anthony Hopkins and British entrepreneur Richard Branson.
John Dicey, worldwide director of Allen Carr’s Easyway, said: “This is a tragic and emotional day for everyone involved with Allen Carr’s Easyway organisation, most of whom, as former smokers, owe Allen their lives. Our hearts go out to Allen’s family and the millions of former smokers who will be saddened by his passing.”Allen Carr is known worldwide as an anti-smoking campaigner but on a private level he was a keen bowler on the Costa del Sol circuit and will be greatly missed on the coast’s greens.
What day is Tuesday market?
NEWS Staff Reporter
A collection of the unintentionally amusing remarks made by holiday-makers and residents is raising money for charities this Christmas in Nerja.
Questions to bar owners about what’s in their tuna sandwiches are included, as is story of the person who complained that nobody told him that Nerja’s famous caves were underground. Star players include the security-conscious couple who melted their passports and the woman who asked for petrol without feathers. And the book’s title “What day is the Tuesday market?” comes from the oft-quoted story of the holiday-maker trying to track down the town’s weekly market.
Many of the anecdotes have been specially and wittily illustrated by cartoonist John Turner, shortlisted in a London Evening Standard cartoon competition in 2006, and dozens of local businesses have sponsored pages to offset the costs of printing.
All the cash raised from the project will be shared between Cudeca, the group which supports cancer sufferers and their families, and Nerja’s Sisters of the Good Samaritan who are presently building a hospice in Nerja. An independent professionally audited set of accounts will be available in the New Year, at which time a presentation of the funds raised will be made to representatives from the charities.“What day is the Tuesday market?” is an ideal stocking-filler for Christmas and is now available at a range of outlets in Nerja and Torrox Costa for a minimum donation of five euros.
Barbate's mayor to be questioned over sewage plant
De Jesús faces detention order if he doesn't appear
By David Eade
THE MAYOR OF BARBATE, JUAN MANUEL DE JESÚS, HAS BEEN ORDERED TO ATTEND A COURT HEARING INTO ALLEGED IRREGULARITIES CONCERNING THE SEWAGE PLANT ON DECEMBER 20.
This is the third time he has been cited to appear, and he has been warned that if he fails to attend on this occasion, as has been the case the last two times, a detention order will be issued against him. Environment councillor Emma Sánchez Tirado and the legal representative of the Aguas de la Janda water company in Barbate will also be questioned during the same hearing.
The sewage plant was built about ten years ago but has only recently been put into operation because of deficiencies in complementary installations. The ‘Depuradora Ya’ protest group has brought the case to court because it claims that the municipality has been negligent in not carrying out the necessary works.
The protest group was formed several years ago with the aim of stopping sewage being dumped into the Barbate river, and it claims that when the regional government built the plant, the town hall should have taken on the responsibility for the collectors which pump the waste to the plant. However, the sewers have never worked properly and local people had to pay an additional municipal tax to fund the improvements to the system. This surcharge was dropped last year, at about the same time as the protest group denounced the situation.
MAYOR IS CONFIDENT CASE WILL BE FILED
The court will now decide whether the local authority is guilty of an environmental offence because sewage flowed into the river while the treatment plant wasn’t working, and of misappropriation of funds by imposing the extra surcharge for the improvements. Juan Manuel de Jesús is confident that the case will be filed, because, he says, the regional government authorised the town hall to raise the money through a local tax, and the sewage plant is now working, although it is not 100 per cent operational. With regard to his non-appearance at the two previous court hearings, he says this was probably because the council’s lawyer was unavailable due to other legal commitments.
Fish to be eaten raw must be frozen first
By Oliver McIntyre
IN AN EFFORT TO PROTECT AGAINST THE POTENTIALLY HARMFUL ANISAKIS PARASITE OFTEN FOUND IN RAW FISH, THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT HAS PASSED A NEW LAW REQUIRING RESTAURANTS, BARS AND OTHER FOOD-SERVICE ESTABLISHMENTS TO FREEZE ALL FISH THAT IS TO BE SERVED RAW OR UNDERCOOKED.
The law states that the fish must be frozen at or below 20 degrees Celsius for a minimum of 24 hours prior to its use. Such freezing is known to kill the parasite, which if consumed can cause infections and allergic reactions in humans.
Anisakis is a type of nematode, or roundworm. Although the incidence of infection in humans is extremely infrequent, it has been increasing in recent years, according to Spain’s health officials. The parasite is estimated to be present in 36 to 50 per cent of saltwater fish caught for consumption.
CUSTOMERS MUST BE NOTIFIED
The freezing procedure should be carried out on fish that is to be consumed raw, partially cooked, smoked or cured in vinegar or lemon juice. The law applies to restaurants and bars, hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, company cafeterias, catering companies and other establishments that serve food to the public. Customers should be notified via a visible sign or a note in the menu that the fish has been frozen as required.The Madrid Association of Japanese Restaurants applauded the passing of the law last week, saying the majority of Japanese restaurants already employ the practice.
Andalucía battles ‘brain drain’
NEWS Staff Reporter
The Junta de Andalucía has launched a unique scholarship programme aimed at ensuring the region’s best and brightest get a first-rate education at the world’s top universities – and that they then bring their knowledge back home.
The new scholarship offers the region’s top university students 40,000 euros to pay for post-graduate degrees at universities like Harvard, Princeton and Stanford in the United States, Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, and elite universities in other countries around the world. But there’s a catch.
Scholarship recipients who do not return to Andalucía directly after obtaining their degree will be required to pay back the 40,000 euros in full, while those who do return home to work and live will have the debt completely written off.
The programme is aimed at battling the so-called ‘brain drain’ effect faced by many countries and regions whose highest achievers travel abroad to study at elite universities and then find themselves enticed to stay in the countries where they earned their advanced degrees.
“Seventeen per cent of students who travel to the United States for post-graduate programmes stay there for several years after finishing their studies,” said Francisco Vallejo, head of the Junta’s Department of Innovation, Science and Enterprise. “The idea is to create a generation of bilingual Andalucian postgraduates with the best education in the world.”The programme has a budget of 40 million euros to provide 1,000 scholarships over the next four years. In the first year, viewed as a pilot phase, 100 scholarships will be awarded, with plans for 300 per year in the three following years. Aspiring students have until January 29 to apply for one of the first 100 scholarships.