News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week 4th January - 10th January 2007
MAJOR CRIME GANG NABBED
The organisation committed more than 500 crimes on Costa
By Oliver McIntyre
GUARDIA CIVIL INVESTIGATORS HAVE ARRESTED 16 MEMBERS OF A HIGHLY ORGANISED CRIMINAL GANG THAT ALLEGEDLY COMMITTED MORE THAN 500 ROBBERIES AND OTHER CRIMES ON THE COSTA DEL SOL.
The international gang, which included 13 men and three women from Bulgaria, Brazil, Lebanon, Morocco, Israel, France and Algeria, is believed to have stolen and defrauded more than five million euros in cash and goods during 2006.
The group allegedly committed home and hotel robberies, credit-card fraud, and currency counterfeiting. During robberies they stole jewellery, electronics and other valuable items, but preferred to leave behind credit cards which they scanned using portable scanners to copy the magnetic strips. They could then create cloned cards and use them before the victims ever knew their card information had been stolen, in some cases racking up charges of more than 6,000 euros on a single card. They also used falsified identification documents in order to make bank withdrawals.
Under the orders of its Bulgarian leader, the gang was split into three specialised cells, according to Guardia Civil officials. One cell was responsible for carrying out the robberies, another for manufacturing the cloned credit cards and a third for going out and using the cards to make purchases or bank withdrawals.
The gang sold the stolen goods and the merchandise purchased with the cloned cards, in some instances selling bulk quantities to foreign wholesalers.
In the Guardia Civil operation, codenamed ‘Bratko’ and coordinated by a Torremolinos investigating court, officers seized 200,000 euros in cash, 900 euros in counterfeit money and two million euros’ worth of stolen merchandise and real estate purchased by the criminals as a means to launder the proceeds. Between them, the 16 gang members have 124 previous arrests and are known to have used 53 different identities.
Málaga holidays marred by tragedies
Teenager killed in Christmas Day Accident
By Dave Jamieson
CHRISTMAS DAY TURNED INTO A DAY OF TRAGEDY IN THE CITY OF MÁLAGA WHEN ACCIDENTS LEFT TWO PEOPLE DEAD, ONE OF THEM A TEENAGER.
The holiday weekend also saw a five-year-old injured in a three-storey fall and four men seriously injured when their car fell into the Guadalmedina river.
The first Christmas Day death occurred when a 52-year-old man was killed in the Ciudad Jardin area after a car left the road and hit a wall, which collapsed on top of him. The incident happened after the victim had gone into the street to smoke. A passenger in the vehicle suffered minor injuries and the driver, who tested negative for alcohol but was found to have neither a driving licence nor insurance, was uninjured. Police who attended the scene said that excessive speed was probably responsible for the car leaving the carriageway.
On the same day a 17-year-old girl died after falling from the eighth floor of an apartment block in the La Palmilla district. The incident followed a meal with friends after which the group went up to the building’s flat roof to set off fireworks. Police investigators said the victim had slipped while trying to avoid one of the fireworks, which had failed to go off properly, and fell over the 1.5-metre-high wall protecting the edge. Emergency services attempted to revive her for almost half an hour but without success.
AUTISTIC BOY SURVIVES FALL
In another incident a five-year-old was locked inside a third-floor apartment when his mother went out onto the landing and the front door was slammed shut by a gust of wind. She called the local police and fire department to help her get back into the flat but, moments later, the child fell from an open window and suffered multiple injuries. He was admitted to the intensive care unit of Hospital Materno Infantil, where his condition was later described as serious but stable. Exactly how the boy came to fall from the apartment is under investigation. The Junta de Andalucía revealed that its Social Welfare Department had taken custody of the boy, who is autistic, after care-giving issues were identified in the family home. He usually stayed at a home for the disabled, but had been allowed to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with his family.Another holiday-weekend accident occurred in the early hours of Christmas Eve when four young men aged 20 to 23 had to be rescued after their vehicle went over the edge of the Armiñán bridge and fell into the Guadalmedina River. Two were admitted to the intensive care unit at Hospital Carlos Haya while the others were treated at Hospital Clinico for abdominal injuries.
Unauthorised finincial services in trouble
By David Eade
Spain’s financial regulation body, the Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores (CNMV), has opened proceedings against a foreign-run Marbella-based financial services company. The CNMV’s president, Manuel Conthe, said the company offered investment services without authorisation.
The commission stated that the company “was not registered with the CNMV, was not authorised to seek or take public savings, and carried out the activities of an investment services company without the proper authorisation.”
The CNMV has called on the company to immediately cease its investment activities, which include receiving investors’ funds and sending them to third parties. The commission also indicated that it would seek heavy fines against the company via the courts.In 2006 the CNMV issued warning advisories about more than 500 companies and individuals that it had found were offering investment services without authorisation. The majority of the suspect companies – or ‘chiringuitos financieros’, as they are known – used offshore locations as their business base. The most popular offshore haven, used by 170 of the companies, was the Isle of Man.
Political shake-up in Benalmádena
By Oliver McIntyre
Following the recent announcement that GIB-Bolín councillor Enrique Moya will be the Partido Popular candidate for mayor of Benalmádena at this May’s elections, the current PP councillors last week announced their resignation from the party. The lead PP councillor and until now president of the party’s local branch, Jesús Fortes, said that he and the other two PP councillors, Francisco Villanueva and Josefa Márquez, will drop their affiliation with the party to become independent Grupo Mixto councillors. Other officers of the local branch of the party are also resigning their posts, he said.
Sr Fortes stated his strong disagreement with the naming of Sr Moya, who is currently Mayor Bolín’s deputy mayor and councillor for health and the environment, as the PP’s candidate for mayor. He charged that Sr Moya would be “a puppet” of Mayor Bolín and that his candidacy effectively means that “the mayor is running as the candidate for two parties” at the May elections.
Sr Fortes said he has not ruled out the possibility of running for mayor at the head of a newly created party that would represent “Benalmádena voters of the centre-right.” The PP’s provincial leader, Joaquín Ramírez, who was the driving force behind the party’s selection of Sr Moya as its candidate, said Sr Fortes’s resignation from the party came as no surprise. Sr Fortes did not support the moves being made by party leaders to achieve electoral success in Benalmádena, he said.
'Medical negligence' claim after Christmas death
By Dave Jamieson
AN ARGENTINIAN WOMAN IN RINCÓN DE LA VICTORIA HAS MADE FORMAL COMPLAINTS AGAINST THE EMERGENCY SERVICES FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF HER HUSBAND DURING THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY.
On Christmas Day, the victim’s wife, Mirtha Martínez, called Emergencias Sanitarias 061, who arrived and diagnosed her husband with ‘lumbalgia’, a form of lumbar pain. He was given an injection and some tablets to help ease the pain, and was advised to apply heat. According to Sra Martínez’s statement, the condition of her 66-year-old husband worsened throughout the evening and at 01.00 she rang the emergency numbers 061 and 112 to explain the situation. She says the advice given was simply to wait four or five days for the pain to pass. However, she says that she then called the numbers a further 10 times during the night asking for assistance, without success. Eventually, she resorted to telephoning the Guardia Civil for help. On their intervention, an ambulance arrived at the couple’s home, but by that time the man had died. Nine hours had passed since her call at 01.00.
The 061 doctor who attended is reported to have told Sra Martínez that the cause was “sudden death,” but she refused to sign a form acknowledging her agreement with this diagnosis. According to the woman’s lawyer, the post-mortem examination disclosed that the cause of death was in fact an aneurysm and rupture of the aorta.
WITNESS CONFIRMS CLAIMS
The lawyer says that a witness, one of the couple’s neighbours who had helped them during the final hours of the victim’s life, confirmed that the victim had been in severe pain. The neighbour made some of the calls to the emergency services because Sra Martínez’s South American accent sometimes made it difficult for her to be understood.Formal complaints of medical negligence have been made against the 061 and 112 emergency services as well as the Rincón de la Victoria health centre. The 061 emergency service says it is launching its own investigation into the incident.
Mijas to extend free WiFi network
By Oliver McIntyre
Mijas town hall has announced plans to create more free WiFi ‘hotspots’ in public places throughout the town. The move comes as part of the town hall’s Mijas Digital project, a two million-euro programme to promote the use of new technologies.
The town hall previously created such hotspots – where anyone with a WiFi-capable computer can establish a free high-speed wireless connection to the internet – in the pueblo’s central Plaza Virgen de la Peña and at the Osunillas sports centre. Now plans call for additional ones at other municipal facilities, such as the Las Lagunas and Las Cañadas sports centres and the athletics field at the Hipódromo racetrack. “The idea is that at these facilities any member of the public can connect to the internet,” said the town hall in a statement.
The Mijas Digital project is funded jointly by the town hall, the provincial government, the Ministry of Industry and the Junta de Andalucía, and also receives technical support from companies like Sevillana-Endesa, Novasoft and Ingenia. It has included the launch of WiFi networks the rural Osunillas, Valtocado and Etrerríos districts of the town, which are currently in a pilot phase with 80 users testing the system. “We are working on equipment improvements to fix the problems that have appeared in the first months the network has been up and running,” said the town hall. In addition, a separate WiMAX wireless network has been set up to link around 20 municipal offices throughout the town, providing them a broadband connection that allows the rapid transfer of large data files.
Río Grande dam project on hold
Despite risk of losing EU funding
By Oliver McIntyre
NUMEROUS PROTESTS AGAINST THE PROPOSED SMALL DAM AND 38-KILOMETRE PIPELINE TO TAKE WATER FROM THE RÍO GRANDE IN COÍN TO THE CITY OF MÁLAGA HAVE RESULTED IN THE 43 MILLION-EURO PROJECT BEING PUT ON HOLD.
Antonio Rodríguez Leal, director of the regional water authority, Cuenca Mediterránea Andaluza, promised last week that the project will not move forward until the town halls and farmers of the Guadalhorce Valley “are convinced” of its feasibility. However, he also warned that if the project is delayed for too long, the EU funding for it could be lost.
Sr Rodríguez has stated on numerous occasions that the CMA and other government entities involved in the project have failed to adequately explain it to local leaders and residents. The result has been a “very distorted image” of what the project entails, including suggestions that it could leave the river dry, he said last week. He insisted that the project would not damage the river or negatively impact irrigation for Guadalhorce Valley farmers because it would only take “excess wintertime water that would otherwise be lost.” Just two per cent, or “one of every 50 litres of the river’s water,” would be diverted to the pipeline.
ANTI-DAM CHRISTMAS CARDS
But opposition to the project has been staunch and highly visible. Local town halls, farmers, residents and environmentalists have come together in a series of large protests, including one in Coín attended by an estimated 20,000 people and a 3,000-person march in Málaga city on December 16. The group leading the opposition efforts, the Río Grande Defence Group, sent out more than a thousand anti-dam Christmas cards to regional and national politicians, all the way up to the prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Sr Rodríguez Leal of the CMA said last week that meetings will be set up with local mayors and other opponents to the project in order to explain it and build consensus before moving forward.
Safety improvements follow fourth tranvía bump
By Dave Jamieson
AFTER A FOURTH TRAFFIC ACCIDENT INVOLVING VÉLEZ-MÁLAGA’S NEW TRANVÍA, THE TOWN HALL LAST WEEK ANNOUNCED MEASURES TO IMPROVE SAFETY.
These will be implemented at the places where incidents have already taken place.
While only one serious injury has resulted from the four accidents, all appear to have resulted from errors by other road users. In November, a 25-year-old motor cycle rider suffered a broken ankle after he reportedly strayed into a prohibited zone and crossed the tranvia’s path, while a fortnight later, in the most serious incident so far, a lorry apparently jumped a red light and struck a tramcar, pushing it eight metres off its tracks.
By the time of the third accident, a minor bump between a car and the tram in December, opposition councillors at Vélez town hall were calling for a revision of all safety systems in a study to identify possible failings and to improve the synchronisation of the traffic signals. However, the PSOE’s councillor for traffic, Sara Sánchez, responded at the time with a reassurance that the system was “totally safe” adding that all three accidents had come about as a result of prohibited manoeuvres made by the other vehicles involved.
The fourth and most recent accident occurred in Torre del Mar on Christmas Eve when a green Seat Ibiza travelling towards Málaga crossed the path of the tranvía at the intersection of Avenida de Andalucía with Calle Azucarera. The collision caused no injuries to either the car driver or anyone aboard the tram, but left the Seat with damage to one side and resulted in a 45-minute suspension of tranvía services.
Now, after three accidents in three weeks and a total of four since the tranvía went into service on October 11, Vélez town hall has announced immediate changes at the site of the last accident in Torre del Mar and at the COMAU roundabout on Vélez’s Avenida Rey Juan Carlos I, where the derailment occurred. These include the installation of “rumble strips” on roads approaching the Vélez roundabout in an effort to slow drivers to below the maximum 50 kph in order to give them time to stop if the traffic lights change to red. At the Torre site, where two of the four incidents have occurred, road markings are being improved, while municipal technicians are to investigate the possibility of building a roundabout at the junction.
MAYOR WANTS PACT WITH REGIONAL GOVERNMENT
The town’s mayor, Antonio Souvirón, has also started negotiations with Junta’s department of public works and transport towards signing a collaboration pact centred on tranvía security and its impact on urban traffic in an attempt to improve road safety. However, he also underlined the tramway’s record, again emphasising that all four accidents had come about as a result of errors by other road users.
Court backs ecologists in Ronda golf case
NEWS Staff Reporter
The on-going battle fought by ecologist and local resident groups against the planned golf courses for Merinos Norte in Ronda continues. In the latest round the court has backed the protestors by throwing out a case brought against them by one of the companies involved in development.
The company had claimed in a case presented to the court on November 8 that the ecologists had falsified documentation and carried out other false actions against the golf project. The centre of this complaint was that over 100 of the 579 signatures on a petition presented to the town hall against the development were fake. In the court papers, JM Legión Española 1 SL, accused the ecologists of using data from the official resident’s register and falsifying the signatures of property owners adjacent to the golf development.However this legal case is set to continue as given the court’s decision, the spokesperson for Silvema Ronda-Ecologistas en Acción, Alejandro Moreno, has stated that they are considering further action. The ecologists could now seek redress in the court for what they claim is the damage caused to their honour.
Study reveals Mijas coast host unique biodiversity
Finds include tropical Atlantic species
By Oliver McIntyre
THE COASTAL WATERS OF MIJAS ARE A UNIQUE MICROCLIMATE INHABITED BY AN UNCOMMONLY LARGE VARIETY OF MARINE LIFE, INCLUDING SOME TROPICAL SPECIES FOUND NOWHERE ELSE IN THE MEDITERRANEAN, ACCORDING TO A STUDY BY A TEAM OF UNIVERSITY OF MÁLAGA PROFESSORS.
The study, funded by the Junta de Andalucía’s Environment Department, catalogued the marine fauna found in a 3,000-hectare zone stretching six kilometres along the coastline. It found a total of 445 non-fish species, including 310 types of mollusc (28 of them tropical), 108 varieties of crustacean (crabs, shrimps, etc) and 27 types of echinoderm (starfish, sea urchins, etc).
The uniqueness of the Mijas coast is due to a confluence of factors including climate, currents and location. The marine fauna found in its waters includes species considered Atlantic, Mediterranean, African and European. It is the only place in the Mediterranean where tropical Atlantic species are found. The presence of species normally found in African waters is not a recent development due to the effects of global warming, but rather a long-time phenomenon with written references dating back to the early 20th century.
PROTECTION MEASURES RECOMMENDED
The report, entitled Study of the Biodiversity of Macro-fauna (animals of more than a centimetre in size) and Description of the Marine Communities of the Western Coast of Málaga, ends with a recommendation that measures be taken to protect the Mijas coast and the important marine habitat it represents. Among other things, officials should install artificial reefs to prohibit dragnet fishing in waters less than 50 metres deep, it says. The study also recommends against the creation of the town’s proposed marina and calls for education of the public via on-beach informational campaigns urging people to refrain from taking marine life from the waters. On a broader scale, the study urges that the zone be given official environmental-protection status.
Only two Málaga fines in first non-smoking year
By Dave Jamieson
Bars and restaurants have been assessing the impact of Spain’s new smoking regulations 12 months after they became effective. The anti-smoking requirements became law on January 1, 2006, and since then the province of Málaga has seen 200 denuncias issued but only two sanctions imposed.
The two fines last year were for 601 euros and 30 euros respectively. The first and more serious resulted from the offence of selling tobacco products in an unauthorised place, while the second involved an irregularity in providing signs defining a smoking area. However, the Junta’s health department is reported to have received no complaints about the second phase of the law, implemented in September, requiring premises of more than 100-square-metres to provide a zone for smokers or to be wholly non-smoking. It is estimated that 90 per cent of such bars and restaurants in the province, a total of about 7,500, have opted to ban smoking, rather that embark on the costly process of constructing a barrier to protect non-smokers, as required by the regional government.
The sector claims to have lost 30 per cent of its business as a result of the new law. Rafael Prado, president of Málaga’s association of catering businesses, Ahema, said the majority of smaller bars under 100-square-metres had opted to permit smoking while owners of larger premises were faced with “negative discrimination” given the difficulty of deciding when to close to permit the construction work, of finding trades people to carry out the job with least disruption, and of the overall cost.With regard to the law’s objective of reducing the incidence of smoking, Salvador Oña, of the Spanish Anti-Cancer Association in Málaga claimed that most consumers had reduced their use of tobacco products but had not given up altogether. However, health authorities say a new study shows that, nationwide, 750,000 smokers have stopped smoking in the past year while statistics from the Commission for Tobacco Marketing show that cigarette sales fell more in Málaga than in any other province in the country during 2006. While the national figure indicate a drop of four per cent, Málaga recorded seven per cent fewer packs sold.
The majority od Cádiz tourists are Spanish
Just 34 per cent of visitors are foreigners
By David Eade
ACCORDING TO FIGURES ISSUED BY THE ANDALUCIAN TOURISM AUTHORITY FOR 2005 THE MAJORITY OF TOURIST THAT VISITED CÁDIZ THAT YEAR WERE SPANISH.
Indeed they made up 66 per cent of the total, and of those 53 per cent came from Andalucía, 17.75 per cent from Madrid and 5.5 per cent from Cataluña. Perhaps the surprising factor is that the majority of Spaniards who holiday in the province are from Andalucía.
It appears that the majority of Spanish tourists come to Cádiz based on their own previous experiences there or on the recommendation of friends. Around 36 per cent already have knowledge of their destination whilst 29.2 per cent act on recommendations. This marks the province out as being very different from its neighbour Málaga where the advice of travel agents is reported to be the major influence in choosing a location.
MAINLY BRITS AND GERMANS
Just 34 per cent of the tourists are foreigners. Here the major markets are both Germany and Britain followed by France, Belgium and Italy. The Costa de la Luz is also the dominant draw for tourists to the province. Topping the popularity charts is Chiclana followed by Puerto de Santa María, Conil and then Tarifa.
No hope of finding ETA bomb victims alive
By David Eade
EMERGENCY SERVICES RULED OUT THE POSSIBILITY OF FINDING THE TWO ECUADORIAN MEN DISAPPEARED IN THE MADRID AIRPORT BOMB BLAST ALIVE.
The two men, Diego Armando Estacio Civizapa and Carlos Alonso Palate, were the only two people who were not accounted for after the terrorists exploded the bomb at 09.00 on Saturday. Firemen and emergency services have been working around the clock – literally stopping for only a few minutes at midnight on Sunday for the New Year chimes – to find the missing men. Hundreds of cars have been retrieved and the debris is being checked carefully to find the bodies. The bomb, which experts believe included over 200 kilos of explosives, was placed inside a van that had been stolen in southern France two days previously. The explosion caused the partial demolition of Terminal 4 D car park and technicians estimate around 25,000 tonnes of debris will have to be removed. Airport operations were disrupted for several hours on Saturday but air traffic is back to normal and the new terminal is operating normally.
Not only has the vast explosion taken two lives and caused extensive injuries and damage, it has also ruptured the fledgling peace process that would have seen the Spanish government entering into talks with ETA. The Basque terrorist organisation declared a permanent ceasefire nine months ago but since then there had been much criticism of the on-going street violence and intimidation in the group’s name in the Basque region.
The secretary of the governing PSOE’s organisation, José Blanco, spoke out after the bombing declaring: “There is no dialogue with violence, and if there is no dialogue, there is no process.” He went on to state that ETA had seemingly chosen to go along a path that only led to jail.
Blanco spoke out in his support for the demonstrations against the ETA violence and also gave his party’s support to the victims expressing regret that the political and democratic processes had been brought to an end in this violent way. He also criticised the opposition Partido Popular (PP) for not voicing its support, after the bombs, for the Spanish government that he said was combating terrorism and seeking peace for all the nation.
PARTIDO POPULAR REACTS
The Partido Popular took a particularly hard line against ETA while in government and has bitterly opposed the peace process proposed by the socialist administration. The PP has also aligned itself closely with victims’ of ETA’s terrorist attacks. After the bombing the president of the PP in Andalucía, Javier Arenas, announced that the party would present a resolution in the region’s parliament insisting that the government “totally breaks the dialogue with the Batasuna [political party] and with ETA”
Euribor breaks out 4% for first time since 2002
By Oliver McIntyre
Last week the Euribor interest-rate index, the most commonly used reference for variable-rate mortgage loans in Spain, topped the four per cent mark for the first time since May 2002.
On Wednesday the Euribor hit 4.003 per cent, leaving the month-long December average – which is what will become the official December rate used to adjust variable-rate loans with their annual revision scheduled for this month – at roughly 3.9 per cent. That represents a more than 1.1 per cent increase over the December 2005 figure and marks the 15th consecutive month that the Euribor has closed with a year-on-year increase.
A holder of a 120,000-euro, 20-year variable-rate loan with an annual adjustment based on the December Euribor would see his monthly mortgage payment jump by around 63.50 euros, or more than 760 euros a year.
The steady upward march of interest rates over the last year has raised concerns about possible effects on the economy in Spain, where the vast majority of home loans are variable-rate. On several occasions the European Commission has issued warnings to Spain about its excessive use of variable-rate loans, as well as inflated house prices and the level of family mortgage debt.
In Málaga, at least one sector considered an important economic indicator has already seen what some believe may be a knock-on effect of the increasing financial squeeze faced by mortgage holders. Automobile sales showed a slight dip for the first 11 months of 2006, with new car registrations down 0.61 per cent compared to the same period of 2005. But more telling is the fact that if only car sales to private buyers (who would be most effected by rising mortgage payments) are considered, the drop was much greater, at 3.5 per cent. The overall figures were buoyed by increased sales to rental car companies and other industrial buyers. The Euribor’s climb has come largely as the result of the European Central Bank’s steady increase of its official interest rate, which it has raised six times since December 2005, from 2.0 per cent to its current 3.5 per cent. The ECB is widely expected to increase the rate further in 2007, with potential continued effects on the Euribor. The Euribor’s historical maximum is 5.341 per cent, reached in August 2000.