News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week 20th September - 26th September 2007
BUYERS WANT OUT
Purchasers of illegal properties want courts to cancel their contracts
By David Eade
HUNDREDS of purchasers of illegal houses and apartments in Marbella are looking to the local courts to annul their contracts with the developers. As reported in the Costa del Sol News last week a Marbella judge rejected an attempt by two Britons to cancel their purchase of an illegal flat in the Santa María Green Hills area of Elviria Sur. Yet just days later another judge in a different Marbella court ruled in favour of the purchasers in an adjacent development also in Elviria Sur.
While in the case of the two British buyers they were told they had to proceed with their purchase, in the other one, the developers of Los Lagos de Santa María Golf were ordered by the judge handling that case to hand back 292,000 euros plus interest to the buyers. This court case was started in February of last year because the flat was not handed over on time and here the judge ruled that problems involving a development should not be passed on to the buyers. The Britons can appeal the court ruling against them but equally the developer might appeal in the second case. This apparent contradiction has raised voices of alarm in Spain's legal world and leaves worried buyers with the feeling that justice appears, at present, to be a flexible affair in which the outcome of their court cases could go either way.
Many of those who have been caught up in this net, where properties have not been granted a licence of first occupation and the construction licence may have been illegal in the first place, did so unknowingly back in the Gil-era or post Gil-era when the violation of the town planning laws was the norm.
The majority of these properties have now been deemed illegal by the courts, which has left the purchasers in an impossible position with some of the residences facing demolition. Nearly all of these properties have been completed and, while the purchasers are refusing to sign the deeds and are looking to the courts for support, the developers are insisting that they comply with their contracts.
Many British buyers are using the internet to air their grievances and a number of websites have been established that give Britons the current state of play on many illegal Marbella developments. The banks have also come in for a good deal of criticism for lending money for mortgages on illegal homes, a practice that has been described on the internet as third world corruption on a grand scale.For now the buck stops with the Marbella courts where purchasers are demanding that justice is done. Unless a legal solution can come to the aid of the purchasers of illegal homes then the damage to the Costa del Sol's property market and that of wider Spain could be immense.
Polish man dies in BenalmÁdena police car
Victim showed no signs of having suffered physical violience
By Oliver McIntyre
A POLISH MAN who was arrested by Benálmádena police last week after going berserk at a local urbanisation fell unconscious and died in the back of the police car on the way to the health centre. At 1.30pm Monday the local police responded to a 092 call reporting that a man had got onto a third-floor balcony at the Jardines de Carvajal urbanisation and was breaking tables and chairs. The first officers on the scene had to hang down from the building's fourth floor to drop onto the balcony where the man was destroying furniture.
Police and town hall sources indicated that despite initial moves to attempt an escape, the man put up "minimal resistance" when grabbed by the officers, who as they handcuffed him noted his legs seemed to go slack. Sensing he was not well, they drove him to the Arroyo de la Miel health centre, but he was dead by the time they arrived.
Pending an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death, initial reports indicate there were no signs the man had suffered physical violence. It is understood that a number of residents of the urbanisation witnessed the arrest and their personal information was collected in case they need to be called in to testify.
Previous police encounter
Police reports indicated that the man, Kwilosz S., 40, had been picked up by officers earlier the same day after they observed him acting suspiciously and decided to check his documentation. But they let him go after confirming he had no pending warrants.
Third Fuengirola shooting victim dies
Two arrested in connection with the gangland slaying
By Suzan Davenport
THE ONLY SURVIVING victim of last week's shooting in Fuengirola, a 28-year-old Colombian man named only as Y.M.L.L. for legal reasons, died on Sunday morning in Málaga's Carlos Haya hospital. His death brings the total to three dead. One of his companions, a 28-year-old Ecuadorian man, died at the scene of the shooting while another Colombian, also 28, died from his wounds later the same night at the Costa del Sol hospital in Marbella.
The three victims were ambushed in their car at 10pm last Tuesday at the entrance to the Monte Cañada urbanisation in the Torreblanca area of Fuengirola by two men who witnesses had seen loitering in the area. The murderers gunned them down as their Seat Ibiza drew up to a garage entrance, and then escaped on a motorbike. It is thought that the Ecuadorian man was able to tell the police, before he died, who the killers were and that they had arranged to meet up to discuss why an earlier cocaine run had gone wrong.
Officers identified both the victims and killers and on Wednesday morning arrested two Columbians at gunpoint in the centre of Málaga city although police later declared that the detainees were not involved in the shooting. The couple had been driving a blue BMW X5 frequently used by the main suspect, a 28-year-old Columbian named as A.J.B. Later the same day yet another Columbian was arrested in Fuengirola but later set free. On Wednesday evening, aware that that the police were hunting for him, A.J.B. walked into the Fuengirola National Police station accompanied by his lawyer and gave himself up. He has been refused bail and is now in Alhaurin prison awaiting trial. Police also arrested a 19-year-old youth on Saturday in connection with last week's slaughter, when he too gave himself up. Neither his nationality nor his name have been released, but police believe he is the driver of the motorbike that was seen leaving the scene of the shooting. He was charged and later released.
Fraud, at a snail's pace
NEWS Staff Reporter
THE PROVINCIAL COURT has sentenced to three years and five months in prison a man found guilty of defrauding more than 30 farmers out of 195,000 euros by selling them baby snails for cultivation but never delivering the goods. He charged the farmers half the money up front, with the promise of delivery within 90 days, but then gradually stalled, giving a variety of excuses, until it finally became clear that the snails were not just slow in arriving, but would not make it at all.
Bernardo F.L., along with his partner Verónica B. - who also faces charges but failed to appear in court - operated two companies in Alhaurín de la Torre, Actividades de Desarrollo Helicícolas y Agrícolas SL and Actividades de Desarrollo de la Helicultura y Agricultura. According to the court's findings, during 1997 and 1998 they signed contracts under which the farmers agreed to purchase the baby snails, which they would raise using the companies' proprietary techniques and then sell back to the companies for distribution.Individual farmers paid quantities ranging from 1,500 euros to 30,000 euros, depending on the size of operation they were mounting. The court found that "from the outset [the accused] had no intention whatsoever of meeting their commitments" and to make delivery of the snails.
Ecologists demand investigation into cancer risk
Study showed Campo de Gibraltar to have highest cancer rates in Spain
By David Eade
THE ENVIRONMENTAL groups Agaden and Verdemar have joined forces to demand that the Andalucía government carry out an investigation into the causes of elevated cancer risk in the Campo de Gibraltar. A recent study of cancer deaths by the Carlos III Institute showed that the residents of this area had a greater risk of contracting a variety of cancers than people anywhere else in Spain.
The environmentalists are putting pressure specifically on the Socialist PSOE party, which rules not only the regional government but also a majority of town halls in the Campo de Gibraltar. They want an epidemiological study be carried out as a matter of urgency to determine why there is such a high cancer risk in the area and whether the heavy industries located in the bay zones of San Roque, Los Barrios and Algeciras are responsible.
Agaden and Verdemar point out that with the data shown in the cancer deaths study, "the regional government's Health Department can no longer maintain the thesis that the rates of this illness in the Campo de Gibraltar are similar to those in the rest of the population of Andalucía, with the exception of lung cancer, which the regional government has admitted is high."
'Public health crisis'
Both environmental groups add in their statement: "The municipal atlas of cancer deaths in Spain ratified the data of the studies by the epidemiologist Joan Benach. All of Benach's studies demonstrate that the Campo de Gibraltar suffers from more incidences of cancer [per capita] than the rest of Spain, and that the area has a serious public health problem, or as defined by Benach, a chronic public health crisis."
Club de Hielo to reopen pool and gym in October
Ice rink will remain closed pending completion of investigations into Legionnaires' outbreak
By Oliver McIntyre
USERS of Benalmádena's municipal Club de Hielo may soon be able to access the facility's swimming pool and gym, although the ice rink will remain closed indefinitely. The Club de Hielo was shut down on July 2 after it was discovered that one of the building's cooling towers was the source of the Legionnaires' outbreak that ultimately would leave three of its 18 victims dead, including two Britons.
The town hall expects to reopen the pool and gym at the end of October, announced the mayor, Javier Carnero, last week. Unlike the ice rink, they can be operated without the use of the problematic cooling tower, which remains idled by a Health Department order pending completion of investigations into the outbreak and possible criminal responsibility for the deaths it caused.
Some of the victims or their family members have filed criminal lawsuits against the company that operates the Club de Hielo, the manager of centre, and the town hall.
Mayor Carnero did not confirm whether or not the company that operates the Club de Hielo, Gecosol Wellness, a subsidiary of Grupo Vera, will be allowed to continue with its concession contract. The matter is being studied by the town hall's legal team, he said. Until that decision is made, the town hall is considering having the municipal sports department directly manage the pool and gym when the centre is partially reopened.
Many users paid their first monthly quota for the 2007-2008 season up front in July to reserve a place in one of the many activities at the Club de Hielo but have now been left with no money and no course. A town hall spokesperson told Costa del Sol News that anyone who has done this can either reclaim their money at the information desks in the club or wait until all activities are resumed, in which case their place will be guaranteed.
Junta appeals court decision not to halt Los Merin
By David Eade
MÁLAGA COURTS have accepted an appeal lodged by the Andalucian government against a court decision in July that rejected its plea that the controversial Los Merinos golf development in Ronda be halted. The regional government went to court to have the golf project stopped because it claimed there were differences between the original project and what is now being built at the site. It argued that these works should be stopped as they would cause irreversible harm to the environment. However the court rejected the Andalucian authority's case and refused to halt the development. By going to appeal, the regional government is to try again to have the work halted. Los Merinos plans to have two golf courses, an equestrian centre, an international school, 800 luxury homes, three hotels and a sports complex and it has been a highly contentious project since it was first announced.
The scheme has attracted widespread opposition from ecologists and local residents as well as the neighbouring town councils in Cuevas del Becerro and Arriate. The objections have centred on the alleged damage the development would cause to the Parque Natural Sierra de las Nieves and the Natural Biosphere Reserve and, in particular, to local aquifers that currently supply water to Cuevas del Becerro and Arriate.Nonetheless the golf development has had the firm backing of Ronda town hall that says it is vital for local job creation as well as attracting wealthy tourists to the area. The project has also been supported by the local small and medium sized business association, APYMER, in Ronda.
Green light for hotel demolition
Work could begin next month, four years after construction was halted
By David Eade
THE DEMOLITION of the Prasa owned hotel on the Estepona promenade has moved a stage nearer after the regional government accepted the town hall's plans for its removal. The construction of the hotel was halted four years ago because it was in violation of various town planning laws as well as being built in part on land owned by the public port authority. Now if all goes to plan the demolition crews will move in next month to start to remove the eyesore. The estimated 1.2 million-euro cost of taking down the building is to be paid by the Ministry of the Environment.
Just in recent weeks the town hall reached an agreement with the Córdoba-based company that owns the building. Prasa will be compensated for its loss of the hotel by being given 15,000 square metres of beachfront building land near Arroyo Antón at El Velerín. The compensation is required because Estepona town hall, under a previous admin-istration, originally issued the licence for the work.
The regional government will now send the Environment Ministry's coastal authority confirmation approval of the demolition plan. Once this formality has been carried out the town hall should have the green light to remove the block at the beginning of October.
Public flocks to new Torremolinos super-park
Parque de la Batería draws 90,000 visitors in its first month and a half
By Oliver McIntyre
WHEN THE MAYOR of Torremolinos, Pedro Fernández Montes, inaugurated the town's new Parque de la Batería on July 28, he hailed the 7.4-hectare open space as the town's new flagship park and a recreational treasure for residents and tourists alike. The park has not disappointed; in the first month and a half since it opened, some 90,000 people have visited it, an average of around 2,000 people a day, according to municipal figures.
The park sits on an expansive swath of land in the town's Montemar Alto zone (just down the hill toward the sea from the Torremolinos Carrefour centre), overlooking the La Carihuela coastline. Its central feature is a 9,000-square-metre manmade lake, which visitors can paddle around in rented rowboats. Other unique elements include a 15-metre-tall lookout tower offering panoramic views of the entire coast, and a series of Civil War bunkers and armaments - the 'battery' that gives the park its name.
Park will grow to maturity
The park, which was created at a cost of more than eight million euros, has large grass areas and is dotted by some 750 trees of 25 different species, though many of them are still quite small, creating a slightly sparse look until they grow to maturity. There are also nearly a kilometre of bike paths and a children's playground that is without a doubt the biggest and best in any of the town's parks. Municipal officials expect the park's popularity to continue and even grow as more people discover it.
Date set for third annual makeover of Nerja's seab
NEWS Staff Reporter
DIVING enthusiasts in Nerja are preparing for their third annual clean-up of the sea bed. Saturday, October 6, has been set for this year's operation and over 130 volunteers from all over Spain have already offered their services. Around 90 will participate on the day.
The operation is again organised by the town hall in association with the Buceo Costa Nerja diving club. The town's councillor for beaches, Jonathan Méndez, indicated last week that consideration was being given to extending next year's clean-up from one to two days.
On the day, two boats, each carrying ten divers, plus a support boat will make three journeys along the coast between Torrox and Maro. Junk collected from the sea bed will be returned to shore for proper disposal.Last September, more than 50 divers, including two local councillors, helped with the clean-up and were supported by local restaurants who provided refreshments for the volunteers.
Miss Mijas pageant cancelled in battle against sex
Town hall wants to avoid objectification of women
By Oliver McIntyre
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL girls of Mijas will not be strutting their stuff on a stage or catwalk in an effort to be crowned the town's fairest.
Local officials last week announced they are cancelling the annual Miss Villa de Mijas beauty pageant, citing a desire to promote gender equality and fight against the objectification of women and the body-image issues that contribute to dangerous eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, particularly in young women. The move, promoted by the town hall's Department for Equality, was lobbied for by the town's Coordinator for Women's Issues, which comprises 20 local groups including neighbourhood associations, parents' associations, the Anorexia and Bulimia Association, women's groups, and others.
Promoting other values
"The role of women cannot be limited to their physical appearance," said Fuensanta Lima, the town's councillor for equality. "Mijas town hall has been working at all levels to promote and highlight other types of values, especially among young boys and girls and adolescents, so it seems inconsistent to sponsor an event that judges women exclusively on their beauty." This year's 13th annual edition of the pageant was scheduled for September 23.
Alarming rise in internet bank accounts fraud
Bank of Spain warns consumers not to give away personal details
By Dave Jamieson
THE BANK OF SPAIN has issued a warning about the increase of internet fraud. It said last week that attempts to defraud those who access their bank accounts electronically have increased "alarmingly" over the last three years.
he Bank said that last year, the principle method used by fraudsters was the practice known as "phishing" where personal information is obtained from clients by pretending to be a genuine entity. Typically, the client receives an email which appears to be a valid communication from a bank or other financial body, but which, in fact, links directly to the criminals. The message asks the client to visit a website and confirm their bank account details and passwords, but by inputting these, the client unwittingly gives the fraudster access the account and the ability to withdraw its contents. According to figures from Telefónica, the number of cases where banks have been targeted by "phishers" rose from 33 in 2004 to 1,184 last year, while the number of "spam" emails enticing clients to hand over personal data has quadrupled to 704 million in the same period. The bank said that other types of threats had been identified with the object of introducing rogue software onto an individual's computer to spy on keyboard activity and report it back to the perpetrator. This practice, they added, is very difficult to detect.
All financial bodies emphasise that they never, ever ask clients to enter personal data in this way. Any email which instructs that confidential data should be entered over the Internet is certain to be a fraud and should be forwarded to the entity concerned for investigation before being deleted.
Safety alert on seven toy phone models
By Oliver McIntyre
THE CONSUMER-PROTECTION GROUP Facua has issued an alert about seven models of toy telephone that it says pose a hazard to children due a lack of appropriate safety mechanisms to prevent easy removal of the batteries. In six of the seven cases, the batteries are of the small 'button' type, meaning they pose a particular risk of being swallowed by young children.
Facua has reported the dangerous toy phones to the National Consumers Institute of the Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs, as well as to the Consumer Department of the Junta de Andalucía. It has called on officials to issue a written alert to all Spain's regional governments as well as to other EU countries, in order to warn consumers and to get the products pulled from store shelves.
The seven toy phone models were found in three Sevilla shops but Facua says they could be on sale at stores throughout Spain and the rest of Europe. The toy phones, all of which lack a screw-secured door on their battery compartment, are sold under the names Movile Phone, by Bai Bian Toys; Gran Road Racing and Transformers Family Master, both imported by Hermano SC of Sevilla; Mobile Phone by Jun Hua, imported by Madrid-based Toinsa; Benign Girl and Cellular Phone, both without any listed manufacturer or importer on the packaging; and a set of toy cordless phones called Beauty, by Color Baby SL in Alicante (this has regular AA batteries rather than the button type).
Barbate demands the immediate rescue of trawler's
Community says not enough is being done to bring bodies home
By David Eade
OVER 4,000 PEOPLE from the close knit fishing community of Barbate took to the streets, last Saturday, in a protest march demanding that authorities find the five missing crew members of the trawler Nuevo Pepita Aurorá. The vessel was returning from fishing in Moroccan waters when it was swamped by a wave two weeks ago on September 6 off Punta Camarinal and capsized.
The protest was led by the families of the five missing crew men and was backed by Barbate town hall and the local fishermen's association. The demonstration started off at noon from the Casa del Mar before marching noisily for several hours through the town's streets displaying a giant banner demanding a solution to the rescue efforts.
The fishermen are vociferously critical of the Ministry of Public Works that is in charge of the search for the missing crew members. A robot is being used to try to locate the mens' bodies inside the capsized vessel but officials have stressed that it is difficult and dangerous work because of weather conditions and the depth of the trawler.
The fleet has to return to work
On Sunday the Barbate fishing fleet went back to work, after helping for a fortnight in the search for five lost crew members. The fishermen are said to be exhausted and very disappointed at the lack of success in recovering the vessel and finding their missing colleagues, but they are determined that the search should continue and have asked the Naval Base in Rota to help by sending a patrol ship. The Navy says all ships passing through the area are aware that they should look out for anything unusual, but it cannot send a search vessel without authorisation from Cartagena. The fishermen insist that more resources are essential, and when they return to work most of them plan to fish in the Gulf of Cádiz instead of in Moroccan waters, as they can continue to search at the same time.