Costa del Sol News - 25th October 2007

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Week 25th October - 31st October 2007


By David Eade

On Saturday some 30 classic cars gathered in San Roque for the second “Concentración de Coches Clásicos Ciudad de San Roque.” The event was held in the Alameda, where the cars were much admired before they drove off through the Miraflores, Taraguilla and Estación areas of the municipality.


By Oliver McIntyre

Decade-long property boom comes to an end.

THE PROPERTY boom on the Costa and Spain at large has ground to a halt as countrywide prices inched up by just 0.3 per cent in the third quarter of the year and prices actually dropped in 13 provinces, as well as in three Costa del Sol towns.

In Málaga province the third quarter rise was 1.0 per cent, with year-on-year prices up 4.2 per cent, according to Ministry of Housing data. But in three Costa del Sol towns prices have actually decreased over the last 12 months. Between third quarter 2006 and third quarter 2007, prices dropped 4.3 per cent in Benalmádena, 0.6 per cent in Mijas and 1.6 per cent in Rincón.

The cooling comes after a decade-long property boom that saw annual price increases in the double digits, peaking in April 2003 when year-on-year prices were up 18.5 per cent countrywide. Even higher increases were seen at times in hot coastal markets popular with British buyers.

Despite recent In-ternational Monetary Fund warnings that Spain – along with the UK and Ireland – is at risk of a sharp property downturn, the Spanish government said last week the third-quarter figures pointed to “a gradual and gentle landing.”

Spanish property market particularly at risk
Analysts say the Spanish property market is particularly at risk of a downturn. This is due to the convergence of several factors including soaring price increases over the last decade, excess construction – around 800,000 homes a year recently – and rising interest rates, which hit especially hard in a country where around 90 per cent of mortgage loans are variable-rate.

Three detained following two robbery and attack

By Dave Jamieson

Nerja police chase suspects as they flee with the cash

TWO ROMANIANS were detained by local police officers in Nerja last week following an attempted robbery of 13,000 euros. The cash was snatched from an employee outside a money exchange shop in the town centre.

At around 9 am, the female worker was carrying the cash, consisting of Spanish, British, Danish and Norwegian currency, in a bag and was on her way to deposit it in the bank when she was approached by two men. They grabbed the bag but she held on to its fastening and was pulled to the ground until it snapped. The two men, aged 26 and 28, then fled, pursued by the victim who was shouting for help.

The thieves ran off towards the beach and local police joined the chase along the derelict footpath, Paseo de Los Carabineros. When they saw they were being followed, the pair tried to hide the bag with the money in it and continued walking casually, as if nothing had happened. However, officers recognised them from the description give by the employee, quickly detained them and recovered the cash.

Separate incident
In a separate incident, a 42-year-old man was detained by Nerja police after allegedly attacking an assistant in a mobile phone shop. He is reported to have entered the shop at around 1 pm and asked the assistant for 30 euros to recharge his phone. When she refused, he began to punch her, causing bruising and scratches on various parts of her body. A woman passing the shop heard the commotion and raised the alarm. The man fled from the premises but was later detained by National Police officers.

Gun running in the Balkans and importation cheese

By David Eade

THE INITIAL police investigations into the Hidalgo case in Marbella are now being made public with the spotlight centred on the Cruz Conde legal practice and its head, Rafael Cruz Conde, who is one of those heavily implicated in the case.

According to the police, the Cruz Conde office was allegedly involved in arms trafficking to the Balkans and the importation of cheese into Switzerland in order to evade taxes. It is alleged that the law firm contributed money laundered funds to over a dozen schemes worldwide that involved illicit activities.

The report drawn up by the organised and serious crime squad based on the Costa del Sol alleges that the key members of the Cruz Conde organisation, all of whom have been implicated in the investigations, were involved in money laundering for criminal organisations in various European countries. Furthermore the illicit activities of this network covered the whole world.

The police claim that the Cruz Conde office and its main company, Santa Ana 1, were linked to no less than 800 companies. These companies are said to have been formed by members of the legal practice in partnership with a person resident in an offshore tax haven and used for making payments in cash or for acquiring assets.

The investigators also allege that people with criminal records used the law firm to create companies that owned properties or through which they could channel major amounts of money. The companies were also instituted in such a way as to disguise their true ownership and in order to avoid tax payments.The international connections are claimed to be widespread with police saying they have identified links with Germany, Poland, Columbia, Saudi Arabia, Argentina and Belgium.

Dane found guilty of drinking-glass assault on Bri

By Oliver McIntyre

A 53-YEAR-OLD Danish man has been convicted of a physical assault on a British neighbour at a restaurant in the Calahonda urbanisation of Mijas. The court heard how Poul E.F. smashed Alan Boddy in the side of the torso with a drinking glass in the unprovoked attack.

Mr Boddy, 44, a Chartered Accountant from Wickford, Essex, told Costa del Sol News that he and the aggressor, his across-the-hall neighbour at the El Alarife apartment complex and president of its homeowners’ association, had a history of tensions but no prior physical confrontations.

The attack at the restaurant occurred on June 26, 2007, after Poul E.F.’s wife instigated a confrontation with Mr Boddy and his party at their table. The man then came over and hit Mr Boddy with the glass, which shattered into shards.
“There were children at the next table,” said Mr Boddy. “Luckily the waiters came out and restrained him.”

Poul E.F. was sentenced to a 300-euro fine and ordered to pay the victim 135 euros compensation for his injuries.

Mr Boddy said the fine was less than he would have liked but, “at least now he’s got a criminal record.”

Homophobic insults
In addition, both Poul E.F. and his wife, Pavla, were found guilty of issuing homophobic insults against Mr Boddy back at the apartment complex two hours after the assault. They were each sentenced to a fine of 200 euros and ordered to pay all of Mr Boddy’s court costs.

It's official, Málaga is noisy

By Dave Jamieson

Acoustic map of Málaga highlights high night noise levels

RESULTS OF a study into noise levels around the city were released on Friday and show that a number of areas exceed the recommended maxima for day and night times.

The data comes from an acoustic map which the EU has required all cities of more than 250,000 residents to prepare. The 270,000-euro exercise in Málaga measured noise levels at 500 different points for at least 24 hours each, and compared them with the recommendations of EU’s own Green Book on noise and with a directive from the World Health Organisation. Both state that levels should not exceed 65 decibels during the day and 55 decibels at night.

During the day, the study showed that some areas, including Ciudad Jardín, Churriana and Puerto de la Torre are within the guidelines, whereas others exceed it noticeably. The city centre scores 67.3, with Campanillas and Cruz de Humilladero both recording 66.2 decibels.

However, some levels recorded at night were considerably higher than the recommended limit of 55 decibels. The city centre was again the worst offender with 64.1 decibels, while Carretera de Cádiz recorded 60 and Cruz de Humilladero 59.6.

There were other areas where excessive noise was recorded during the day -for example in industrial areas where the use of heavy machinery pushed readings as high as 75 decibels – but the city’s mayor, Francisco de la Torre, said that, overall, the findings showed that a third of Málaga’s population live within the recommend noise limits during both day and night times.

Further legislation
In October, central government approved new legislation to control noise levels in different areas at different times. The law defines a number zones such as industrial, residential and recreational, and specifies the maximum permissible levels in each during the day, in the evening and at night. Last week, another new piece of legislation was approved which will require all new buildings to include sound proofing. Constructions affected will include homes, health clinics, educational establishments and others.

Fuengirola PGOU gets town council's green light

By Suzan Davenport

The installation of rainwater collectors will be obligatory in all new buildings

AFTER ALMOST two years in the making, Fuengirola’s new local development plan (PGOU) was provisionally approved in an extraordinary council plenary last week, and among other projects will provide the town with more than 1,500 subsidised VPO houses. Only the PSOE socialist party voted against the motion.

The document, which had already passed initial council approval and the settlement of over 800 citizens’ complaints, some of which modified the plan, will also permit Fuengirola to provide 1.4 million square metres of green zones, which at 22 square metres per resident quadruples the five metres per resident stipulated by Andalucian law.

Town planning councillor Ana Mula said, “This new local development plan is committed to increasing low-interest housing, more green zones, and an orderly town where citizens can count on all types of services and infrastructure.”

The new PGOU, which is based on an expected population growth from 70,000 to 140,000 people in the next eight years, also provides for 225,000 square metres for educational purposes, the extension of the port area, a new public transport centre, and land provisions for health centres and new law courts as well as a substantial improvement in municipal roads. Also mentioned are new car parks, the burying of high- and medium-tension electricity lines, a new electricity substation and the doubling of water deposits to avoid water restrictions and cuts, especially in the summer months.

The new PGOU adds an obligatory rainwater collector bylaw for all new developments, adding to the town’s already pioneering environmental bylaws requiring solar energy in new buildings, underground rubbish bins and water-saving systems.

The council plenary also unanimously agreed to include in the PGOU an agreement signed by El Corte Ingles to contribute to improving traffic flow close to the commercial centre by building new roads as well as widening existing ones and building a new roundabout in Avenida Clemente Diaz.Now the PGOU must go before the Junta de Andalucía for final approval.

Six detained in wannabe gigolo scam

By Dave Jamieson

POLICE HAVE arrested six members of a Málaga-based gang that allegedly defrauded aspiring gigolos of up to 4,000 euros. Almost 70 victims have already been identified.

The detentions were made in the early hours of last Wednesday at five addresses in the city where officers also confiscated cash, jewellery and other belongings thought to have come from the proceeds of the scam.

The gang members, aged 22 to 52, are alleged to have placed advertisements in publications across the country seeking men willing to spend time with female clients. Those who fell for the fraud were attracted by the high fees promised for the work and the prospect of sexual contact with the customers.Applicants were instructed to call the number of a prepaid mobile phone and were interviewed over the phone before being told they had to pay a subscription fee to join the service before any appointments with clients could be made. The amount demanded was generally between 300 and 400 euros, but some targets who seemed especially gullible were charged as much as 4,000 euros. In all the gang is believed to have defrauded more than 150,000 euros.

Marbella tries new system to attack palm beetles

By David Eade

Experimental treatment to be injected into tree trunks

THE RED beetle that attacks and kills palm trees is still at large in Marbella and San Pedro. From the first outbreaks in 2006 a total of 60 trees have been felled in public places, and the figure for private gardens and urbanizations is far higher, with over 2,000 trees falling victim to the deadly plague.

Now the councilor for parks and gardens, Pablo Moro, has stated that the town hall is to try a new treatment to save the palms. The spraying of insecticides has proved of little use but a new treatment in the form of an injection into the palm’s trunk is to now be tried. Local officials decided to test the method after it has proved successful at El Batatal, a finca with palms at Nagüeles.

Sr Moro says the town hall is to contract the services of a private company that is offering the new form of treatment. Work will start in about two weeks with a budget of 12,000 euros. A total of 203 ancient palms will be treated in the municipality in such places as Plaza de la Iglesia in San Pedro, El Ángel and the old centre of Marbella.

Injections followed by spraying
The chemical treatment is inserted in to the palm via four channels and then absorbed into the trunk. The treatment is repeated once the first absorption has been completed and is followed up by a chemical spraying. It is hoped that this method will finally put an end to the deadly infection that has wrought havoc to the palm trees of southern Spain following the arrival of the beetle from South East Asia.

Bluetongue outbreak hits Guadalhorce Valley

By Oliver McIntyre

In Andalucía more than 47,000 sheep have died to date

A NEW outbreak of bluetongue disease has hit livestock in the Guadalhorce Valley and local herdsmen say they fear it could be worse than the last significant outbreak, in 2004. Already some 2,000 sheep have been killed by the disease in Málaga province, mostly in the Guadalhorce Valley, said Carlos Carreira, a representative of the Asaja agricultural association.

Bluetongue affects mainly sheep; other ruminants can be infected with the virus but usually do not get sick or die. The virus is transferred by insects from one animal to another and does not affect humans. Symptoms of the disease include fever and internal bleeding and, in some cases, swelling of the mouth and tongue causing the tongue to appear blue.

Exacerbating the current outbreak in the Guadalhorce Valley is the fact that the carcasses of animals killed by the disease are not being removed quickly enough. In some cases herdsmen say they are waiting more than 10 days for the dead animals to be picked up by a single collection truck that serves the region. The carcasses used to be taken to the Coinsuca meatpacking plant in Cártama for incineration, but now that it has closed down they must be hauled all the way to a plant in Sevilla. Asaja says livestock operators who lose animals to the disease are eligible for government relief payments of 100 euros per dead animal. Throughout Andalucía more than 47,000 sheep have died to date as a result of bluetongue, according to regional government officials.

Torremolinos tip could get Spain in mess with Brus

By Oliver McIntyre

EC investigation into non-compliance gets underway

THE EUROPEAN Commission has opened an investigation into the Torremolinos rubbish tip, which the Junta de Andalucía has long being trying to force the town hall to close down, saying it is in non-compliance with EU standards and poses an environmental hazard. If the EC investigation finds the site to be in non-compliance, Brussels could slap a fine on the Spanish government.
“The most normal thing would be for [the amount of the fine] to be pulled out of the central government funding for Torremolinos,” said the Junta’s environment chief for Málaga province, Ignacio Trillo, announcing the EC investigation last week.
Since 1991 the Junta has repeatedly demanded the closure of the rubbish tip, said Sr Trillo. The latest effort, a closure order from the Junta’s Environment Department in May of this year, was appealed by the town hall and is still under court review.

Mayor rubbishs environmental risk
The mayor of Torremolinos, Pedro Fernández Montes (Partido Popular), has long argued that the local rubbish tip meets EU standards and poses no risk to the environment or the local aquifer, as has been charged by the Junta and by opposition parties at the town hall. If the facility is shut down, the town hall will have three alternative sites for dumping its municipal waste: the Casares treatment plant, Málaga’s Los Ruices plant, and the Valsequillo plant in Antequera.

Ronda region woos British bird watchers

By David Eade

One hotel is already catering to ‘ornithological tourism’

THE REGION of Ronda is out to woo bird-watching tourists, and Britons are the top target. The reason is clear: whilst some 10,000 people in Spain are members of ornithological societies, the figure for the UK is a massive two million.

Tourism officials in the Ronda area say this interior zone of Málaga offers bird-watching attractions that are unique and unmatched in the rest of the province.

The area is one of five zones in Spain that are particularly attractive to British bird watchers. The others are the Parque Nacional de Doñana in Huelva, the Parque Natural de Monfragüe in Extremadura, the delta of the Ebro River and the Straits of Gibraltar. Migrating birds that later pass over the lower parts of Cádiz first cross Ronda on their way.

One hotel that is already catering to this market is the Cortijo de las Piletas, set in the country around 10 kilometers from Ronda town centre. Fifty per cent of its clients are bird watchers, the majority of them British.

Pablo Serratosa, the owner of the hotel and a member of Spain’s ornithological society, stated that in general the Britons come in pairs and are typically between 40 and 60 years old, middle class or upwards and spend five or six days in the area.

The birding tourism niche may offer one solution to Ronda’s ongoing challenge in attracting overnight tourists. Many people visit the town from the coast on day trips and do not stay in local hotels, and the area currently lacks a golf course to attract golfers.

What to see
Amongst the birds to be seen in the Ronda area are the wheatear, the bee-eater and 18 of the 24 raptors listed in Europe. These and other local species are now at the forefront of an emerging tourism market especially aimed at Britons.

Alicante mayor gunned down

By James Parkes

Police interview foreign residents but no arrests made yet

THE MAYOR of Polop in Alicante, is fighting for his life in hospital after two gunmen shot him at close range outside his house on Friday evening.

Guardia Civil believe professional killers handling two different guns are responsible for the attack suffered by the mayor in his car as he arrived at his home at around 22.00.

According to the investigation, he did not leave the car and was shot three times at close range.

Emergency medical staff found three bullet injuries, one in the neck, one in the shoulder and a third in head with the bullet still inside. After stabilising the victim, he was rushed to Alicante hospital were he underwent an emergency five-hour operation to extract the bullet.
Although in very serious condition, doctors were able to reduce the sedation on Monday and are hoping for a slow but stable recovery.
Daily updates on his condition are given by the hospital and Polop town hall.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the incident continues on behalf of Guardia Civil judicial police unit based in the nearby town of Altea with the support of units in Alicante and Madrid.

Initial enquires led officers to believe a land dispute near the mayor’s house could have triggered the incident, however other hypotheses have not been discounted.

Officers have spread the investigation to nearby towns in search of the suspects and are also looking for two weapons, which could have allegedly been used and then disposed of by contract killers.
A few hours after the incident a French Basque couple and a young man were arrested and taken in for questioning but were released several hours later due to lack of evidence against them, say Guardia Civil sources.All councillors and town hall workers have been questioned and investigators are also examining council documentation.

Pre-paid mobile phone users have two years to give

NEWS Staff Reporter

THE MORE than 20 million mobile phone users in Spain who utilise a pre-paid card have two years to give their full personal details to their network operator. If they fail to do so, their line will be discontinued. The requirement for all mobile telephone users to be identified is incorporated in the Comunicaciones Electrónicas law that comes in to effect on November 8.

The law is part of an international campaign to combat terrorism and is deemed especially necessary as mobile phones have played major parts in terrorist acts or planning. Telephone companies are now obliged to conserve all the data relating to call traffic, and where the calls were made from, over a two-year period. The information must be made accessible to the security forces should they request it.In Spain at the moment there are 20,458,068 numbers allocated to mobile telephones that operate on the pre-paid system, making up 42 per cent of the total, according to figures compiled by the commission governing the telecommunications market.

Three Italians arrested in Tarifa bank raid

By David Eade

Eight people were held hostage until thieves turned themselves in

THE GUARDIA CIVIL have arrested three Italians after they attempted to make off with 300,000 euros from a Unicaja bank in Tarifa. Police are now in contact with their Italian counterparts to ascertain whether the trio are known to them or have criminal records in that country. One possibility is that they are members of an international gang operating in Spain.

The normal afternoon peace of Tarifa was interrupted last Tuesday when a gang of three raiders attacked the Unicaja bank in the Avenida Batalla del Salado. They were armed with a gun and knives and held five bank employees and three clients hostage for over an hour.

The Guardia Civil were alerted by the central alarm and were on the scene at 14.25 where they were joined by local police. They used a megaphone to demand the thieves release the hostages and then surrender themselves to the law forces.

Some minutes later a gang member wearing a black face mask appeared at a side door with his gun held to the head of one of the hostages. He was accompanied by the other two thieves who then tried to leave the building but gave up when they realised they were totally surrounded. The gang members then returned to the bank where they held the hostages for a further hour.

While inside the bank one of the employees is said to have suffered a nervous breakdown. Also one of the thieves tried to escape via an interior patio but injured himself in the failed attempt. In the meantime the police had completely surrounded the bank, some when on balconies, all were armed and wearing bullet proof jackets.

A crowd of on-lookers had also gathered in the area.Finally, seeing that their situation was hopeless, the would-be robbers came to the door of the bank with their hands raised and the police immediately rushed forward and seized them. In the confusion four men in all were grabbed, one of them being a hostage. However he was soon released and all the hostages rushed to their family and friends amid cheers from spectators.