Costa del Sol News - 27th March 2008

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Week 27th March - 2nd April 2008


Earlier this month Marbella Rugby Club had the honour of being invited to play in the prestigious Rosslyn Park National Schools Rugby Sevens Tournament, which took place in London. The club took three youth teams, and despite inclement weather, had good results. In the photo are some of the players during their guided visit to England’s temple of rugby, Twickenham. Full story on page 42


Parents fake civil status to get kids into school of choice

By Oliver McIntyre

Authorities voiced their suspicions last week saying that some parents are filing for divorce merely as a strategy to get their kids into the best schools. The phenomenon, detected by family courts in Sevilla, began after the Junta de Andalucía introduced a point system for school placement in which children are awarded points for a variety of personal circumstances, including two points for coming from a family with parents who are divorced or officially separated.
The system was put into place in 2007, and that March – the month for school registration – the Sevilla courts saw a huge jump in divorce filings. While in January of that year there were 259 divorce filings, in March the number shot to 387. A similar jump was seen in the number of requests for official separation. The pattern has been detected again this year.
If the jump in numbers were not sufficient to raise suspicions, officials say there have even been cases detected where couples were back in court within weeks to file for reconciliation – presumably once they had already submitted their school registration forms indicating their official divorced status.

Divorces of convenience

Legally, there is little action that can be taken as there is no law prohibiting such ‘divorces of convenience’. However, if found out, parents risk having their school registration forms rejected. Last year the Junta de Andalucía’s Education Department received 731 complaints of fraud in the school registration process in Sevilla, of which 287 were confirmed, including 26 cases of parents claiming to be divorced or separated but found to in fact be living together

Missing man found dead in well

Body discovered by workers tearing down old cortijo

By Oliver McIntyre

The body of an 83-year-old Almargen man who had been missing for several days, sparking a massive search effort over the weekend, was found in a well inside an abandoned cortijo on Monday afternoon. Antonio Jiménez Ocaña had last been seen on Friday when he had coffee with a friend at the El Cuarterón restaurant.

He was reported missing on Saturday, and search parties were launched immediately, with some 150 people including authorities and civilian volunteers combing the area.

But it was some workers uninvolved in the search who happened upon the body at around 5pm Monday while carrying out demolition work at the abandoned cortijo in preparation for a new construction project. The site, in the Huertas de Villatortas zone, is less than 100 metres from the restaurant where the man was last seen.

Firefighters used a construction crane already at the site to recover the body from the well, and it was immediately identified as the missing man.

Cause unknown

Guardia Civil officers are now investigating the circumstances surrounding the case and awaiting autopsy results to determine the exact cause of death. Nothing was missing from the man’s house, including cash and other valuables he had on hand, so a robbery appears unlikely. Initial hypotheses include the possibility that he committed suicide, but, pending the autopsy and further investigation, nothing is being ruled out, including the possibility of an accident or murder

Mystery remains six years after Ronda kidnapping

By David Eade

This month marks the sixth anniversary of the kidnapping of French businessman Jean Gilbert Para from outside his rural home in Ronda. Police say the case remains open, but the Ronda court has archived its investigation until some positive information is forthcoming.

This year Para would have celebrated his 68th birthday. Since the day of his disappearance, no ransom has been demanded of the family and there has been no trace of the Frenchman.

At 2.30pm on March 11, 2002, Jean Gilbert Para returned to his home at Finca El Águila Real on the Carril de la Cijuela road in his Mitsubishi Pajero. As he did so his path was blocked by two Audi A-6 cars containing a number of men. His vehicle had five bullet holes although eight cartridges were found at the scene. There was blood in the driver’s seat and also on the outside of the driver’s door. An eyewitness saw the kidnapping so was able to give valuable information to the police.

The two Audis were found abandoned on the Guadalmina urbanisation in San Pedro Alcántara. Police believe they know the individuals who carried out the kidnapping but have been unable to track them down.

At the time of the events, the then sub-delegate of the government in Málaga province, Carlos Rubio, speculated that Para may have been involved in drug trafficking and that this was another so-called ‘settling of accounts’ between criminals. However, it appears that he had withdrawn from the drug trade some years before, although his dealings still remained murky.

Para had been associated with Carlos Gastón, Edouard ‘Doudou’ Mari-Chica and Alain David Benharnou. At the time of his disappearance Para was in partnership with the latter two in two clip joints, ‘My Lady Palace’ and ‘Play Boy’ in Marbella. They also owned clubs in Torremolinos and Benalmádena as well as a restaurant in Plaza de Socorro in Ronda.

Carlos Gastón died before Para’s kidnapping, drowning at his home in Estepona on September 30, 1995. Doudou Mari-Chica has kept a low profile in the interim and lives both in Marbella and Paris. Alain David Benhamou, known also as ‘El Chacal’, allegedly inherited the leadership of the group from Gastón. He survived a brutal gun attack at the H10 Andalucía Plaza hotel in Nueva Andalucía on December 4, 2004. However, two innocent people, a seven-year-old child and a 36-year-old Italian hairdresser, were killed in the hail of bullets.

On the day of his kidnapping Para had returned home after a meeting with the then mayor of Ronda, Juan Benítez. They had discussed the unblocking of a three million-euro development at Finca Huerto Márquez, which had been halted by the regional government’s Environment Department. The land has special protection status but Para wanted to build a hotel and 10 luxury homes there.

Anger over Arenal 2000 house delays

Some buyers have been waiting two years for their homes

By David Eade

DOZENS of purchasers of homes on the Arenal 2000 development in Ronda are angry over the delay in taking possession of their properties. The homes should have been handed over to the buyers in July of last year.

Ronda town hall announced that it would not concede the licences of first occupation to Arenal 2000 for the third phase until the green zones were completed. It is adamant that it will stand by that decision even if it means would-be owners will suffer.

One 27-year-old buyer who is not from Ronda has to pay 192,000 euros and has already handed over 36,000 euros. She signed the contract to purchase in April 2006 and still has not received her home although Arenal 2000 promised it would be ready on July 31 2007.

She told the media: “I am living in rented accommodation, paying 300 euros a month and they cannot tell me when I will have my house. I have asked many times in recent months without receiving an answer and now have lost all confidence in them.”

Licence but no deeds

In the third phase are some 500 homes located a few kilometres from the town centre. Even the purchasers of the first two phases, who do have their licence of occupation, do not have the keys because there are no title deeds. One buyer of a flat in this zone is having to live with her parents while she waits for the ‘escritura’ to be produced.

There have also been complaints from buyers that not only are there lengthy delays but also there are construction flaws in some homes.

Nerja traders march in protest at market move

By Dave Jamieson

RELATIONS between the town hall and traders at Nerja’s weekly market reached a new low this week as many stall holders abandoned their businesses to protest about a proposed move out of the town centre. However, the council insisted the change will go ahead despite the demo.

The town hall wants to move the market site away from its present town centre site because of the disruption and inconvenience it causes to residents. Traders believe, instead, that the new site, which is located well outside the centre in the Almijara area, will be detrimental to business.

On Tuesday, market day in Nerja, around 200 of the stall holders chose to join a march from the present site to the proposed new location and back again to draw attention to their claims, before gathering outside the Town Hall. They carried banners calling for an “appropriate” site for the market, saying that the new location is too far from the centre, despite Town Hall promises to run a new local bus service to the site. Previously, the Málaga Association of Street Vendors, has claimed that the Almijara site breaks safety regulations. Its President, Juan Rojas, said in December that he had had a technical study produced by a professional architect which shows that the new site “does not meet” safety requirements for vendors and customers. He added that the day after the move, there would be denuncias and “it will be the courts who decide.” The vendors also fear traffic congestion when all their vans arrive on a Tuesday morning and are concerned that the site is not central to the town, or as Sr Rojas put it, at “the end of the earth.”

However, a statement on Tuesday from the councillor responsible, José Miguel Jimena, confirmed that the market would be moving. He said that safety concerns about the current site and the better facilities at the new site made the move inevitable. In addition, the Town Hall, he said, had received a letter from the Andalucían ombudsman, José Chamizo de la Rubia, in which he confirmed that the complaints of the traders had been considered, but that no irregularity had been found in the town hall’s stance. No firm date has yet been announced for the move.

Storm causes floods but no drought relief

Despite 75mm of rainfall in some zones, reservoirs barely benefit

By Oliver McIntyre

A rain and hailstorm last Thursday morning dumped as much as 75mm of rainfall in some areas and caused flooding in homes, businesses and garages in a number of towns all along the coast. The heaviest rainfall was recorded in the Montes de Málaga and in the eastern neighbourhoods of Málaga city, where an accumulation of hailstones also contributed to a backing up of storm drains, causing flooding in some areas.

Some parts of Mijas saw 52mm of rain, with flooding in the Arcadia Beach and La Loma urbanisations. In Fuengirola, the worst-hit zones were Avenida de Mijas and the area around the fishing port. Eastside towns like Vélez-Málaga, Algarrobo and Torre del Mar got less rain but also saw minor flooding in some zones.

The Guadalhorce Valley received significantly less rainfall – 13mm in Coín, 18mm in Cártama – and had few problems other than some brief power cuts in Coín.

Province-wide, firefighters responded to around 50 calls related to the storm. The downpour also caused traffic slowdowns on the A7 and A45 motorways.

Reservoirs 28 per cent full

Unfortunately, the rain had little impact on the province’s drought-stricken reservoirs, which saw a combined increase of just 0.6 cubic hectometres, to a total of 171.9 cubic hectometres, or 28 per cent of capacity.

Estepona faces bus route cuts

Operator CTSA Portillo says council owes the company nearly a million euros

By David Eade

COME APRIL 1 Estepona could have its urban bus service slashed because of the outstanding municipal debt to the operator, CTSA Portillo. Portillo says that it is owed over 930,000 euros.

This will probably result in the number two route being totally dropped. This runs from Avenida Litoral to the cemetery. Also the number one route that runs along the Avenida Litoral to the local police station will operate with one bus instead of two.

The debt stems from an agreement signed by the bus company and the town hall dating back to 2004. Under its terms Portillo was to be compensated for running services that were unprofitable.

At this point the name of the PES councillor José Ignacio Crespo again enters the equation. Sr Crespo is the leader of PES and his party were coalition partners with the ruling socialists in the last administration. It was Crespo who as the councillor in charge of services signed the agreement with Portillo.

In recent months Estepona council has cancelled, or brought to public attention, to a series of decisions taken by PES that have included street safety railings advertising and the IBI tax hike. Now the mayor of Estepona, Antonio Barrientos, says the town hall was unaware of this agreement with Portillo because Crespo never had it ratified by the council.

Sr Barrientos has now order an internal judicial enquiry to ascertain the status of the agreement and whether invoices were presented for the subventions. Sr Crespo for his part insisted that not only was Barrientos present when the agreements were made with Portillo but stamped the accords with his signature.

Accounting error

Another sign of Estepona council’s financial plight comes with the news that municipal vehicles are being refused fuel on account because of unpaid debts. Only the local police and fire brigade are being supplied because they provide an emergency service. Barrientos says this is all due to an accounting error on the part of the town hall and he is meeting the accountant this week to ensure payment.

The AVE’s energy-efficient journey to Madrid

Letting the train take the strain is the environment’s gain

By Dave Jamieson

THE GREENEST way to get to Madrid is by train. That’s the conclusion of a new study which compares the energy efficiencies of travelling to the capital by different means of transport.
The report was commissioned the Spanish Railways Foundation (FFE), an organisation which promotes rail travel through cultural activities, and includes data on the Málaga to Madrid AVE line which opened in December. According to its findings, high-speed trains on the line emit six times less contamination per passenger than planes and cars. It says each traveller on an AVE service to Madrid contributes to the release of 8.7 kilograms of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, compared with 11.5 kg on a traditional train, 13.5 kg on a coach, 55.1 kg in a car and 57.9 kg aboard an aeroplane.

However, it says the Málaga line is not the country’s most energy efficient AVE. That honour goes to the Toledo line which emits only 1.7 kg of CO2 per passenger while the worst offender is the recently opened Madrid to Barcelona route which emits 16.45 kg.

The FFE study says that the AVE’s efficiency is a result of the technical characteristics of the trains, as well as its operation which has fewer stops and more direct routes. The report’s author, Alberto García, concludes that an increase in the speed of rail travel does not necessarily produce an increase in energy consumed.

News of the AVE’s green credentials came last week as both Iberia and Aena confirmed air passenger numbers between Málaga and Madrid have fallen since the high-speed rail link between the two cities opened three months ago. The airline said that it was carrying ten per cent fewer travellers than last year, but was facing the competition by using smaller aircraft on the route and increasing the number of flights, as well as by reducing ticket prices. Airports operator Aena, meanwhile, said that the total number of passengers flying to Madrid from Málaga during January and February was 11.25 per cent down compared with 2007. The FFE report stated that a flight from Málaga to Madrid releases a total of 7,377 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere, compared with 2,226 kg for an AVE journey.

New hospital saves residents time and travel

Patients thrilled with Benalmádena CHARE’s quick service

By Oliver McIntyre

A patient with a health complaint goes to see his Social Security GP, who gives him an appointment for the very next day to see a specialist at a local hospital. There, he receives testing and an immediate diagnosis and is scheduled for a surgical procedure at the same hospital the following day. Problem fixed, case closed – total treatment time: three days.

Does this sound like your average experience with the public health system? Well, for many Benalmádena residents such a scenario is becoming a reality after the opening of the town’s new CHARE hospital, which was inaugurated last October and has progressively been bringing its services online. It is now fully operational except the A&E department, which should open in the next few months.
Long-time Benalmádena resident Monica Franks, 61, originally from Liverpool, told Costa del Sol News she was sent to the new hospital by her GP last week. She arrived at 12.30pm Monday and by 3pm had received numerous tests and scans, along with the results and diagnosis. Prior to the existence of the new hospital, she says, the same service would have required trips to multiple medical centres over a period of several days.

“I would have had to do a couple of tests with my own doctor, then go to Arroyo de la Miel for x-rays, then to the Hospital Clínico in Málaga for a scan, and then to Málaga’s Barbarella centre for a review of the results once they were available,” she said. “Instead, I had it all done in one day, in one place. It’s absolutely tremendous.”

A friend of hers – whose experience served as the example in the opening paragraph of this article – had an ulcer operation just three days after his initial visit to his GP.

More on the way

Clearly the new hospital, which as a so-called CHARE centre is a smaller facility aimed at relieving the overloaded regional hospitals, cannot handle all types of cases, but for many local residents it is a new resource that can save them a lot of time and travel when undergoing medical treatments.

Additional CHARE-type hospitals are planned in Estepona, Mijas and Cártama.

Arsenal win San Roque’s first peace trophy

Youth team from the club’s local soccer school defeated Israeli rivals

By David Eade

San Roque hosted its first youth soccer tournament over the Easter weekend. CD Costa del Sol, the team from the Arsenal soccer school based in the municipality, became the first champions of the Trofeo Ibérico por la Paz.

In Sunday’s final, CD Costa del Sol, trained by Ian McKay, beat Galilee United, a team made up of Arab and Jewish youths from Israel. It was a 4-0 victory for the Arsenal-trained side with goals from Pedro and Esteban, plus two from Thomas. In the third- and fourth-place play-off final, the Soccer Pro-academy of Portugal beat the IST from Toulouse, France 2-1.

After the final between the Costa del Sol side and the Galilee United team, the San Roque councillor for sport, Juan José Guillén, and Alan Sefton, director of the Arsenal soccer schools worldwide, presented medals to all the players.

‘Best participants’

Apart from taking winners’ medals, two local Arsenal school players, Thomas Isola and Pedro Castaño, also received the award for being the best participants. The event, which was hosted at the ground of the Unión de Guadiaro is due to be repeated next year.

Torrox expat to run the London Marathon

Richard Filby appeals to local residents to help him raise funds for the Breast Cancer Campaign

NEWS Staff Reporter

ON THURSDAY, November 8 1990, Cath and Richard Filby’s eldest son, John, a 17-year-old, high-flying A-level student, was knocked over and killed by a speeding motorcyclist near their home in Mid-Wales. John was cremated a week later, on November 15.
Exactly 17 years later, on Thursday, November 8 2007, Cath was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy a week later, on November 15.

An amazing coincidence? Who knows? There is a theory, by Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer, a well-known German oncologist, that a severe trauma such as Cath suffered on learning of the death of her son can cause a reaction in the brain, which then triggers a chain reaction in the body’s cells, resulting in disease such as cancer. The subtle changes in the mutating cells may only manifest themselves years later. On August 18 1978, Dr Hamer had received the shocking news that his son Dirk had been shot. Dirk died in December 1978. A few months later, Dr. Hamer was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Since he had never been seriously ill, he immediately surmised that his cancer development might be directly related to the tragic loss of his son. Dirk’s death and his own experience with cancer prompted Dr. Hamer to investigate the personal history of his cancer patients. He quickly learned that, like him, they all had gone through some exceptionally stressful episode prior to developing cancer.

Or was it Cath’s diet or lifestyle? Unlikely - she drinks very little alcohol, has never smoked, eats a very good and balanced diet, and is slim, fit and healthy. She walks and jogs regularly and even ran the London Marathon in 2005. Those who know Cath feel that, of all the people they know, she would have been the last to contract cancer. Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t discriminate like that and seems to affect so many people of all ages, whose lifestyles are as varied as the types of cancer that they develop.

Whatever the cause, following major surgery, Cath underwent chemotherapy treatment, which ended in February. Now, through a combination of conventional and alternative therapies and a specialised diet, she is on the road to recovery at her home on Torrox Costa. She is a very special, positive and determined person and it is amazing how she has coped over the past few months, helped in no small way by a wide and wonderful circle of family and friends. Cath and Richard have another son, Richard junior, aged 28, and a daughter, Paula, aged 32.

Cath’s husband, Richard, will be running the 2008 London Marathon for Breast Cancer Campaign because, as he put it, “No woman should have to experience what Cath has been through. Thanks to the groundbreaking research activities, which are funded by Breast Cancer Campaign, we are moving in the right direction towards finding a cure for breast cancer and, perhaps, all types of cancer and even preventing them from occurring in the first place. If I can help in my own small way by running 26 miles and raising some money for a very good cause, then it will probably be the best thing I have ever done in my life. And if I get exhausted towards the end of the marathon and feel like giving up, I’ll just remind myself about what Cath and thousands like her have been through and that will be enough to carry me across the finish line.”

If you would like to support Cath, Richard and Breast Cancer Campaign, you can do it on the internet through the “Just Giving” charity website. Just go to and pledge whatever you can. Cath and Richard can be contacted on 952534519.

ETA chooses Good Friday for car bomb blast

Police had just 30 minutes to evacuate the Easter crowds

By Dave Jamieson

A CAR BOMB exploded outside a Guardia Civil base in La Rioja last Friday afternoon following a telephoned warning. While major damage was caused, only one person received minor injuries as the surrounding area had been evacuated.

The call, believed to have been made by ETA, came at 1.30 pm when the streets of Calahorra were full of people who had been witnessing the town’s Good Friday procession. The caller indicated the bomb would detonate in 30 minutes and the authorities moved quickly to clear the area and evacuate 40 families, many of whom live in the Guardia barracks.

Police say around 70 kilos of explosives had been packed inside a blue Honda Civic car which was then left parked against the back wall of the Guardia Civil building in Calle Gallarza at 11.00 am. The vehicle had been stolen at gunpoint about 100 kilometres away at 9.00 that morning from a couple who were found tied up in the countryside at 4.30.

Five nearby homes were wrecked and others badly damaged in the blast when the car exploded and scattered fragments of metal and debris over a wide area. The injured man was a Guardia officer who received cuts when a window shattered. The same Guardia Civil base was the target of a non-fatal ETA attack 25 years ago.

The Ministry of the Interior said a security camera had recorded pictures of the car being parked in Calahorra and investigators believe that three members of ETA’s Vizcaya command were responsible. The first drove the armed car to its destination and the second drove their getaway vehicle, while the third guarded the owners of the Honda until the blast was confirmed. He then advised the authorities where the couple could be found.

Silent protest

Local and regional leaders later joined about 1,000 people in a silent protest against terrorism outside Calahorra Town Hall. The mayor, Javier Pagola, called on people to continue to participate in the events of Semana Santa to demonstrate to terrorists that they could not change traditions and customs.

The Rioja region is not part of the Basque administrative region but ETA claims it to be Basque. Last Friday’s attack was the 13th attributed to the separatist organisation following the breakdown of a cease-fire last June, since when three people have been killed by their actions.

Meanwhile, a cache of explosives believed to belong to ETA has been discovered near Ciudad Real. Police believe that the 10 kilos of powder found last Wednesday date from before the start of the cease-fire in 2006.

Construction crisis forces Cajasol cutback

By Dave Jamieson

One of Spain’s top 10 savings banks has hardened its policy towards property developers. Cajasol announced last week that it had stopped lending to construction companies wanting to build holiday homes on the coast or in areas classified as rural.

The stance adopted by the Sevilla-based bank, the ninth largest of the country’s 45 savings banks, is seen as further evidence of the crisis now overtaking Spain’s building industry. Speaking last Tuesday in Madrid at a conference organised by the Institute of Business Development, Cajasol’s José Aguilar Martín said the bank would only finance such projects under very tough conditions. He added, “There is no foreign market, the domestic market is greatly depressed and there is no investment market.” It is estimated that, until now, about two-thirds of loans made by Cajasol have been connected with mortgages or new construction projects.

Cajasol has also said it is now not lending for the building of new golf courses while Sr Aguilar underlined the new attitude by confirming that only half of the mortgage applications being received are now approved, compared with 90 per cent a year ago.

Last month, the drop in property sales hit Promociones Habitat SA of Barcelona, which just managed to avoid bankruptcy by refinancing 1.6 billion euros of debt after three months of negotiations. The company, which had violated the terms of its debt agreements by missing earnings and sales targets, had to agree to the sale of some of its assets to pay part of the seven-year deal. Habitat bought the real-estate business of the Ferrovial Group in 2006 but was then hit by a fall in home sales of 70 per cent last year. Madrid-based property company Aguirre Newman has predicted a further 50 per cent slump this year.