News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week 3rd April - 9th April 2008
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS
Last weekend saw some of the best lawn bowlers on the Costa gather at Santa Maria Bowls Club to see out this season’s Lions and Tigers league competitions, and to take part in the Champion of Champions Tournament, sponsored by the Costa del Sol News. Shown in the photo are the Champion of Champions winners and competitors, with Costa del Sol News’s Marie Thomson.
FREE TO KILL
Convicted paedophile should have been in prison
By Suzan Davenport and David Eade
A TRIED and convicted paedophile, arrested last week in connection with the death of five-year-old Mari Luz Cortés in Huelva, was free to attack other children after a chain of court blunders meant he was never imprisoned.
Santiago del Valle Garcia, 52, was arrested by police last week along with his wife, Isabel Garcia, in the small town of Pajaroncillo in Cuenca after the couple fled the Cortés family's Huelva neighbourhood in January shortly after Mari Luz went missing. His sister Rosa was also arrested. The detentions caused street protests by indignant Torrejón residents who attacked Del Valle's brother after rumours implicated him in the case. Police officers have publicly denied that Del Valle's brother was involved, and have stepped up patrols in the area to avoid any further disturbances.Del Valle admitted that he took Mari Luz but insists that he did not assault her and that she died accidentally in his apartment after falling down the stairs. The building is just metres from Mari Luz's home. His sister, Rosa, has also confessed that they took Mari Luz's body, on the same afternoon as she disappeared, Sunday January 13, to the deserted car park of the Carrefour supermarket in Huelva in her car. She alleges that her brother used a shopping trolley to transport the child's body and then hid it.National scandalSantiago del Valle should never have been free to allegedly murder Mari Luz.
In November 2002 he was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison by a Seville court after being convicted of sexually assaulting his five-year-old daughter in 1998. The sentence was confirmed in December 2005 but Del Valle’s lawyer appealed against it. Meanwhile Del Valle left the area. When his appeal was denied, notification of the decision was sent to his old address. Judge Rafael Tirado Márquez assumed Del Valle to be in prison, which meant a warrant for his arrest was never issued and Del Valle continued free. Judge Tirado Márquez only became aware of his error when he saw images of the man arrested in connection with the Mari Luz case. He blamed the blunder on "lack of personnel" and pointed to the fact that a court official handling the case had taken sick leave at a crucial moment.Santiago Del Valle was also given a two-year suspended sentenced by another Seville court in 2004 for sexually abusing another nine-year-old child. The judge in this case did not confirm the sentence because he thought it was a first offence.And in another case, a court in Gijón, Asturias is waiting to bring Del Valle to trial after he abused a 13-year-old girl in 2006.
The case had not been tried because court officials couldn't locate the accused. It is now also known that Del Valle approached schools, often signing up for adult courses, to search for victims and posed as a young girl to contact other girls through magazines and the internet.Now the Mari Luz case has highlighted the Spanish judicial system's huge failure to enforce prison sentences. In Málaga yesterday the court employees trade union, SPJ-USO, said that the present criminal case backlog has accumulated almost 12,000 uninforced sentences. SPJ-USO stated, "The enforcement of jail sentences is democracy's unfinished business."Both Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the president of the Andalucian government, Manuel Chaves, have assured Juan José Cortés, Mari Luz's father, that a full investigation into the judicial errors surrounding Del Valle will take place.For his part Juan José says that he intends to take action against the Ministry of Justice for its negligence in not imprisoning Del Valle and that the family are going to campaign for a change to police procedures in cases involving the disappearance of children. They are also going to campaign for all paedophiles to be listed.
Judicial inspection routines to be reformed
Spain's High Justice Commission (CGPJ) on Tuesday announced plans to reform its inspection routines in order to avoid such "glaring mistakes" as the failure to imprison Santiago del Valle following his conviction.In addition, CGPJ spokesman Enrique López has announced that the judicial review in the Mari Luz case is to be extended to look at the role of Judge Javier González of the Sevilla provincial court, who issued the ruling confirming Del Valle's sentence for abusing his daughter. The confirmation ruling came in 2005, three years after the original sentence was issued by the lower court judge, Rafael Tirado. The CGPJ disciplinary commission could adopt measures against both judges on Monday for their roles in the cases involving the detainee.Santiago del Valle and his sister have been remanded in custody, without bail, and are being kept in isolation to protect them from other inmates. His wife is being held in a psychiatric unit.
Estepona Golf resident takes case to EU Parliament
Homeowners are battling 'unwarranted' infrastructure charges
By David Eade
The fight by residents of Estepona Golf over the huge infrastructure charges being imposed upon them has now been taken to the European Parliament. Estepona Golf resident Stephen Kimsey was due to have a petition read out and debated at the Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday.Mr Kimsey told the Costa del Sol New: "The petition was sent in over a year ago asking for help regarding the huge unwarranted infrastructure charges facing homeowners at Estepona Golf. Developers building hundreds of new houses want existing homeowners to pay vast sums towards their new roads, street lights, drains and so on."He added: "One of my elderly neighbours living on a widow's pension has a charge of 30,000 euros placed on the title deeds of her home by the developers."The residents have secured the backing of Euro MPs Michael Cashman (UK) and David Hammerstein (Spain) along with local councillor Rafael Montesinos.In bringing the petition to Brussels, Mr Kimsey said: "The community at Estepona Golf hope the European Parliament will put pressure on Spain to change its housing laws and protect existing homeowners and buyers all over Spain from greedy and corrupt lawyers, developers and town hall officials."
No news on talks
In December, the owner of Estepona Golf, Rory Leader, told CDSN he was no longer the leader of the development's Junta de Compensación, which set the infrastructure charges. He said that on the proposal of Taylor Woodrow and two other Spanish developers with interests in the development, day to day management had been handed over to a group of professionals. "The issue of charges is fluid, and still under negotiation," he saidAke Olofsson, Taylor Woodrow's Land Manager in Andalucía, confirmed at the time that talks were underway with Estepona town hall and the residents. He said the infrastructure charges were likely to be reduced but that the residents would still be expected to pay something. However, Mr Kimsey says that no word has been received from the developers or the town hall for six months.
Court sets million-euro bail for Roca
Marbella angry over pending release of Malaya mastermind
By David Eade
The judge in the Malaya corruption case at Marbella town hall has agreed to release the alleged mastermind behind the scam, former town planning boss Juan Antonio Roca, on one million euros bail. This controversial decision was taken in the face of fierce opposition from the prosecutor, Marbella town hall and the regional government, who pointed out he could legally be held as a suspect for up to four years.Roca has been held in jail since March 2006 and at the time of writing he is still behind bars whilst the bail money is raised. It is suspected that he has assets of around 200 million euros but little of this is liquid cash other than some off-shore accounts, and it is unlikely that Roca would openly admit to that wealth. Indeed, Roca has told his lawyers that there is no possibility of accessing his own money as it has been embargoed, and therefore they are appealing to his family and friends to come up with the cash.In reaching his decision the judge stated that he does not believe Roca would attempt to flee the country as he has too many economic interests to defend. Once the bail is raised and he is freed, he will have to report each day to the court and is banned from going within 500 metres of an airport.
Marbella to appeal
If the judge's decision has been greeted with dismay by the prosecutor and regional government, it has provoked open anger in Marbella. Whilst the municipality struggles with its huge debts, one of the alleged strippers of its assets is about to be freed on bail. The president of the residents' associations of Marbella and San Pedro, Alejandro Dogan, stated that his members were "indignant" over Roca's pending release. Marbella town hall said its legal team intended to appeal against the judge's decision, adding, "it is an injustice for the people of Marbella."
Vélez airfield in fuel tax fraud allegation
More than 100 people and 138 companies could be involved
By Dave Jamieson
An alleged fraud involving the avoidance of tax on aviation fuel has been uncovered at a Vélez-Málaga aerodrome. Guardia Civil investigators said last Thursday that 106 individuals and 138 companies may be caught up in the racket in which commercial fuel was used for private flights.Operation Helice began in May last year when inspectors were suspicious of possibly fraudulent practices at the Leoni Benabú airfield at Trapiche, one of Spain's busiest privately-owned aerodromes. It is alleged that some 670,000 litres of fuel was documented as having been used for commercial flights, thus avoiding payment of tax, when it was actually used on private recreational jaunts. The price difference is considerable: aviation fuel for piston-engined aircraft is presently priced at 1.23 euros per litre for commercial use, but with tax added, this rises to 1.654 euros for private flights, or over 42 euros more per 100 litres.Guardia Civil officers confirmed with the Civil Aviation Authority that the aerodrome holds private status in all respects and that it had not registered any commercial flights. Inspectors visited the airfield on Tuesday of last week and examined paperwork relating to aircraft, owners and refuelling operations, with the cooperation of Air BP, which has the concession to supply fuel at the airfield. They concluded that over 225,000 euros of fuel tax had been illegally avoided. Amongst those operating from the airfield are two flying schools and small businesses involved in aerial photography and advertising.
Inspectors say that in the hangers they also discovered around a dozen aircraft which were in Spain without the required importation papers. These planes have been sealed by officers until their situation is legalised.Last year a Guardia Civil investigation uncovered an aircraft rental company which had been operating illegally out of Málaga airport for two years. The firm was working under a Portuguese licence and was estimated to have defrauded IVA payments totalling more than 35,000 euros.
Nerja traders march in protest at market move
Members of the public will be able to put forward amendments over a three-month consultation period
By David Eade
RONDA town council has announced that it is setting up a special office, in the town centre's Calle Molino, to handle enquiries from the public over the provisions of its new local development plan (PGOU).All the political parties at Ronda town hall believe it is vital that residents, cultural and social associations, businesses and other interested parties have the opportunity to view and comment on the draft PGOU. Municipal officials will be on hand at the office to answer any questions and also to assist those wishing to make representations for changes or amendments to the draft.The town council is also producing a DVD of the main proposals of the new PGOU, outlining the impact it will have, so that it can be studied more easily by those concerned.The draft PGOU has been approved by the council, and once published the public will have three months to consult the document and make their views known. It allows for 7,000 homes to be built over the next 10 years with a large percentage of those being low interest rate homes. A new industrial zone is also planned now that the present estate in El Fuerte is almost fully utilised.
Controversial Murallas development
One of the more controversial elements is the prevision of a golf course and luxury hotel in the Murallas area of the town. This project has many critics and it could be eliminated during the consultation process.
Axarquía farmers face water restrictions
Irrigation will have to be reduced if drought continues
By Dave Jamieson
Farmers and growers in the Axarquía have been warned that the water available for irrigation could be reduced if the lack of rainfall continues. The news came as the government unveiled new measures to combat the driest winter in memory.The drought management committee of water authority Cuenca Mediterránea Andaluza (CMA) said last week that the dropping level of the La Viñuela reservoir means that restrictions may have to be imposed. In the last 12 months, the volume of water stored there has fallen by almost half, from 74 cubic hectometres (hm3) this time last year to 38 hm3 recorded last week. La Viñuela is the largest reservoir in the province of Málaga, with a capacity of 170 hm3, but it is presently only 22.4 per cent full. It was similarly low levels which prompted the Junta de Andalucía to introduce restrictions on supplies from the Guadalhorce, Casasola and Limonero reservoirs around two years ago.The director general of CMA, Antonio Rodríguez Leal, said last week that similar action would be taken at La Viñuela only if the situation continues to get worse in the medium term. The first step to be taken would be to reduce supplies to Málaga, he added, as the city would have water available from La Concepción reservoir, which is presently at 100 per cent capacity.In the reservoirs for which the CMA is responsible in the region, there was 305 hm3 of water in store last week, just under 30 per cent of capacity, and about 17 per cent down in last year. Within the province of Málaga, total supplies stand at 172 hm3 which is equivalent to its annual consumption.A government statement last Friday confirmed that the Mediterranean region had experienced its driest autumn and winter on record. Although describing the situation in Málaga as „delicate,“ vice-president María Teresa Fernández de la Vega made assurances that the population was not at risk. She called for people to act responsibly and to continue saving water.
The comments followed the weekly meeting of the cabinet, at which it was agreed to allow water to be diverted from the Río Tagus basin in the north and west to the Río Segura basin on the country's south-east coast, which supplies much of Murcía. The drought has also reduced power supplies from hydro-electric plants which are running at around 54 per cent capacity compared with 77 per cent a year ago.
Town hall revokes licence for four-star hotel
Developer denies it was planning to sell apartments in the building
By Oliver McIntyre
BENALMÁDENA town hall has revoked the construction licence issued to Grupo Mirador in January 2006 for the construction of a four-star hotel in the La Perla zone of Benalmádena Costa. The mayor, Javier Carnero, explained last week that the licence, which was issued by the previous town hall administration, has been annulled because the company was planning to sell apartments in the building, when the licence conditions explicitly required the site be for hotel use only, not residential.The mayor said the services of the town hall's legal department will be made available to any individuals who bought or were in the process of buying a unit in the building.The planned hotel was controversial since its initial approval, with opposition parties at the time criticising the reclassification of the land, which had previously been classified for just a few single-family homes.
Project based oncondominium-hotel model
Grupo Mirador insists that it does not intend to sell apartments in the building but rather intends to operate it on condominium-hotel model, in which the 196 units would be sold to multiple co-owners, who would then contract a hotel operator to manage the complex. Such a model is "recognised in the [Junta de Andalucía's] tourism law and similar examples exist in Torremolinos, Estepona and Nerja," says the company. It says it has not been selling specific units to individuals for the last three years and that those who had purchased one have been refunded their money.
Works mean changes for Málaga's suburban trains
Cercanías lines see schedule changes as two stations temporarily closed
By Dave Jamieson
Two city railway stations in Málaga have been closed for improvements with all local services temporarily leaving from the main line terminus. Starting yesterday, passengers who normally use Málaga Renfe or Málaga Centro-Alameda instead arrive at and depart from the María Zambrano station and should note revised departure and arrival times on many services.Renfe say that the temporary suspension of the two stations is to permit the line between Málaga Renfe and Los Prados to be upgraded, as well as allowing the stations themselves to be improved. This is affecting services on the Cercaniás C-1 line to Fuengirola and C-2 line to Álora, so passengers should check the new departure times at their local stations on both these lines. However, Renfe says the number of services running each day will not change during the work, which has an estimated duration of one year.
Ronda andSevilla trains
Also affected are medium-distance services to Ronda and Sevilla. A number of departure times for both the outbound and return journeys from Málaga María Zambrano have been changed, although Renfe emphasises that the number of trains per day and the journey durations have not changed.Málaga Centro-Alameda is the terminus of the city's suburban rail network and lies to the south of the Paseo de Los Curas in the city centre, while Málaga Renfe is situated in the same area as the María Zambrano rail terminal.
Young Englishman misses out on Andalucía golf title
French player Thomas Levet pipped Oliver Fisher at the post
By David Eade
THE ALOHA golf course in Marbella witnessed a dramatic end to the Andalucía Open on Sunday. Nineteen-year-old Englishman Oliver Fisher lost out to Thomas Levet of France. Had Fisher held the lead he would have been the European Tour's fifth youngest winner.It all looked good for Fisher who was three ahead with six holes to play. Indeed he was still two in front on the 17th tee but Levet sank a 20ft birdie putt at that hole and the youngster's three-iron tee shot ran through the final fairway into the water.Bogeying the hole - and that after Levet's greenside bunker shot had hit the cup - meant they were both round in 67 for 16-under totals of 272.
Returning to the same tee Fisher took a four iron but pushed it into a bunker and bogeyed again to lose.
Speaking to the media after the event Fisher, ranked 290th in the world, said: "I'd have loved to have won but I'm sure there will be more chances. You learn from your mistakes - you have to learn to lose before you learn to win. It was disappointing but never mind."The favourite to win the tournament had been fellow Briton Lee Westwood. He was the long-time leader and also defending champion but he came in third three shots back, having played his last 11 holes in three over par.
Gas price rise pushes bottles through 14 euros
Consumer groups call the increase 'excessive'
By Dave Jamieson
This week's rise in the price of bottled gas has seen butane break through the 14-euro barrier. With the increase of more than one euro to 14.10 euros on Tuesday, the cost of a 'bombona' butane bottle has gone up by 22 per cent in a year.The latest increase of 1.16 euros, or almost nine per cent, on a 12.5 kilo bottle is promised to be the last until at least the end of June. It is being attributed to a 21 per cent increase in the cost of raw gas, a 12 per cent increase in freight costs and a fluctuation in the dollar/euro exchange rate of almost three per cent.The Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce has defended the price hike, citing the cost of gas in other European countries. What householders in Spain must pay, it says, is "far less" than what consumers pay in Portugal and France, where bottles presently cost 21.50 and 26.50 euros, respectively.
Higher than inflation
Consumer groups disagree. The Spanish Confederation of Consumers (CECU) described the increase of more than one euro as "excessive" because "it is more than double the rate of inflation." The sharp price increase for this basic commodity, it argues, most severely impacts people who are the least well-off. The Federation of Consumers in Action (Facua) accused the government of maintaining a "pledge" to preserve business profits at the cost of consumers.
Pedrosa wins Spanish Gran Prix
Massive Guardia Civil presence keeps Jerez's roads safe during event
By David Eade
Honda's Spanish biker Dani Pedrosa won his home Gran Prix at Jerez over Yamaha Factory pair Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo at the weekend. After just two races, Pedrosa leads the world championship. His triumph at Jerez was watched by King Juan Carlos I, who made his first visit to the race since 1997.Britain's James Toseland battled from eighth on the grid to finish sixth, although the Yamaha Tech 3 rider was passed on the last corner by Suzuki's Loris Capirossi. Nicky Hayden ended the race in a comfortable fourth on his Honda, while reigning world champion Casey Stoner - winner in Qatar but struggling this week on his Ducati - went into the gravel twice and finished 11th.Thousands of motorcycling aficionados flocked to Jerez for the Gran Prix, transforming the town into the world capital of motorcycling for three exciting days.Officials went to great measures to ensure safety. A special security and traffic plan was introduced, a crackdown was imposed on illegal street racing, with a number of arrests made, and certain roads were restricted to use by residents. In addition, the town increased the number of parking spaces by threefold compared to last year.
Guardia patrol Some 2,300 Guardia Civil officers were on patrol in and around Jerez, as well as 300 local police and 20 private security staff. Five helicopters were employed in the skies to keep watch and record any dangerous conduct. There were also seven radar speed traps. All of this came at a cost of 2.5 million euros from the state coffers. Police reported that there were no fatal accidents linked to the event although there were numerous motorbike accidents.The hotels in Jerez were at 100 per cent capacity and many visitors used the extensive camping sites that had been provided. A number of motorbike exhibitions, including Motorjerez, were staged to coincide with the event and several popular singers entertained the crowds at concerts.