Costa del Sol News - 6th October 2008

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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The Costa del Sol weekly newspaper, on sale at newsagents.

Week October 6th - October 13th 2008

Woman stabbed to death by ex-boyfriend in Nerja

The alleged murderer was under a court restraining order

By Dave Jamieson

A 25-year-old Argentinean woman has died in Nerja after being stabbed 15 times by her former boyfriend, Hicham B. Cecilia Natalia Coria Olivares was attacked as she arrived for work in the town centre on Sunday morning.

The victim was a waitress in one of the cafés near the Church of San Salvador on the Balcón de Europa which is where her attacker surprised her at about 9.20 am as she was setting out tables on the terrace. He produced a large knife and stabbed her in the back puncturing a lung. As she tried to fend him off, she suffered additional injuries to her arms and was stabbed a total of 15 times. A passer-by took a chair from the café terrace and struck the man in an effort to stop him, at which point the assailant fled towards Plaza Cavana. Waiters and other staff from nearby businesses rushed to help the girl by using tablecloths to stem the blood flow. She was still alive and able to identify her aggressor, but the emergency services were unable to revive her and she died at the scene. Within a short time, the Guardia Civil arrested a 29-year-old Moroccan alleged to have been responsible and who is reported to have been under a court restraining order, prohibiting him from approaching the victim.

The couple are reported to have ended a two-year relationship recently, since when he had been threatening her verbally and in text messages. Cecelia had reported her alleged killer to the police on three occasions, the last time the evening before she died, telling them that he had threatened her saying he was going to kill her "with a knife, a gun or the first thing he could find". When asked by officers if she thought he would carry out his threat, she replied yes.

Silent Protest

Nerja immediately called for a silent protest to be held outside the town hall at midday on Monday to demonstrate the town’s repulsion of the incident. It was the second death in a case of domestic violence in the province of Málaga this year and brings the national total in the last nine months to 48.

Man accused of pushing his wife to death goes on trial

Irishman's murder trial gets under way after bomb scare delay

By David Eade

The Irishman accused of throwing his wife from the fourth floor of their Marbella hotel eight years ago declared before the jury on Tuesday. Michael D.A.'s trial, in which the public prosecutor is seeking a 14-year prison term for the accused, had been due to start the day before but was postponed after authorities received an anonymous telephone call saying that a bomb had been planted in the Palacio de Justicia. Around 2,000 people had to be evacuated. The tragic events dates back to 2000 when the married couple, with one of their two children, took a family holiday in Spain staying at one of Marbella's top hotels, the Melia Don Pepe.

The prosecutor is alleging that on February 11 the husband started a fierce row with his wife, K.A., in front of their child and then deliberately threw her from the apartment knowing that it would almost certainly result in her death. In fact she survived the four-storey fall but died two days later in the Costa del Sol Hospital.

However Michael D.A. declared that while he and his wife were arguing, she had rushed to the balcony to stop their three-year-old son from climbing over the low balcony railing, and had tripped as she ran, falling four storeys. He explained that although initially she had managed to grab the railing with one hand, and he had grabbed her arm, she had slipped through his grasp.

n addition to the jail term the prosecutor is asking the court to make the husband pay 200,000 euros in compensation to the woman's heirs, basically for their children. However the legal representative for the wife's family is demanding a 15-year prison term for her death plus 100,000 euros for her mother and 50,000 euros each for the two children. After the woman's death her husband returned to Ireland. He then opposed attempts to extradite him back to Spain although the High Court in Dublin eventually ordered his return in November 2005. The case is being heard in the Málaga provincial court.


Malaga rattled by unexplained 'explosions'

What many at first thought were bombs were really sonic booms

By Dave Jamieson

Two loud booms which resonated across Málaga on Friday morning rattled windows and generated hundreds of worried calls to the city's emergency services. The reports from residents, concerned after recent terrorist attacks in the north of the country, were quickly investigated by police who were unable to find a trace of any incident.

However, the Ministry of Defence later confirmed that the noises, heard within a second of one another at 9.40am, came from two military jets breaking the sound barrier. A spokesman said: "It was very loud and it sounded like a bomb, but it's a false alarm." The booms were attributed to two Eurofighters which had taken off from the military airbase at Moron de la Frontera to take part in a routine NATO exercise called Sirio.

In the 45 minutes following the incident, local police and the 112 emergency line received around 1,000 phone calls from concerned residents over a wide area, from Nerja in the east to Fuengirola in the west and Álora in the north. With no official explanation forthcoming until 10.30am, there was considerable confusion as rumours of bomb attacks and accidents spread. The mobile phone networks in the city of Málaga became saturated and it was almost impossible to make calls until nearly 11am.

Extraordinary conditions

The ministry later said that the Eurofighters, two of 19 operated by the Spanish air force, had been flying 2,000 feet above the legal limit for such flights, which is set at 35,000 feet. On Saturday, the Minister for Development, Magdalena Álvarez, confirmed during a visit to Málaga that an investigation into the incident would be undertaken by the Defence Ministry.

Experts say that under normal conditions the sonic booms would not have been audible at ground level. However, last Friday morning, meteorologists recorded a high, 88 per cent humidity level across the area. This, combined with the morning's warm temperature of 20 degrees, is thought to have created exceptional conditions which propagated the sound. A sonic boom occurs when an aircraft exceeds the speed of sound (1,225 kilometres per hour). Air pressure waves combine to form a shock wave which can be heard as a boom when it reaches the ground

Shooting could be linked to Nikki Beach incident

British victim was shot five times at close range

By David Eade

At 7.30pm last Wednesday a Briton from Liverpool left the Solly Bar in Calle Ramón Areces in Puerto Banús and was riddled with bullets as he walked to his car parked outside. According to eye witnesses, a dark BMW that had been illegally parked drove up to the man with its windows open and someone inside the car shot him at least five times in the head and body. It is believed the events were captured by the security cameras at the Hipercor commercial centre nearby.

Sadly such events are not uncommon in Marbella these days. It is just a month since an Irishman was shot at his bar at Aloha Gardens in Nueva Andalucía, and two Britons were injured – one them receiving gunshot wounds in both of his legs – in a shooting at the Nikki Beach disco after an argument between two groups of men.

Now the police are following a line of investigation that links this latest murder attempt with the Nikki Beach incident. The Briton has lived in Marbella for several years with his partner and is said to know his fellow countrymen who were involved in the shooting at the London club night at the popular Puerto Banús disco.

Possible payback crime

The government’s sub-delegate in Málaga province, Hilario López Luna, stated that the latest shooting victim had a lengthy police record and had served a prison term in Britain. Officers are trying to determine if there is a criminal connection between the Liverpudlian and the club Britons.

After the shooting the minister of the interior, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, stated that all the evidence pointed to another “settling of accounts” amongst criminal gangs. He added that such cases amongst “foreigners” were usually drug-related, a view that was backed by Sr López Luna.
At the time of going to press the Liverpool man was in a stable but critical condition under police guard in Marbella’s Costa del Sol Hospital. Since the shooting he has undergone several operations and, according to medical sources, has gun wounds to his head, leg, arm and groin areas.

Chinese milk products found in Mijas and San Pedro

Other inspections earlier this week uncovered similar items in Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Estepona.

By Oliver McIntyre

Junta de Andalucía inspectors have seized a number of food items containing Chinese milk powder in stores several towns on the western Costa del Sol. The inspections at Chinese shops were carried out under the recommendation issued by the Spanish Food Safety and Nutrition Agency in response to the tainted-milk scandal in China.

In China four babies have died and more than 50,000 taken ill from the presence of the industrial chemical melamine in milk products. As the scandal spread in China and concerns grew over not just fresh milk and dairy products but also foods that contain powdered milk, European Union regulators last Thursday ordered testing of all imports containing at least 15 per cent milk powder. They also banned the import from China of all children's foods that contain milk or milk powder.

In Mijas officials last week seized a package of rice crackers, a bag of meat-flavoured noodles and four strawberry-flavoured cakes. In San Pedro they found 67 bags of sweets, 10 of them of the suspect White Rabbit brand, which has been tested positive for melamine in some countries and which Tesco last week pulled from its store shelves in the UK as a precautionary measure. Other inspections earlier this week uncovered similar items at Asian stores in Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Estepona.

White Rabbit sweets have also been found in Sevilla, Murcia, Barcelona and Madrid. Officials in the city of Madrid have also seized a number of other items including 200 cartons of milk. There has long been an EU ban on the import of Chinese milk and other fresh dairy products such as yoghurt.

Junta de Andalucía officials said inspections in Málaga city, the eastern coast and inland areas of the province turned up no suspect products. The British confectioner Cadbury was pulled into the China milk scandal earlier this week when it recalled 11 of its products made in Beijing and sold in Asia and, in one case, Australia, after they were found to have trace amounts of melamine.


A homebrew not suitable for drinking

International school offers information and hands-on experience

NEWS Staff Reporter

Last week Sotogrande International School offered two well-attended courses on homebrew biodiesel. The attendees, who came from all over the Malaga province, included a unique mix of people unlikely to be found outside the Costa del Sol. There were Sue and Desmond, who live on an ecological finca in Casares, and need a cheap way to power their generator; Dave, who runs a fleet of cars back in the UK and wants to cut his fuel bill; Ronnie, who repairs AC equipment along the coast and needs to save money to stay competitive; and Guy, who believes that 'green' energy'-related businesses are the perfect way out of the economic crisis.

A new service industry - from coaching and technical support to the sale of processors and chemicals - that is needed to produce top-rate biodiesel will help create new and meaningful new jobs in Spain, say organisers of the course.

David Taylor, a lecturer and pioneer in domestic biodiesel engineering who came over from the UK, told the audience about the benefit of using biofuel. All diesel engines manufactured after 1995 in the EU can run on biodiesel without any alterations to the engine or loss of power, he explained. Cars that are run on 100 per cent biodiesel will lower their emissions by 88 per cent, and drivers will not only save up to 80 per cent on their fuel prices, but will find that the lifetime of their engine triples, as biodiesel actually cleans the engines from carbon residues.

Sean Johnson, the chemistry teacher at Sotogrande International, told the audience about the school's involvement in an international network of eco-schools, and how he is converting kitchen oils into fuel for the school's maintenance vehicles and school buses.

Bilingual training

Thanks to Alejandro, one of Sean's students, both David and Sean's messages came well across to Spanish-speakers at the workshop. Since Alejandro is an active part of the school's biodiesel project, he goes way beyond simple translation, explaining with enthusiasm the chemical process involved in producing top-grade biodiesel.

Sean says he plans to run hands-on training courses at the school on a weekly base, limited to 10 participants, and those who wish to attend should call Vincent on 952 785 631.

Thyssen's Andalucía collection heads for Málaga

The Baroness has decided not to split the works between Sevilla and Málaga

By Dave Jamieson

Confirmation that work on the 18 million-euro project for a new art museum in Málaga is to begin imminently came just before Baroness Carmen Thyssen announced earlier this week that her entire collection bound for Andalucía is to be brought to the city.

It had been expected that the Baroness's priceless art works would be shared between galleries in Sevilla and Málaga, but on Tuesday, the town hall announced that the decision had been reversed. Around 180 works intended for permanent display in Andalucía, mainly by 19th and early 20th century artists from this region, will now be housed in the future Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, due to open to the public in Málaga during 2010.

The exhibits will come from one of the most important collections in the world. In the 1920s, the wealthy industrialist Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza began acquiring Old Masters for his home in Switzerland, and after his death in 1947 his son, Hans Heinrich, added modern masterpieces, including French Impressionists, German Expressionists and important Russian Avant-Garde works. In 1985, Hans married Carmen Cervera, a former Miss Spain, and she remains deeply involved with the collection. A museum to house many of the works opened near the Prado in Madrid in 1992, and the following year, the state bought the collection for $350 million, although its true value was estimated at around $1 billion.

The decision of the Baroness, known as Tita Cervera, not to split the Andalucían display between two cities is a prestigious triumph for Málaga. She explained this week that the choice was taken in part because, "Málaga is more forward looking."

The museum, to which the Baroness is loaning the art works until at least 2025, will be in the renovated Palacio de Villalón and a new three storey building to be constructed alongside it. The final plans for the project are expected to be signed off on October 14 and Málaga's mayor, Francisco de la Torre said work would start before the end of the year. The museum will also incorporate a library and administrative offices in calle de los Mártires, and a book and gift shop in calle Compañía which will be connected to the main museum by an elevated walkway.


Financial and legal aid for sex-trafficking victim

Exploited foreign prostitutes could gain legal residency by filing charges

By Oliver McIntyre

The Spanish government has announced plans to offer financial and legal assistance to women who have been forced, duped or otherwise coerced into practicing prostitution, a phenomenon known as sex trafficking.

Under a new programme expected to be approved by year end, the victims of this practice will be offered the possibility of legal residency if they file charges against those who are exploiting them. The government says it will allow the victims a month-long grace period without deportation to decide whether they want to file charges.

Those who do file charges will be provided free legal services and some form of financial aide, though the amount and the form - whether a cash payment or the provision of food and housing - have yet to be determined. "They will not lack economic resources," said the minister for equality, Bibiana Aído, whose ministry has worked along with 10 others to come up with the plan.

Witness protection

In addition, interpreter services will be offered to those women who need it, and both victims and witnesses will be offered special protection.

According to government figures, 90 per cent of prostitutes in Spain are foreigners and 80 per cent are the victims of sex trafficking.

"We want sex-trafficking victims to have legal guarantees and conditions that allow them to feel safe and that they can report [their situation] without fear," said Minister Aído. "This is essential in order to guarantee that the criminals end up facing justice.

Spanish tourism could be among hardest hit by crisis

Several factors put the country at a disadvantage, says WTO

By Oliver McIntyre

Spain's tourism market could be one of the hardest hit this year by the economic crisis, according to comments made last week by the head of the World Tourism Organisation.

Francesco Frangialli said several factors make the situation particularly difficult for Spain, although it will retain its ranking as the second-place world destination, behind France, due to its competitors also feeling the pinch.

One challenge facing Spain is that its important domestic tourism market is hit doubly hard, with the economic downturn exacerbated by the collapse of the real estate market. And its top source of foreign tourists, the UK, is facing a similar situation. At the same time, rising fuel prices mean costlier plane tickets.

The WTO says one thing Spain needs to due is market itself more strongly in Russia, Asia and the Persian Gulf, which are viewed as strong sources of potential tourists. However, there are few direct flights to Spain from these areas, and the typical entry points to Europe, such as Germany, are too far away to make Spain an easy addition to visitors' short, weeklong tours.

Off-season push

Meanwhile, Spanish tourism chiefs have announced plans for a series of campaigns aimed at attracting retired northern Europeans, especially during the off season. The details are still being hammered out with regional tourism chiefs in Andalucía, Cataluña, Valencia and the Balearic and Canary Islands, but the campaigns have been announced as 'Winter in Spain', 'Turismo Senior' and 'Privilege', the latter aimed at high-income tourists seeking exclusive experiences.

Satellite TV fraud unveiled

Guardia Civil blow whistle on huge illegal operation

By Nuria Perez

BRITISH TV rebroadcasters Telmicro Levante SL and its two sub companies Cina Electrónica SL and Ángel Seguridad y Telecomunicaciones SL committed fraud worth an estimated 500 million euros, the Guardia Civil revealed last week. The company, which had 60,000 clients from Alicante to Almería, had been broadcasting channels without paying for programme rights and failing to declare earnings to the tax man.

The investigation started after a legal representative of Sogecable, which owns the Spanish subscription channel Digital +, presented a formal complaint against Telmicro for broadcasting Sky Sports without licence.

Sogecable sells Spanish football and other contents to Sky and in return Sky sells rights to the Premier League and UK sporting events to Sogecable. A total of 14 people - eight Spaniards, three Brits, one Belarusian, a Romanian and a Russian - were arrested and later released after paying bail of between 6,000 to 100,000 euros. They have been accused of crimes against copyright, continued fraud and against the Treasury.

Illegal Activities

Telmicro had signed a contract with several private channels to rebroadcast their programmes to 17,000 clients, when in reality they had more than 60,000 viewers. Of these, around 43,000 were paying in cash. According to the Guardia Civil the private channels lost million of euros and the Treasury was losing around 750,000 euros each month. Moreover Telmicro was re-broadcasting UK subscription channels illegally. Telmicro decoded Sky's signal through Sky cards that had been purchased in the UK and then recoded Sky's signal through its own equipment.

A source close to the investigation said: "The cards were allowed to be used by people living in the UK for domestic purposes. "However Telmicro is a TV company established in Spain which was using the decoders to rebroadcast a signal. "This activity is illegal and Telmicro was the sole beneficiary. "Neither Sogecable nor Telmicro nor the Treasury were getting a penny of it." The Guardia Civil has also stated that TV re-broadcasting companies are allowed in Spain. However they are not allowed to re-broadcast subscription channels under any circumstances. Also they must always provide the client with an official invoice. A Guardia Civil officer stated: "The re-broadcast of British non-subscription channels is allowed. "Even the re-broadcast of private channels such as Fox or Street 13 is allowed if they pay these channels for the real number of clients and they pay the compulsory taxes and re-broadcasting rights. "I advise expats to always ask their local TV re-broadcasting company for an invoice which must include the company name, address and CIF number and the service they are paying for. "Telmicro was giving a simple receipt which is useless. "And never sign a contract with a company re-broadcasting Sky."

The BBC, who stated that it is illegal to rebroadcast its public service channels in Spain without a licence, is currently studying the information provided by the Guardia Civil. In a further twist this week Telmicro clients have complained of receiving cold calls from a rival broadcaster offering change-over packages. A Telmicro client told this newspaper he was astonished that this company had been able to obtain his private mobile phone number and questioned how they had got the information.