Costa del Sol News - 20th October 2008

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

News Archive

In association with

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

Week October 20th - October 27th 2008

Four Britons arrested over Puerto Banús shooting

Eyewitnesses and security cameras helped lead to the detentions

By David Eade

Four Britons have been arrested over the shooting of a compatriot in Puerto Banús on September 24. The detentions were carried out by National Police officers based in Málaga and Marbella.

The National Police have stated that the arrests are directly linked to the gunning down of the 35-year-old Briton as he went to his car at 7.30pm after leaving a cafeteria in Calle Ramón Areces. He received five gunshot wounds and was rushed in a critical condition to the Costa del Sol Hospital, where he underwent several operations.

The four arrested, aged 40 to 62, have been accused of attempted murder. Police have not stated a motive but a 'settling of accounts' between criminals is thought to be the likely cause.

The police were helped in their investigations by clear views of the incident provided by both eyewitnesses and security cameras. The gunman had been in a dark BMW that was parked close by whilst the occupants waited for their victim to go to his car.

In Broad Daylight

The action took place in daylight in a very busy shopping area of Puerto Banús. The security cameras of the nearby Hipercor commercial complex recorded much of the action. This shooting was the latest of three involving British and Irish citizens in Marbella in the space of little over a month. The Irish owner of a bar in Nueva Andalucía and two friends were shot by a lone gunman on August 21 and two Britons were injured in a shooting at the Nikki Beach disco.

Málaga drug traffickers caught in international bust

A 22-year-old local man was also arrested in Birmingham

By Dave Jamieson

A major drug supply route into Málaga has been halted in an international operation. Sixteen arrests have been made in four countries and cocaine with an estimated street value of 1.75 million euros seized.

National Police said last week that the gang trafficking the drugs used carriers known as "mules" or "postmen" to smuggle drugs into Spain hidden inside either their own bodies or their luggage. Investigators say each was paid 5,000 euros for a successful journey, while the organisation was able to move 10 kilos of cocaine every week in this way. Once sold to end-users, this would have provided them with an annual income of more than 18.5 million euros, most of which is believed to have been invested in the alleged gang members' countries of origin.

The operation began in Roquetas del Mar where the gang were initially based, although they moved the operation to the city of Málaga shortly afterwards. The two leaders, both Nigerian, used their foreign contacts in central and south America to obtain the drugs, while the two brothers of one of them looked after the details of obtaining air tickets and accommodation for the "mules," as well as storing and distributing the drugs on arrival in Spain. The gang is believed to have been the principle supplier of cocaine in Málaga's La Palmilla district.

As well as the four Nigerians, three Spanish, one Lithuanian and one Malayan were detained in Málaga. Other arrests were made in Sevilla, Madrid and Bilbao, plus two in Lisbon and one in Brussels. A 22-year-old Málaga man was also arrested in the British city of Birmingham.

The 49.15 kilos of cocaine found when five addresses in Málaga were raided would have been worth an estimated 1.75 million euros on the streets. As well as smaller quantities of other drugs, cash, mobile phones, three balances for measuring drug quantities, and a vehicle were confiscated.

Axarquía to be named an official drought zone

It will join Málaga and Guadalhorce Valley on water restrictions

By Dave Jamieson

Water restrictions already in place in the city of Málaga and the Guadalhorce Valley are to be extended to the Axarquía. The inclusion of 18 municipalities east of the capital into the existing decree will mean that half of the province's population is now affected.

The drought management committee in the Axarquía last week agreed to ask the Junta's Environment Department to include the area because of the alarmingly low level of water in the Lake Viñuela reservoir. For the moment, however, domestic supplies will not be directly affected.

The municipalities drawn into the drought measures are Algarrobo, Almáchar, Benamargosa, Benamocarra, Comares, Cútar, El Borge, Frigiliana, Iznate, Macharaviaya, Moclinejo, Nerja, Rincón de la Victoria, Sayalonga, Torrox, Totalán, Vélez-Málaga and Viñuela. Other municipalities in the Axarquía have their own water supplies and do not rely on the Viñuela reservoir.

Rodríguez Leal, the director general of regional water authority Cuenca Mediterránea Andaluz, said the proposal would be approved by the Junta in the coming weeks and would guarantee drinking water supplies and irrigation for areas of intensive cultivation and for the maintenance of trees. The provincial environment delegate, Remedios Martel, asked the public for maximum cooperation if and when town halls become obliged to implement limitations on the use of water. These may include a ban on filling swimming pools, irrigation of gardens and golf courses, street cleaning and car washing. Fines of up to 600,000 euros can be levied on those who fail to observe the restrictions once they are in place.

No Restrictions Yet

Sr Leal said that while the annual volume of water supplied from Lake Viñuela is over 30 cubic hectometres, the reservoir presently only holds 17.2 cubic hectometres. The new drought restrictions would be implemented, he added, when Viñuela has less than six months of drinking water left.

The reservoir was constructed in 1986 and has a capacity of 170 cubic hectometres. In 1995, after a severe drought affecting the Málaga, a pipeline was constructed between the city and Viñuela which allows water flow in either direction. However, Málaga's mayor, Francisco de la Torre, said last week that it would be "difficult" for water to be sent from the already drought-stricken city to the Axarquía. This picture taken at Lake Viñuela last week shows

Guardia Civil puts 1,000 officers on Costa crime watch

Move comes after prosecutor's office reports crime-rate increase

By Oliver McIntyre

The Guardia Civil has announced it is to dedicate 1,000 officers - about half of its current force in Málaga province - specifically to citizen security patrolling and combating home robberies and organised crime.

The announcement came just weeks after the provincial prosecutor's office issued an annual report citing a four per cent increase in the province's crime rate in 2007. It specifically highlighted a high incidence of break-in home burglaries and a large presence of organised crime gangs, which have been increasingly active on the Axarquía side of the coast.

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.

The crime squad will include officers from Málaga's existing organised crime and drugs unit as well as street-crime officers brought from other areas of the country, said officials. The strategy will include a stronger Guardia Civil street presence and a significant increase in the number of traffic checkpoints and identity checks.

Nationwide reinforcements

Meanwhile, last week officials announced a nationwide boost for the Guardia Civil and National Police forces in 2009, with the addition of a combined 6,000 new officers, an increase of more than four per cent. To achieve this, the Ministry of the Interior's personnel budget for next year is up six per cent to 6.6 billion euros, which will also allow the addition of 2,500 new prison workers.

Bristol man sponsors Sheffield lad in Spain

Football-crazy John Mizon has started up two local football teams

By Oliver McIntyre

A Sheffield lad living and studying in the tiny Guadahorce Valley village of Sierra de Gibralgalia is living his football dreams thanks in part to the support of a Bristol businessman.

n his pueblo of less than 500 inhabitants, where he lives with his parents, football-crazy John Mizon, 18, decided to start a five-a-side indoor team to give himself and other young villagers something to do. Soon they were playing in a local league in the nearby town Pizarra.

Following this success John was approached to start a second team, a seven-a-side squad to play on the town's main pitch at weekends.

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.

Back in the UK his father's best friend, Frank Fry, the director of Bristol Security Group, was duly impressed and quickly stepped forward to sponsor the two teams, outfitting all the players.

Over the moon

Back in the UK his father's best friend, Frank Fry, the director of Bristol Security Group, was duly impressed and quickly stepped forward to sponsor the two teams, outfitting all the players.

Nerja town hall clarifies European Election Voting

Foreigners' Department is assisting with EU residents' enquiries

By John Peatey

Information issued by the Foreigners’ Department at Nerja’s town hall has clarified the position concerning non-Spanish residents voting in the forthcoming European parliamentary elections.

These are due to take place in June 2009 and EU citizens living in Spain, who declare (or have previously declared) that they wish to exercise their right of suffrage in this country, will be eligible to vote.
For those residents who have already declared their right to vote in Spain this choice is permanent as long as they are resident here, unless a formal request is made indicating otherwise.

Previously registered voters are now receiving notification from the Delegación Provincial (Electoral Census Office, ECO) confirming that they are indeed on the provincial voting census, and are eligible to vote in the June 2009 elections.

Personal details appear at the bottom of the form, and voters are requested to check these carefully. Any alterations should be notified immediately to your local town hall, or to the Provincial Unit of the ECO by telephone on 901 101 900 from 9.00 am to 2.00 pm Monday to Friday.

Are you registered?

EU citizens not already on the electoral roll, and who habitually live on the coast, should check that they’re registered on the municipal census at their local town hall. A declaration of your right to vote in Spain must then be made, and to assist this process during October 2008 the ECO will be sending out a letter to everyone on the municipal census and should be returned as soon as possible.

The return letter doesn’t require a stamp. If such a letter of intent has not been received by November 2008 please contact your local town hall, or the ECO by telephone on 901 101 900 between 9.00 am and 2.00 pm Monday to Friday.

The Foreigners’ Department at Nerja’s town hall is on the ground floor, to the right of the main entrance doors of the building. Opening hours are Mondays and Thursdays, from 10.00 am to 1.30 pm. You can also phone during any weekday morning on 95 254 8401, but preferably not on the days when the office is open to the public.

IU brings new evidence to case against Ronda's may

Documents allegedly show possible business link to property developers

By David Eade

In February of this year the left-wing political party, Izquierda Unida, brought a case before the Ronda court against the town's mayor, Antonio Marín. This alleged that he had broken the town planning, natural resources and environmental laws by issuing a decree giving the go-ahead for the controversial Los Merinos golf and residential development. This action by the IU party also had the support of the regional government. Now IU are going back to the court with what it says is new evidence. If the documentation proves to be true then it will form a damning indictment of the mayor. The left of centre party is alleging that there is a business link between Marín and the developers of the Los Merinos project.

The events date back to the weeks before the May elections in 2007. In the immediate period before the elections not only were apartment blocks in the Fuerte area of Ronda improved and painted but public zones there, as well as in other areas of the town, were refurbished.

This was seen as a clear attempt by the coalition, led by the Partido Andalucista under Antonio Marín, to influence voters. On November 12 of last year the then PSOE opposition spokesperson on the council, Ana Fuentes, raised the issue with the mayor.

At first he said that nothing was being hidden and that the town hall was not obliged to paint the apartments. On being pressed further he admitted that the bill for this and the other works had been met by Campos de Golf, the company behind Los Merinos.

Marín went on to describe this as nothing out of the ordinary. He stated that companies donated sweets for the Reyes procession and that companies such as Arenal 2000 had made financial contributions to projects or carried out works. Whether this donation was illegal will now be determined by the court along with the other charges laid against the mayor.


Ship ripped in two as it runs aground on Europa Point

Captain and two officers arrested by Gibraltar police

By David Eade

Amidst the shipping chaos caused by storm squalls in recent days, the merchant vessel Fedra was wrecked on the rocks below Gibraltar's Europa Point lighthouse on Friday. In the morning the Fedra suffered engine failure and throughout the day it dragged its anchor, drifting towards shore until it eventually hit the rocks that evening.

Throughout Friday afternoon, tugs laboured to secure towlines to the crippled vessel but these desperate attempts repeatedly failed. Efforts to repair the ship's engine also proved futile. On Friday night the merchant vessel was ripped in two by powerful waves. The bow section retains a degree of buoyancy that may allow it to be towed away, but the stern is resting on the seabed firmly wedged into the base of the cliff.

The 36,000-tonne Fedra was empty and was carrying only a small amount of bunker fuel, believed to be around 300 tonnes. By Sunday around 150 tonnes of oil had spilt into the sea. Some fuel washed ashore at Rosia and Camp Bay and there were also slicks in the bay zone.

On Monday officials in Algeciras reported fuel from the Fedra had washed up on local beaches and had drifted out into the Strait and along the coast as far as Tarifa. Fishermen returned to their ports as the slicks prevented them from casting their nets. Gibraltar's Chief Minister Peter Caruana described the rescue of the 31-man crew of the Fedra as "heroic." He had been at the scene where the vessel was being bashed against the cliffs as the men stood on the deck. Mercifully, a brief lull in the weather allowed the crew to be lifted off by crane.

In the aftermath of the wreck, on Sunday evening the Royal Gibraltar Police arrested the captain and two officers from the Fedra on suspicion of contravening port regulations. The RGP investigation is running in parallel to a separate investigation by the Gibraltar Maritime Authority. The inquiries will seek to establish whether the Fedra crew followed proper procedures by communicating the situation to the Gibraltar port authorities in good time.

Another ship, the Tawe, also ran aground at the weekend but in a much less dramatic manner. The Liberian-registered vessel is marooned off Punta San García in Algeciras and the work of removing its fuel is taking place this week after a study by the salvage company. It is estimated that the Tawe has 150 cubic metres of fuel on board. In contrast to the daring rescue of the Fedra's crew, all 22 members of the Tawe remain on board.

The European Maritime Safety Agency has reported that several metric tons of oil have been recovered from the sea after the Fedra and Tawe ran aground. In a statement the EMS said: "A number of tons of oil have already been recovered, thus reducing the environmental damage caused by the accident. Since Sunday, the EMSA vessel Bahia Tres has been involved in locating oil slicks and, more importantly, has been recovering patches of oil and smaller slicks wherever possible." The Lisbon-based agency added: "A catastrophe was averted because the ships were only carrying propulsion fuel. Gibraltar and Spain have been very lucky."

Ibex records highest one-day rise

Spanish stock market reacts to government moves against crisis

By David Eade

After the weeks of stock market turmoil, Spain's Ibex-35 stock index recorded a record day's closing at the end of business on Monday. It leapt by 10.67 per cent after a weekend in which the G-7 and Euro-zone political leaders had met to coordinate action.

The rise came after Spain's prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, issued a statement following the Euro-zone conference and an emergency cabinet meeting. He promised that this year the government would fund the banks to the tune of 100 billion euros to ease any debt fears up till December 31.

Sr Zapatero stated that the government would be introducing as law the measures agreed by the Euro-zone ministers. He said that making available this money would allow the re-capitalisation of any banks should that prove necessary. However, the minister for the economy, Pedro Solbes, stressed this was just a standby measure as no banks were currently in need of the funding.

The Banco de España has established a special series of norms on financial stability that all financial institutions must now comply with. They can apply to the central bank for emergency funding should they need it but it must be repaid within a five-year period.

The Spanish premier told the media that the "coordinated, strong and determined action" of the EU had reinforced the financial system thus "better guaranteeing employment stability and social welfare as well as the functioning of the economic system."

Opposition support

Mariano Rajoy stated that he fully supported the measures agreed by the Euro-zone leaders. The Partido Popular opposition leader was speaking the day before he met with Sr Zapatero at Moncloa, the prime minister's official residence, to discuss the crisis. He added that he would be seeking three things: total transparency in financial support programmes, a parliamentary commission to oversee the process, and support for families and small businesses, not just the banks.

National Day parade a 'pain' to PP leader

Microphone caught disdainful remark

By Dave Jamieson

A gaffe by the opposition leader cast a shadow over last Sunday's military parade in Madrid. King Juan Carlos and other members of the Royal family, accompanied by leading government figures, watched the traditional march-past by members of the Spanish armed forces.

The faux pas by Mariano Rajoy came on Saturday when an unguarded remark to a colleague was picked up by a nearby microphone. The leader of the Partido Popular (PP) was overheard saying to Javier Arenas, "Tomorrow, I've got the military parade; what a pain in the neck." The military event is held every year on October 12, Spain's National Day, which marks the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492.

Unsurprisingly, the Spanish media and the ruling socialist (PSOE) party immediately seized on the comment, forcing Sr Rajoy, an eloquent patriot, to issue a statement clarifying that he "has the highest respect, affection and support for our armed forces, and for the National Day celebrations." The PSOE called on him to apologise, claiming that "questions of state and serious issues of the country are now boring" to him.

More than 4,700 members from the three branches of Spain's armed forces participated in this year's parade along Madrid's Paseo de la Castellana. The flags of another 13 UN countries, including the US, were also paraded but poor weather forced the grounding of scheduled transport aircraft and helicopters in the fly-past. Following the parade, the King laid a wreath in memory of Spanish servicemen and women who died in action during the last year.

The parade was followed by a reception at the Royal Palace to which, for the first time, journalists were not welcomed. This was said to be at the express request of the Royal family, who wished to extend the invited-guest list and excluded all newspaper and magazine representatives, with the exception of a few 'pool' photographers. The prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, was also absent from the reception, having had to leave for a meeting of European leaders in Paris later the same afternoon.


Worst storms in 40 years

Council reports that over 100 trees have been uprooted

By David Eade

The mayor of Cádiz, Teófila Martínez, says that the storms that struck the city in the early hours of Saturday morning were "the strongest in the last 40 years." The violent rains and winds caused widespread damage. The mayor, in the company of the councillors for the environment, local police, parks and gardens, beaches, communications and housing carried out a reconnaissance tour to see the battered state of various areas of the city.

Basements and garages in the La Laguna district were submerged under three metres of water with accompanying power and telephone outages. The areas of the sea walls and harbours have also suffered badly with various cars and buses damaged and traffic having to be diverted.

Cádiz sits on the Atlantic coast and Sra Martínez observed that luckily the storms had hit during low tide for had they coincided with high water then the damage would have been far worse.

Hospital inundated

The Puerta del Mar hospital was inundated and emergency ambulances had to be diverted to other health centres. The Carranza soccer stadium was also underwater. The lifeguard tower on La Cortadura beach was blown over plus road access from San Fernando was cut due to intense flooding.

Neither the town hall nor the local police HQ escaped the storms incurring both wind and rain damage. The council reported that over 100 trees were uprooted, eight groups of traffic lights were knocked out and the high alert was maintained until Saturday midnight.