News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Four Mijas police arrested in drug bust
The officers' detentions caused public alarm outside the Miramar shopping centre
By Oliver McIntyre
Four Mijas local police officers were arrested by the Guardia Civil at the weekend for alleged drug-trafficking offences. A search of their patrol cars uncovered 15 kilos of hashish and a further 150 kilos was seized later during a home search, during which a fifth suspect, a civilian, was detained.
The arrest of the officers took place around 1.30pm on Saturday in Avenida de Andalucía near the Miramar shopping centre - causing one shocked member of the public to call the 112 emergency service to report that uniformed police were being handcuffed. The Guardia Civil officers who made the arrests were wearing plain clothes.
The Guardia Civil searched the officers' lockers at the Mijas police station and the homes of at least some of them, as well as the home of the civilian who was allegedly storing the drugs.
Firefighters pass the test in Benalmádena 'coach crash'
The exercise was the final part of a weeklong course in traffic accident response
By Oliver McIntyre
TWENTY firefighters from several towns converged on Benlamádena last Thursday to rescue the victims of a multiple-vehicle accident including a flipped-over coach - and they passed the test with flying colours. The 'accident' was in fact a simulation, serving as the final exam for firefighters who participated in a weeklong advanced course in traffic accident response, held at the Benalmádena fire station.
The 'bomberos' arrived on the scene near the Buddhist stupa to find several crashed cars and a flipped coach with 12 people inside. There were numerous injuries and trapped victims. Two of the four cars involved were crushed under the rolled-over coach.
Within 45 minutes the firefighters had completely resolved the situation, reported officials after the exercise.
"We are very satisfied with the results of the test, which demonstrated the skill and qualifications of all the participating firefighters," said David Bañasco, Benalmádena's fire chief.
Their response included an initial assessment of the situation, the establishment of a prioritised action plan, and the rescue and treatment of victims in the most efficient and effective order based on the nature of their injuries.
The firefighters taking part in the exercise were from Benalmádena, Mijas, Torremolinos, Coín and Antequera.
Mayor defends fee hike for non-residents
Torremolinos raises water, sewer and rubbish rates but gives ‘empadronados' a break
By Oliver McIntyre
The mayor of Torremolinos last week defended the town hall's decision to once again hit non-registered (non-empadronado) residents with higher rate hikes for municipal taxes or fees. Pedro Fernández Montes rejected accusations that the policy unfairly discriminates against non-empadronado homeowners, pointing to "the impact this significant contingent of the population has on the real cost of [providing municipal] services." This is because the State funding town halls receive for basic services is based on registered population.
Some 60 per cent of homeowners in the municipality are not registered residents of the town, said the mayor. Many of them are Britons or other foreigners.
The mayor's defence of the scheme came during a town council debate last week ahead of the ruling Partido Popular's approval of 10 per cent increase on water, sewer and rubbish-collection rates for 2010, along with subsidies to largely offset the price increases for registered residents. The approval came over the nay votes of the opposition.
Eight-year battle against Marbella brothel
Police finally raid the club but residents fear reprisals
By David Eade
Some eight years after local residents first complained about a Marbella brothel, police have finally taken action.
It was in 2001 that residents of the Hacienda Cortés in Marbella made a formal complaint against the club Oasis, previously called Venus, which operates as a brothel in their midst.
Now the National Police have raided the premises and arrested two men and a woman for alleged people trafficking. It is the first police operation against the club in almost a decade, after a blind eye was turned to its activities during the GIL era, say critics.
Since the club first started, residents have reported that some 30 prostitutes from South America, North Africa or Eastern Europe have been living at the site, which is registered as a small hotel. It is also alleged that the building has been enlarged without the required licences.
Over the years the residents have carried out investigations into the club's standing and believe it has no town planning permissions or licences. In addition to their complaints to the police, they have reported the brothel twice to the fire brigade because of the risk caused by gas bottles.
It is understood that in the police raid cocaine and other drugs were found, as well as various documents. It is also alleged that the owners and receptionist kept half of the money earned by the prostitutes that worked at the club.
Residents living near the club have complained of late-night delinquency including drug dealing, vandalism and violence between criminals. However, the plight of the residents has not been solved, as the club was open for business after the arrests and they say they now fear reprisals.
Financial crisis puts brakes on money laundering
Number of cases started dropping in second half of 2008
By David Eade
The economic crisis has resulted in a drop in the number of cases of money laundering or terrorism funding reported to the Banco de España. The fall in suspect cases has been revealed in a report by SEPBLAC - the Spanish commission established to track down these crimes.
According to SEPBLAC, the number of money laundering or suspicious cases related to terrorism rose by 4.3 per cent in 2008 compared with a 23 per cent increase the previous year. The freeze caused criminal financial activity to fall sharply in the second half of 2008 and that situation has been maintained in the first months of this year.
SEPBLAC officials say the downturn in this sort of criminal activity is directly related to the international recession and the financial crisis that exists in Spain.
Of the 2,904 suspicious operations communicated to the Financial Intelligence Unit in 2008 for investigation as possible cases of money laundering or terrorism funding, 75 per cent were reported by the financial institution involved. That is 10 percentage points more than in 2008.
The banks and savings banks that come under the Banco de España are the frontline in detecting financial irregularities and are on the constant lookout for new methods being used by financial criminals. Whenever a suspect case is detected, the central bank is alerted.
The Banco de España has created a working group with a limited number of financial institutions that is plotting a map showing where the risks of money laundering lie. This is highly sophisticated and is being worked on at an international level. It only started to function in April of this year and the results are expected to be seen in 2010.