Costa del Sol News - 21st January 2011

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Town hall seeks investors for Tivoli after layoffs

By Ollie McIntyre

BENALMÁDENA town hall has announced it is seeking investors to inject new lifeblood into the town's famous Tivoli World amusement park, after news broke last week that the park is temporarily laying off nearly its entire staff for the off-season.

The mayor, Enrique Moya, called the layoffs "another symptom of the serious [economic] crisis affecting the country," and urged Tivoli's management to "seek strong measures to return the park to the position it deserves."

The mayor said that beginning eight months ago the town hall has been in contact with "important domestic and international investor groups, some of whom have expressed interest in the amusement park with the idea of completely renovating it and converting it into one of the country's top entertainment centres." Following last week's news of the layoffs, an urgent meeting with the investors has been called in order to "accelerate possible agreements and guarantee as quickly as possible the stability of the workers' jobs."

Tivoli is laying off 61 of its 64 workers for the rest of January and all of February, and will do the same from November to February during the next two years. Though the park usually closes for the off-season, it has previously retained the workers to perform cleaning and maintenance work.

Banderas' property still faces partial demolition

The Andalucía High Court orders Marbella council to act on demolition orders

By David Eade

THE FUTURE of Málaga-born film star and director Antonio Banderas' beachfront home in Marbella is back in the limelight again. The court had ordered part of it to come down but the town hall declared it legal - not so says the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Andalucía (TSJA) or Andalucía High Court.

Last week's CDSN reported on the TSJA's insistence that illegal properties in Marbella which had been issued with a demolition order should still come down.

There are some 16,000 illegal properties in the municipality. Those whose offence is administrative can be saved by the developers or owners paying a cash sum to the town hall and in some cases offering land in compensation as well.

However the TSJA says that illegal properties that have been condemned to demolition by the court must be knocked down.

When Marbella passed its new local development plan (PGOU) the administrative illegal properties were saved and the town hall hoped that a way out would be found for the condemned properties too.

Banderas has offered to give up land at his home in a similar compensation package to the other administrative illegal properties and the town hall is willing to accept this, however the court has laid down the letter of the law to the town hall pointing out it decides what properties are demolished and not the politicians.

In addition it says the fact that the PGOU has been approved does not alter the fact that the court has ordered part of Banderas' property to go.


Torrox couple handed down eight-month jail sentence and ordered to demolish villa

By Dave Jamieson

A COURT in Málaga has ordered a British couple to be jailed for building a house on protected land in Torrox.

They have also been fined and the building is to be demolished.

In September 2000, the couple, named in the UK press as David and Janet Hartshorn, bought over 1,400 square metres of land in the area known as Pago de Santilla which is classified as unsuitable for urbanising, but where there already was a 30 square metre ruin.

In July 2001, they applied to Torrox Town Hall for a construction licence which was approved by the municipal architect on the grounds that they planned to restore the old building but did not intend to increase its original area.

The licence to restore the ruin and build a swimming pool was authorised the following February.

However, according to the sentence passed by the court, the couple built a two-storey home with a cellar, swimming pool and asphalted driveway, covering a total of 240 square metres.

Costa del Sol News has been unable to contact Mr and Mrs Hartshorn for comment but it is understood that they intend to appeal the ruling.

Dolores VAzquez sues government for compensation

She spent 17 months in prison on wrongful conviction for Rocío Wanninkhof murder

By Oliver McIntyre

DOLORES Vázquez is suing the government for compensation over her conviction for the 1999 murder of Mijas teenager Rocío Wanninkhof, for which she was later absolved and Briton Tony Alexander King was convicted. 

Sra Vázquez has filed a suit with the High Court after the government rejected her claim for 4 million euros in restitution for her wrongful conviction and the 17 months she spent in prison.

The Justice Ministry initially proposed compensation of 120,000 euros, but both the High Justice Commission (CGPJ) and the Interior Ministry issued reports in which they denied having made errors in the case.

The CGPJ based its rejection of Sra Vázquez's claim on one of the very points she had highlighted in it: that the lack of a common database shared between the National Police and the Guardia Civil prevented the authorities from identifying Tony King as a suspect earlier on.  "This cannot be blamed on the justice system, as the databases ... are the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior," said the CGPJ in its December 2007 report.

But the Interior Ministry also denied having acted erroneously, saying Sra Vázquez's arrest was justified based on the information that at the time led investigators to suspect her as the culprit of the Mijas murder.

Drug traffickers went bananas for cocaine

The alleged gang leader was arrested in Benalmádena

By Oliver McIntyre

FOUR people have been arrested after police discovered more than 160 kilos of cocaine hidden in a shipment of bananas.

National Police officials say the cocaine was stuffed into fake plastic bananas that where then mixed in with a cargo of real bananas in a container shipped from Ecuador to the port of Algeciras.

Among those arrested was the alleged gang leader, a Benalmádena man who personally travelled to the jungles of Columbia to meet with the drug cartels and prepare the cocaine shipment, say police.

The investigation, carried out jointly by the National Police and Customs authorities, was launched in early 2010 after officers detected a group of traffickers moving large quantities of cocaine in Benalmádena, Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Marbella.

The investigation linked them to two businessmen in Madrid who allegedly provided infrastructure support for the drug trafficking operation.

Officials say the gang sent at least 10 test containers holding only legitimate cargo before shipping out the cocaine-stuffed bananas.

Officers were waiting when the container arrived and discovered 162 kilos of the drug hidden among the 20-ton shipment of real bananas.

In addition to the alleged gang leader arrested in Benalmádena, police arrested three suspects in Madrid and the operation remains open.

Now 70 cases of missing babies in CAdiz

Families believe babies declared dead in 1960s and 70s were stolen away

By David Eade

THE number of alleged cases of Franco's ‘missing babies' has risen to 70 in Cádiz province.

The first case of a missing baby born in La Línea's old municipal hospital surfaced in November 2009. Cristina Díaz Carrasco broke the astonishing tale of her brother's possible disappearance from the hospital in 1967. He was said to have died shortly after his birth. As the mother was from Irún in Northern Spain and had no family in the area, his body was buried by the hospital. The family returned each summer and left flowers on what was presumed to be his grave. However, after works at the cemetery in 1980, the grave could not be found and it was subsequently discovered that there were no records at the cemetery, the Civil Registry or the archives of his birth, death or interment.

By May of last year the number of cases in La Línea had risen to five. Now it stands at over 30, as every time publicity is given to the Carrasco case, or those that followed it, other families realise they have a similar story and come forward.

This situation is being mirrored throughout Spain where the total could be well over 110,000, while in the Campo de Gibraltar and the wider province of Cádiz there are now at least 70. By the time you read this another family's plight is likely to have been added to the list.

Initially these families sought answers alone but all that has now changed as they have banded together and the prosecutors in Algeciras and Cádiz have taken up their cases. Each of the families believes a baby that was proclaimed to have died at or shortly after birth is in all likelihood alive and well to this day but has no idea of his or her true origins.

Polls predict socialist rout in May

Partido Popular could take power in Andalucía for the first time

By Dave Jamieson

THE socialist PSOE party could lose control of Andalucía in May for the first time in Spanish democratic history.  An opinion poll published in El Mundo at the weekend shows that if the municipal elections were held now, the Partido Popular (PP) would win the region with an absolute majority.

The survey by pollsters Sigma Dos gives the PP 49.3 per cent of the vote, resulting in between 56 and 64 seats for its deputies in the Junta de Andalucía.  The PSOE would win 36.4 per cent, giving them between 41 and 46 seats. 

The federation of the Green Party and the left-wing Izquierda Unida, IULV-CA, would take between four and seven seats with 7.2 per cent of the vote, while neither the Progress and Democracy Union (UPyD) nor the Partido Andalucista (PA) would win any seats at all.

The figures are based on data from 1,200 interviews carried out just before Christmas and suggest that the PP would win in each of the Andalucían provinces with the exception of Sevilla, where the two main parties would tie.