News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Bid to freeze Gadafi development in Benahavís
Project includes nearly 2,000 homes, golf course and conference centre
By David Eade
THE RECENTLY formed Iniciativa Marbella San Pedro party has called on the Andalucía government to freeze local projects owned by the Libyan leader Colonel Gadafi in Benahavís. The urban development is currently going through the authorisation process.
It is sited on land at the finca La Resinera, where it is proposed that 1,915 homes, a golf course and a conference centre will be constructed there.
The ex-delegate for the environment, Ignacio Trillo, has said the project is currently under review both in Benahavís and also at Andalucía level to ensure it meets the requirements of the local and regional planning regulations. One of the arguments being used to support the residential and golf project is that it is of special tourism interest.
Iniciativa Marbella San Pedro's candidate for mayor, Antonio Martín, wants not only the golf development in Benahavís to be frozen but also the properties the Gadafi family own in Marbella, which are used by sons Aisha and Seif el Islam. It is also claimed they have other properties or investments in Sabinillas, Sotogrande, Sevilla and Granada.
Sr Martín's party has asked the Bank of Spain to control and freeze the bank accounts of the Gadafis and their companies with Aresbank and the Libyan Foreign Bank - claiming both entities are in the grasp of the Libyan leader. They fear these funds may be used to further the bloodshed in the North African nation.
Further controls on hospital visitors urged
Association has recommended bar-coded passes be issued to keep visitor numbers down
By Dave Jamieson
THE Axarquía Association of Health Service Users has asked Vélez-Málaga hospital to put more controls on visitors in place.
Although stricter rules on the number of visitors and visiting times were introduced last month, the association claims that some people are abusing the system.
The collective acknowledges that the new rules have improved the situation, following complaints that large numbers of visitors to individual patients throughout the day did not encourage restful recuperation and hampered medical care.
They have now suggested that a system of barriers with card readers should be introduced which will permit only visitors with the correct bar-coded pass to get through.
One of UK's ‘most wanted' nabbed in Alhaurín
Crimestoppers scores two arrests in less than 48 hours
By Oliver McIntyre
CRIMESTOPPERS and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) last week confirmed that one of the UK's most wanted criminals has been arrested by Spanish police in Alhaurín el Grande.
The detention last Wednesday of Dean Lawrence Rice, 49, came as the second arrest in less than 48 hours after Crimestoppers launched its latest Operation Captura appeal for wanted criminals believed to be hiding in Spain (CDSN last week). He had been featured in an earlier Crimestoppers appeal.
Mr Rice, originally from Exeter, was convicted in his absence to life imprisonment for conspiracy to kidnap and false imprisonment, following the abduction of a former employee of his in Camden Park in March 2006.
"Two arrests in 48 hours is an incredible achievement," said Dave Cording, Crimestoppers' director of operations. "The second arrest shows the success of highlighting these individuals in the public eye. Even though Rice was publicised at an earlier batch of Operation Captura, it shows that the public continue to bring information forward."
HIT THE BRAKES
Government cuts speed limit to 110 kph to save energy
By Dave Jamieson
THE maximum speed limit on Spain's roads is to be reduced from 120 to 110 kilometres per hour from Monday, March 7. The government said last week that the measure would reduce petrol consumption by 15 per cent and diesel by 11 per cent, with total energy savings of between five and 10 per cent.
After the Cabinet took the decision on Friday, the deputy prime minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, explained that the ongoing crisis in various North African countries meant that spending on energy had to be contained. He underlined that there is no risk to supplies but costs continue to rise. There was no indication on how long the speed restriction would remain in force.
Ministers have also approved other measures which they hope will encourage the public to use public transport more often. Local rail fares and Renfe's medium-distance tariff will both be reduced by five per cent.
Also, the amount of biofuel in petrol and diesel will be increased from 5.8 to seven per cent to save petroleum.
Briton arrested in MÁlaga over publishing fraud
Bogus offer to publish children's work in a book netted 160,000 euros
By Dave Jamieson
A BRITISH man has been arrested at Málaga airport on suspicion of a fraud involving stories written by children. The scam involved offering to publish a book written by youngsters for a fee.
The Guardia Civil alleged last Friday that the unnamed individual pocketed around 160,000 euros from the scheme and conned over 9,000 families and 1,400 schools across Spain. In Andalucía alone, 2,500 people and almost 400 schools became entangled in the fraud.
He set up a website, Jóvenes Escritores (Young Writers), where he offered to publish the youngsters' work in a book. The families and schools of children whose stories were submitted and then selected for publication were required to deposit between 12.95 and 81.95 euros in a bank account with the promise that the finished work, Short Stories 2010, would be sent to them when it was published last September. Over 1,000 complaints of non-receipt of the book have been received by police and the website has since been discontinued.
EU says Spain discriminates against foreign pensioners
Denial of free medication lands Spain in European Court of Justice
By Oliver McIntyre
THE EUROPEAN Commission last week announced it will take Spain to the European Court of Justice for refusing foreign EU pensioners access to free medicine while temporarily residing in Spain.
"The commission takes the view that the Spanish rules are not in line with EU law as they discriminate against pensioners from other EU member states," said an official EU press release.
EU social security legislation states that pensioners temporarily residing in another member state can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to receive necessary healthcare under the same conditions as pensioners from that country. Under Spanish law, pensioners get their prescription medication for free.
However, the commission says that Spanish authorities "refuse free medication to EU pensioners because the European Health Insurance Card does not indicate that they are pensioners." To get free medications, foreign pensioners must present an additional document from their national social security service certifying, in Spanish, that they receive a state pension.
"The requirement to present such a supplementary document is contrary to the purpose of the European Health Insurance Card, which aims at simplifying procedures and reducing red tape for insured persons when they need health care during a temporary stay in another member state," says the commission.
Spain's Health Ministry rejects the idea that Spain discriminates against EU pensioners or denies them access to free medications. It says the Spanish government has for years been complaining to the European Commission about the EHIC failing to identify pensioners as such. The ministry says Spain supplies free medication to all EU citizens temporarily living here who properly identify themselves as pensioners.
For UK pensioners, the British Consulate can issue a certificate confirming pensioner status. The document, valid for three months, is available free of charge by providing an EHIC, plus recent pension payment correspondence from the Department for Work and Pensions, addressed to the person's UK address.
Contacted by Costa del Sol News, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed that "state pensioners do not pay for prescriptions in Spain, though they may be asked to prove that they are pensioners" by using the certificate that can be provide by the Consulate.
For medical care, the EHIC is sufficient. "Although some hospitals have mistakenly asked customers for travel insurance details and credit card or bank details, British tourists should be aware that they are not required to give this information and the EHIC is the correct document to enable them access to healthcare in Spain," said an FCO spokesperson.
In-town speed limit to be reduced to 30 kph
New traffic rules aimed at increasing safety and reducing air pollution
By Oliver McIntyre
THE VAST majority of streets in Spanish cities and towns will soon have a 30 kph speed limit, announced the Traffic Department's general director, Pere Navarro, last week.
The 30 kph limit will apply to all in-town single-lane streets as well as those with just one lane in each direction. The current speed limit on such roads is 50 kph, unless otherwise marked.
The goal of the measure is to cut the number of pedestrian deaths in half.
In accidents where a pedestrian is hit by a car, "at 70 kilometres per hour none survive; at 50 kph, 50 per cent survive; and at 30 kph, 95 per cent of pedestrians survive," said Sr Navarro.
In 2009, 268 pedestrians were killed towns and cities throughout Spain, making up 46 per cent of all traffic fatalities on urban roads.
Officials say the move will also reduce air pollution in urban areas by cutting down vehicle emissions.
The 30 kph speed limit, which has the support of the both the Traffic Department (DGT) and the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP), is to be included in a new traffic safety plan slated for approval by the cabinet.
US company plans ‘mini-Las Vegas' in Spain
Project would cost over 10 billion euros and create 180,000 jobs, say promoters
By Dave Jamieson
A US casino resort operator is "very seriously considering" the creation of a Las Vegas-style development in Spain. The group's chairman and chief executive said last week that he wanted to create "a mini-Las Vegas strip" in Europe with 20,000 hotel rooms and millions of square metres for retail outlets and conference facilities."
Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands Corporation (LVS) has confirmed his plans after extensive research ahead of the likely Spanish investment. He visited the country to explore the idea during 2008 and last June said he was considering either Madrid or Barcelona as a site. Last Thursday, he confirmed he was in talks with the town halls of both cities, and had also been in touch with the authorities in Valencia and on the Costa del Sol.
Mr Adelson said the project would cost between 10 and 15 billion euros and could create 180,000 jobs.