Costa del Sol News - 26th August 2011

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Al-Qaeda suspect planned to poison water

The man, from Morocco, was arrested in La Línea de la Concepción

By David Eade

A SUSPECTED member of a terrorist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda was arrested in La Línea de la Concepción last Wednesday. At the time of the arrest the Guardia Civil said he allegedly headed an internet site that spread propaganda and sought to recruit members to carry out terrorist attacks. However, now it has emerged in a Madrid court that he planned a massive poisoning of drinking water.

Named as Abdellatif Aoulad Chiba, 37, from Morocco, he had previously been expelled from Jordan for suspected terror-related activities. He was being linked with the group known as Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. Spain's Ministry of the Interior said the website also offered training for new members, encouraged terror actions and provided links to statements and media products from the leaders of Islamic terror groups.

Police searched his house at 53 Calle Pedreras in La Línea, which could lead to more detailed information emerging. According to his house cleaner, another man had also been staying at the property, leading to speculation that Chiba was not a lone wolf.

There was immediate speculation that he was in La Línea to plan an attack against the refinery in San Roque or installations in Gibraltar. The Royal Gibraltar Police say they were fully informed of the actions by the Guardia Civil but there were no known targets on the Rock.

More bad news for cash-strapped councils

Towns owe government millions due to over-calculated tax revenues

By Oliver McIntyre

AS IF the town halls of Málaga province didn't already have enough financial trouble, they now must pay back millions of euros to the central government due to over-calculations in tax revenues distributed to municipalities in 2009.

Because of the lower than expected revenues from IVA (VAT), income tax, business taxes and taxes on alcohol, tobacco and other items, the amounts given to nearly all of the towns of Málaga province were in excess of the amounts they should have gotten.

Only six towns in the province received less money than corresponded to them for 2009, and will thus receive additional funds. The other ninety-six towns owe the government a combined 119 million euros.

The situation is a repeat of what occurred in 2008, but worse. That year, the town halls owed the government a total of 54.2 million euros. The discrepancy stems from the government's overly optimistic tax revenue estimates during the early years of the economic downturn.

Airport block as taxi row flares

Taxi union claims 65 per cent of business is taken by illegal drivers

By Dave Jamieson

ABOUT 500 people were trapped at Málaga airport late last Thursday night after taxi drivers blocked the access roads for an hour. Their action followed a fierce argument with drivers of transfer cars, pre-hired to collect arrivals, and so-called "pirate" taxi operators.

The president of the Taxi Unión co-operative, Francisco Soria, said that, at about 11pm, a group of taxi drivers who had been waiting hours for fares from the airport faced up to transfer drivers who were collecting clients. The taxi drivers argue that the others have no authorisation to be undertaking such work, and claim that some have no prior arrangement with people arriving and take advantage of the legal cabs. Sr Soria said there were three such cars identified and that the taxi drivers had attempted to prevent them being used. The argument eventually became violent with blows being traded, forcing National and local police officers to restore order.

Following this, around 100 taxis waiting at the airport were joined by 200 which arrived from the city centre, and the drivers proceeded to block access roads to the airport for around an hour.


Government slashes IVA to 4% for new home purchases

By Oliver McIntyre

THE government decided last week to temporarily slash the sales tax on new home purchases, from eight per cent to just four per cent, in a move aimed at jump-starting the stagnant real estate market and reducing the large stock of unsold homes.

The move, which came as part of a package of deficit-reduction measures approved by the Cabinet on Friday, will be in effect only until the end of this year, explained Elena Salgado, vice-president for the economy.

With many of the roughly 700,000 unsold new homes in the country currently in the hands of the banks, it is hoped that the tax break will help them offload some of the overstock, and that the lightening of that burden will then allow them to reopen the flow of credit to businesses and consumers, thus aiding the economic recovery.

The reduction of the IVA (VAT) rate charged on new home purchases means someone buying a house for, say, 200,000 euros, would save 8,000 euros.

The measure does not apply to the purchase of second-hand homes, because those transactions are subject not to IVA but to a separate tax on the transfer of property.

Expat to walk Camino de Santiago for charity

Bob Board, 56, will raise money for Cudeca on his 800-kilometre trek

By Oliver McIntyre

A BRITISH resident of Benalmádena Pueblo is preparing to embark on an arduous month-long walk along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela - and is raising money for Cudeca along the way.

Bob Board, 56, says that walking the Camino is first and foremost a personal challenge but that that the undertaking has taken on a broader significance since he teamed up with Cudeca to raise funds for the cancer hospice.

"In just three weeks I've raised nearly 1,000 pounds," said Mr Board, while he continues to seek pledges and sponsors.

The London native, who has been living in Benalmádena for nearly four years, says he has received great support from the British Society, as well as from fellow members of the Friends in Focus photography club. "Most people donate a set amount, while others pledge a few cents per kilometre that I walk," he explained.

Mr Board expects the nearly 800-kilometre trek to take him 32 to 34 days to complete. He is currently training by walking 18 to 20 kilometres a day carrying an eight-and-a-half-kilo backpack similar to what he will pack on the trail. He will set off on September 15 from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the French Pyrenees, taking the route known as the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela, at the far north-western point of Spain.

While he has taken on other physical challenges in the past, he has "not done anything of this scale," he says.

Mr Board, whose mother died of cancer, says it is very gratifying to see his personal journey converted to a charity event supporting Cudeca. "Anything that can be done to ease the suffering of people in this situation is so important - and Cudeca really does a great job with this," he said.

Anyone wishing to sponsor Mr Board with a pledge for Cudeca can do so by contacting him on 693 823 020 or via email at [email protected], or stop by the Costa del Sol News office to fill out a pledge form.

Strike threat to new soccer season

Players seek greater protection against non-payment by broke clubs

By Dave Jamieson

SPAIN'S football players from the country's top two leagues say they will go on strike. They say they will not play until a deal has been reached with the Professional Football League over their employment conditions.

The announcement came last Thursday from the president of the Footballers Association, Luis Rubiales, at a press conference attended by the Spanish captain, Iker Casillas, and more than 100 other prominent players. He said his members were unanimous and firm in their decision to call the strike and said the new season, due to begin next weekend, would not start until a new agreement has been signed between the players and the League.

Sr Rubiales said negotiations had been underway with the League over a series of measures intended to protect players who work for clubs which get into financial difficulties. He said they wanted a larger fund to be made available to help those whose salary is not paid when a club goes into administration, adding that such measures are commonplace in other European leagues. He explained that despite lengthy discussions, the League had imposed new conditions but these have been rejected by the players. Around 300 players are believed to have filed complaints that they are owed back pay.

He emphasised that the dispute was not an effort to get more money for the players, but to get the clubs to honour the contracts which they have signed with them. The association has asked that players who are owed more than three months wages be allowed to break their contracts, but, said Sr Rubiales, the League has shelved the matter. He added that he would continue to negotiate, but that "enough is enough," and that the league will not start until a new collective agreement is signed.

Shortly after the strike was announced, the Professional Football League, which represents the clubs in first and second division football, issued a statement saying that it did not understand the players' decision. It said they had been negotiating in "good faith" with the Players' Association and that on August 3, club owners established a new "guarantee fund" to ensure that "important quantities" of the salaries of players affected by club bankruptcy proceedings would be paid.

Guardia Civil warns over rising animal cruelty

Abandonment or killing of hunting dogs at end of season is a typical offence

By Dave Jamieson

CASES of animal abuse in rural areas have increased in the last year, according to Seprona, the environmental arm of the Guardia Civil. The unit also said its officers investigated over 15 per cent more forest fires than in the previous 12 months.

Seprona officials say that the increase in the numbers of animals being deserted or mistreated is worrying, although they believe this could be because the penal code has tightened up on such offences and people are now more likely to report these types of cases.

Most cases of animal neglect or abandonment come at the end of the hunting season or during holiday periods, says Seprona. When hunting hounds become too expensive to keep or are simply not young and fit enough to work, they are often slaughtered or simply dumped at the side of the road.

The law, however, requires that all dog-owners have their pets micro-chipped, so that if they are dumped or mistreated, their owners can be traced.

Guardia Civil officers also say they have arrested a number of people across the country for cock-fighting and dog-fighting, both of which are unlawful in Spain.

However, they add that, whilst cock-fighting is against the law, breeding and training cockerels for fighting is legal and is a flourishing business in some areas

With regard to the 440 countryside fires studied by Seprona investigators during the year, only 125 were started accidently. Such an offence can attract a fine running into seven figures, even if it involves carelessness rather than arson.