Costa del Sol News - 9th March 2012

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Confusion follows Prado Málaga promise

PP politicians tout new branch plans but Prado's director denies any knowledge of the project

By Dave Jamieson

THERE has been confusion in the world of fine arts over the last fortnight following an announcement that the Museo de Málaga is to become a branch of Madrid's Prado Museum. The news was broken at a Partido Popular rally in the province but uncertainty quickly arose after the Prado's director said he knew nothing about the development.

Ten days ago, the PP's president in Andalucía, Javier Arenas, revealed that the party had been holding secret meetings about making the Museo de Málaga, based in the city's Palacio de la Aduana, a branch of the Prado. He added that discussions had taken place with the director of Málaga's Contemporary Art Centre (CAC), the city's mayor and the president of the provincial government. The next day, the PP's provincial president in Málaga, Elias Bendodo, confirmed that the proposal had been accepted and that the museum would open as a branch of the Prado next year. He said the plan had already been put to the Culture Minister, José Ignacio Wert.

The Palacio de Aduana was built in 1788 and was formerly a customs house for the port of Málaga. The Museo de Málaga which now occupies it was formed in 1973, and brought together Málaga's Provincial Fine Arts and Archaeology Museums, each of which still has its own area within the building. The Museum has been run by the Junta de Andalucía since 1984 and is presently closed for renovation. When it re-opens, its 17,000 square metres will be able to exhibit 5,000 works presently in store, including over 100 belonging to the Prado, plus some from the Reina Sofia gallery and others from the San Telmo fine arts academy.

AlhaurIn decries Junta ‘obstacles' to Airport City

Environmental report finds 40 per cent of the project area ‘unviable'

By Oliver McIntyre

ALHAURÍN de la Torre's mayor last week sharply criticised the Junta de Andalucía for putting up "serious obstacles" to the town's Airport City development, a major project that includes a support hub for Málaga airport as well as hotels and commercial and residential zones.

Mayor Joaquín Villanova's comments were in response to a preliminary environmental assessment report issued by the Junta's provincial Environment Delegation, which found six sectors of the 380-hectare land area slated for the project as "unviable". The six sectors represent some 40 per cent of the total project area, he said.

The mayor lambasted the Junta's "complete contradiction" given that the project was included in the Junta's own regional development plan (POT) for the zone, which was approved in 2009 and included environmental assessments.

"We do not understand how the Junta can have one set of criteria at the regional level and another at the provincial level," said the mayor.

"It is craziness," he said.

The mayor noted that the town hall spent more than a year negotiating with the Junta's Public Works Department for the project area to be included in the POT as an ‘Area of Opportunity' for development.

Library spreads wealth of its foreign language section

More than 100 English-language books have been transported to Churriana's library

By Oliver McIntyre

THE Arroyo de la Miel library's foreign language section is so robust that it is now donating surplus titles to libraries in other municipalities.

The town hall announced last week that the library has delivered a shipment of more than 100 English-language books to the Churriana library in Málaga.

"The number of donations [the foreign language section] receives is so great that it now has duplicate copies of many titles," said the town hall, though hastening to add that more books are always welcome.

When the library accumulates a number of repeat titles, it puts them up for offer on the official website of the Andalucía Public Libraries Network. The lot delivered to the Churriana library included mainly contemporary fiction books that the foreign language section already has copies of.


Taxman sets sights on rentals, professionals and undeclared foreign bank accounts

By Oliver McIntyre


IN THE face of falling tax revenues due to the economic crisis, this year the tax office aims to boost its coffers by rooting out 8.2 billion euros in tax fraud. Among the main targets in this year's crackdown are high-earning athletes, artists and professionals, with the tax office carrying out more than 1,400 audits among these groups, up 14 per cent from last year.

Inspectors will be looking for the use of false invoices, non-invoiced billing, and the abusive writing off of personal expenses - such as the purchase of real estate, vehicles, clothing and other items for personal use - as businesses or professional expenses.

But the taxman's sights are set not only on professionals, athletes and artists. Also this year inspectors will continue their efforts to root out undeclared income from rental properties, in part by analysing the electricity use in some 35 million properties throughout the country, and cross-referencing this with data from the property registry and information provided on tax returns.

New conviction for Irishman who killed Briton

Eric W. has now also been found guilty of illegally possessing an arsenal of military weapons and explosives


NEWS Staff Reporter

AN Irishman currently serving 23 years in prison for shooting to death a British man outside a Mijas bar has now been convicted for the possession of military arms, which were found when officers searched his rented home in Coín when he was arrested.

Eric W., also known as 'Lucky', was convicted in July of last year for the murder of 24-year-old Dan Smith, whom he gunned down on the terrace of The Lounge bar in Mijas Costa in June 2010 after the two men had rowed earlier in the evening over the Irishman's treatment of a woman.

In February of this year the conviction was upheld by the Regional Supreme Court.


Government seeks bank leniency on foreclosures

Banks urged to let foreclosure clear entire mortgage debt in some cases

By Oliver McIntyre

IN A MOVE to address the growing problem of home foreclosures and evictions, the government last week announced a proposal that calls on banks to cancel the entire outstanding mortgage debt of people in dire financial situations whose homes are foreclosed on.

The proposal includes providing fiscal incentives for the banks, allowing them to take tax deductions for losses incurred by cancelling the entire debt in cases where the home's current value is less than the outstanding amount owed on the mortgage, explained the minister for the economy, Luis de Guindos.

However, the proposed measures would be a voluntary "code of good practices" for the banks, not a legal obligation.

The policy is aimed at people in extremely difficult economic situations including families whose working-age members are all unemployed and without jobless benefits, and whose foreclosed property is their primary residence and only home.

For such families the proposal also calls for a grace period of at least two years following foreclosure during which they can continue living in the home as tenants.

The opposition PSOE criticised the proposal as creating "false expectations," given that it does not obligate the banks to adopt the policies. At least for those banks that have received public funds, the code of good practices should be mandatory, not voluntary, argue the socialists.

Consumer and action groups have criticised both the voluntary nature of the measures and their limitation to families in the most extreme economic situations. Expecting banks to apply the policies voluntarily is like "asking a lion not to eat the zebras - it's absurd," said Chema Ruiz, spokesman for the Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH). He said limiting the policy to the poorest of families also misses the point, as the majority of people affected by foreclosures - some 85 per cent by his estimate - are middleclass families who have had one member lose a job or get hit with severe pay cuts, making it impossible for them to meet their monthly payments.

The president of the Spanish Banking Association, Miguel Martín, last week said he was in favour of the possibility of banks accepting foreclosure as cancellation of the entire mortgage debt in some circumstances, but only on voluntary basis.

GarzÓn cleared but fights on

Judge, acquitted for his war crimes investigation, now to appeal against ban

By Dave Jamieson

THE SUPREME Court has cleared Baltasar Garzón of overstepping his authority by trying to prosecute crimes committed during the Civil War and the Franco era. Monday's ruling came a week after the judge was barred from the bench in a separate case.

Two right-wing groups had accused the judge of violating a 1977 amnesty which cleared anyone who committed political offences during those years. However, Sr Garzón argued that he had been investigating crimes against humanity which were not subject to the amnesty. The ruling was decided by the judges on a majority of six votes to one.

The right-wing union Manos Limpias and the association Libertad e Identidad had demanded a 20-year disqualification for Sr Garzón, although both the public prosecution and defence requested his acquittal after finding that he had committed no crime.

The case stemmed from the decision Sr Garzón took in 2008 to investigate allegations by 22 associations of relatives of around 114,000 people who disappeared during the Civil War and Franco era. During this time, Judge Garzón authorised the opening of 19 burial sites in Spain. However, in November 2008, the Criminal Division of the High Court decided that Garzón did not have jurisdiction to undertake that investigation and ruled that it should be the courts which decide on the opening of graves.

In May 2009, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the complaint brought against the judge by Manos Limpias and a trial which opened a year later found that the judge "was aware that he lacked jurisdiction" to investigate the crimes and that "there were no criminal acts with relevance" to justify the opening of the enquiry. It accused him of deliberately ignoring the Amnesty Act of 1977 and led directly to the recent trial which has now absolved him completely.