Amy Fitzpatrick renewing their efforts to find her with a new campaign to distribute between 100,000 pamphlets with her photos

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No sign of missing Irish teenager Amy Fitzpatrick since her disappearance on January 1 from Mijas Costa. During that period the Guardia Civil have tried to trace two cars and have now found the second vehicle they were looking for.
According to an eyewitness, either Amy or a girl looking like her got into the vehicle, a Mazda, around the time she is thought to have disappeared. The car has apparently been sold within the last three months and although it is undergoing forensic tests the investigators are not hopeful that it will hold any important clues.However the Guardia Civil have stressed that their main focus has been on tracking down the first car they identified that belongs to a neighbour of Amy's. This is a white Ford Fiesta with a British number plate C955SLK. The government's sub-delegate in Málaga province, Hilario López Luna, confirmed last week that finding this car was still a top priority.At the same press conference Sr López Luna admitted that the longer Amy was missing the less likely it was that she had disappeared voluntarily. The same view is shared by the government's delegate in Andalucía, José Lopéz Garzón, who stated that from the start the investigation centred on either her voluntary or involuntary disappearance. He agreed that as time passed the first scenario was less likely but they had not given up hope.
Her family are not giving up hope either. They are renewing their efforts to find her with a new campaign to distribute between 50,000 and 100,000 pamphlets with her photos and telephone numbers on so that any information regarding her disappearance, possible sightings or whereabouts can be called in.


Malaga prostitution in the city centre

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Residents in Málaga are threatening unprecedented protests against prostitution in the city centre. Referring to “the serious situation in which we find ourselves,” the collective ‘Centro Sur’ says it will create road blocks, stage demonstrations and patrol the streets to bring to an end the problems arising from prostitution in the area.
The group’s vice-president, Pedro Pérez, claimed the situation had become “truly unsustainable” around Alameda Principal, Alameda de Colón and Tomás Heredia, adding that, “the residents’ quality of life has notably declined.” Centro Sur is actively seeking the support of other similar collectives in city areas affected by the problem, with the intention of organising “a huge demonstration in the city streets.” But Sr Pérez says that, if necessary, his group will go it alone, “because we can put up with it no longer.”
Members of Centro Sur say they are tired of female residents being stopped in the street to be asked how much they charge, the high levels of noise plus the attacks on many of their private vehicles, which have been broken into and robbed.
The councillor responsible for the area, Rosa Agüera, said that there exists no legal means to prevent the practice of prostitution, although the Law of City Security allows for a series of penalties of as much as 300 euros. Local residents say that part of the problem is the number of derelict buildings in the area and the opening of several sex shops, saying that, little by little, the controls over prostitution have been lost by the authorities and the problem has continued to grow.


Organized crime on the Costa del Sol

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The Spanish ministry is determined to tackle organized crime on the Costa del Sol. It is targeting the large international gangs that are using the latest technology and modern methods of moving money. Two new special police units are to be formed to work alongside the existing drugs, organized and violent crime groups. They will gather intelligence on gangs and liaise with international law enforcement agencies in the criminals’ countries of origin, especially eastern Europe.In a press statement the Ministry of the Interior explained that the trafficking of hashish from Morocco across the Straits of Gibraltar was largely responsible for the existence of organized criminal gangs on the Costa del Sol. These groups were largely made up of criminals from France, Britain, Italy and Germany.The ministry pointed to the occasional outbreaks of violence between these criminal groups that resulted in the so-called ‘settling of accounts’. These are provoked by the theft of shipments of drugs, arms and often result in murders of which a number have occurred in Marbella this year including the recent slaying of two innocent people.
During 2004 police on the Costa del Sol seized 5,200 kilos of heroin, 21,812 kilos of hashish, 190.3 kilos of cocaine, 51,541 ecstasy tablets in 63 actions against 35 organized gangs. In Andalucía the total number of people detained this year stands at 490 in 86 actions involving 49 criminal groups.


Mohamed Taieb Ahmen Spanish police arrests "El Nene" fugitive Moroccan citizen

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Spanish police arrests "El Nene" fugitive Moroccan citizen
Police say he had bribed his way out of jail and Moroccan authorities issued an international arrest warrant in December after discovering he was missing.A man known as ‘El Nene’, one of the most wanted hashish drug traffickers in the world, has been captured by the Spanish National Police in the Spanish North African enclave of Ceuta.The Moroccan, Mohamed Taieb Ahmen, has been on the run for five months after escaping from a Moroccan prison in Kenitra, 40kms north of Rabat, where he was serving eight years for international drug trafficking. It seems he simply bribed six prison officers to help with his escape and he was thought to have been lying low on the Costa del Sol.The man who was arrested again on an Interpol warrant is said to have more millions than years; he is 32 years old.


across-the-board personal income tax rebate of EUR 400, worth a total of around EUR 6 billion.

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The Finance Department on Wednesday reported that the public surplus shrank to EUR 3.280 billion in the first quarter, or 0.29 percent of GDP. The surplus in the first quarter of last year was EUR 6.747 billion, equivalent to 0.64 percent of GDP.
The government's coffers are starting to feel the effects of a sharp slowdown in the economy as the housing market moves from boom to crisis.
Spain posted a surplus of 1.83 percent of GDP last year when the economy grew 3.8 percent. That was surpassed in size among countries in the euro zone only by Finland. The government was initially forecasting a surplus of 1 percent of GDP for this year when it estimated the economy would grow by 3.1 percent.However, the administration has finally bowed to the inevitable and will shortly announce revised growth figures. Economy Minister Pedro Solbes said Tuesday that the new GDP estimate is likely to be in line with that of the Bank of Spain, which recently cut its forecast to 2.4 percent from 3.1 percent. The International Monetary Fund sees activity increasing by only 1.8 percent this year.Commenting on the latest budget figures, the secretary of state for finance, Carlos Ocaña, said the government is now looking at a surplus for this year of 0.4 percent of GDP.
The administration recently approved an economic stimulus package worth some EUR 10 billion, which it expects will add between 0.2 and 0.3 percent to GDP growth this year. The package includes an across-the-board personal income tax rebate of EUR 400, worth a total of around EUR 6 billion.Ocaña insisted that the tax rebate would not result in the government posting a deficit in 2008.The Finance Department attributed the narrowing of the surplus in March to lower value added tax receipts due to the slowdown in the housing market and to higher oil prices. VAT revenues fell 5.7 percent to EUR 19.355 billion. New home sales carry a VAT rate of 7 percent. House sales fell 27 percent in January, the latest available official figure. Total revenues in March climbed 1.3 percent to EUR 38.298 billion.Outlays in the first quarter rose 12.8 percent to EUR 35.022 billion, with financial costs up 14.6 percent.


medical records of 11,000 patients on an internet file-sharing programne.

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Spain's Data Protection Agency has fined a medical centre in Bilbao EUR 150,000 after an employee accidentally disclosed the medical records of 11,000 patients on an internet file-sharing programne.The records include details of 4,000 women who underwent abortions at the Lasaitasuna clinic and are therefore of an exceptionally sensitive nature."This is an inexcusable mistake on the part of the medical centre, which did not have adequate security measures in place to prevent a leak of this nature," Artemi Rallo, the director of the Data Protection Agency, said. The agency traced the source of the leak to an employee's laptop on which the file-sharing programme eMule had been installed, apparently with the intention of downloading music from the internet. However, the employee mistakenly made public files on the computer's hard drive containing the medical records, allowing anyone on the file-sharing network to obtain them. "We have to urge all companies, hospitals, banks and schools to take greater care and revise their security systems," Rallo said. "We need an active policy to train and increase the awareness of citizens" to data security, he added. The Data Protection Agency is currently investigating 16 more similar cases of unlawful information disclosure by companies and organisations.


Years of overbuilding means Spain has around half a million new homes on the market, a Spanish property developer association said on Wednesday.

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Spaniards have borrowed heavily by guaranteeing consumer loans against the value of their homes, which have more than tripled in the last ten years.
Households are feeling poorer since Spanish house price growth fell below the rate of inflation for the first time in a decade during the first quarter.
Expectations Spanish house prices will fall this year have led to a sharp decline in housing demand, especially for second homes, real estate firm CB Richard Ellis said on Thursday.
Spanish consumer borrowing for cars and personal loans fell for the first time in over a decade during the first quarter amid rising unemployment and declining consumer confidence, a financial group said on Thursday.
Credit for car purchases declined up to 10 percent year on year, while personal loans fell around 30 percent during the first three months of the year, according to Spanish credit industry group ASNEF.
"In my 10 years here this is the first time I've seen it, I think it's the first time since the 1992-1995 crisis," ASNEF President Pedro Guijarro told a press conference.
Credit demand is falling as Spaniards are hit by the end of a decade-long property boom and tighter borrowing conditions during money market turmoil.
Spain's government plans to cut its 2008 and 2009 economic growth forecasts to around 2.4 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively, marking the weakest levels since the economy suffered a recession in the early 1990s.
ASNEF warned of a sharp increase in Spain's consumer credit default rate this year after it rose 22 percent to 3.14 percent in 2007.
Spain's overall debt default rate, combining mortgage and corporate credit, is among the lowest in Europe but could triple to around 3 percent over the next two years, banking groups forecast.The property consultancy expected the slowdown to last a further 18 months and for prices to fall.
"That's the amount of time it will take to absorb houses currently on sale," said Eduardo Fernandez-Cuesta, the firm's president in Spain. "The correction in prices has yet to happen."
Years of overbuilding means Spain has around half a million new homes on the market, a Spanish property developer association said on Wednesday.


Benalmadena Ray Griffin,"It's getting terrible in Spain. Villains are making a living out of ripping off tourists."

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Ray Griffin, of Dowell Street, fell victim to thieves preying on tourists while staying in a hotel resort in Benalmadena on the Costa del Sol earlier this month.The incident happened just two weeks after a Welsh tourist was left for dead following a bungled bag snatch.
The female victim was thrown to the ground as a man on a moped tried to snatch her bag, leaving her with a blood clot on the brain.Mr Griffin was on holiday with his wife, Valerie, when thieves made off with a purse, containing 150 Euros, a silver lucky charm and a Nintendo DS with four games."I was sunbathing by the pool and it was quite breezy," Mr Griffin told the Herald."When I got up, I saw our bag had blown to one side. I didn't know it had been moved by thieves.
"I realised the items were missing when I looked inside."Mr Griffin reported the theft to police and was later able to view CCTV footage, which, he says, clearly showed two local men in their 40s and 20s as the culprits."I saw the hotel manager and had a go at him about security. There is no security whatsoever," he said.
"It's getting terrible in Spain. Villains are making a living out of ripping off tourists."A few days after the theft, Mr Griffin was astounded to see the same men back in the hotel's grounds."I went over and challenged them, and they threatened to shoot me!" he said. "One of them had a bag and he went to unzip it as he said it.
"Other holidaymakers joined me in challenging them and they left the site."
Mr Griffin believes the men were accessing the hotel grounds via insecure gates. He has taken pictures of the gates - to illustrate how they are being left unlocked or secured with a plastic tie.Mr Griffin travelled to Spain as an independent tourist and not as part of a package deal with a tour operator.


The preliminary report from the Civil Guard into the Benalmadena bypass accident

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The preliminary report from the Civil Guard into the accident, which says that the KIA was travelling at excessive speed for the conditions at the time, and that the overtaking manoeuvre on the left saw a collision first with the central reservation which caused a rebound into the bus which then turned over. The definitive report on the accident is now expected in a few days time.
13 of the injured in the accident remain in different hospitals in the region. A total of the 12 victims from the accident have now returned to Finland after receiving permission to do so from the doctors.
The 27 year old driver of the new black KIA four wheel drive vehicle which was in collision with the coach in Benalmádena on Saturday night, in the accident which left nine Finnish tourists dead, and who is considered to have caused the accident by travelling at excessive speed and losing control on a curve, has been released from custody by the Instruction Judge in Court One in Torremolinos today. The judge said he had taken the decision because, according to forensic reports the 27 year old is not in a condition to appear before the court. He will need at least another 15 days recovering from his injuries in the Carlos Haya Hospital in Málaga before he is expected to be able to make a declaration. The judge has therefore decided to wait until his health has improved before making any decision on his legal situation. The judge called on the hospital to advise him with sufficient notice when the man is able. He has undergone surgery to his back following the accident.


Playa de Bakio attacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean

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According to the El País newspaper today, the Spanish Ministry of Defence is planning a rescue operation as a last option in the case of the Basque tuna fishing boat, ‘Playa de Bakio’ which has been kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Somalia in the demand of a ransom.The Spanish Government says that all diplomatic contacts are being intensified to try to get the 26 crew, 13 of which are Spaniards, released, and ABC newspaper reports today that help has been requested from NATO.
Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, has held several conversations with the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durao Borroso, and has been in contact with the African Union to investigate the situation. The closest Spanish diplomat is the Spanish Ambassador in Kenya.Meanwhile the most modern Spanish navy frigate, Méndez Núñez, is on her way to the scene and is now some 1,400 miles away and is therefore not expected to arrive for two days.
The Capitan of the 'Playa de Bakio' has reported that all the crew is well, and all the pirates want is cash.The crew of the Basque Fishing boat, from a small fishing town called Bermeo in Vizcaya, is made up of 8 Galicians, 5 Basques and 3 Africans. The first person to raise the alarm this morning was the ships owner who spoke to Spanish National Radio at 3.45 am today saying that ‘everybody was fine and that there were no problems at that moment’. We can’t speak now, please do not call us, we are being controlled’ – these are the words of one of the 26 fishermen aboard the Basque fishing boat, Playa de Bakio, following the attack by pirates in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia which has resulted in the kidnap of all its crew. The man who spoke to Spanish radios station Cadena Ser by telephone from the boat pleaded four times in a 12 second conversation that nobody try to make contact with the kidnappers. He also said that none of the hostages were injured, something which contradicts information released by the kidnappers which said that there were several injured crew members aboard the boat. According to a source connected to the kidnappers the boat is currently heading towards the small town of Gaan around 50 kilometres to the south of Obbia. Spanish military sources have confirmed that a frigate that was in the Red Sea is now on its way to the area. There have been several attacks by pirates in the Indian Ocean over recent years. There was an attack on a cruise ship on 4th April this year in which all the crew were taken hostage. The 30 crew members were released after a week following payment of a ransom fee. Action taken by the French special forces led to the detention of 6 of the pirates.The latest attack on the Basque fishing vessel appears to be another in the long list of incidents in this particular area in which 31 attacks were registered last year by the International Maritime Bureau.Spain appealed to France, the United States and NATO on Monday for help in ending a crisis sparked when pirates seized 26 crew members of a Spanish fishing boat off the Somali coast.The defence ministry said a Spanish military frigate was heading to the area off east Africa, where the pirates have demanded money for the release of the crew, a day after storming the vessel armed with grenade launchers.It said the ship would arrive in 24 to 36 hours.Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega chaired a meeting of senior cabinet members, including Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and Defence Minister Carme Chacon, to discuss the crisis."We have sought the help of France and the United States," two countries with a military presence in the area, a Spanish government spokesman said.The defence ministry "has already entered into contact with NATO authorities," the government said in a statement.It said Madrid is also in contact with "Britain and other allied countries and friends with a military presence in the area".The coastal waters off Somalia, which has not had an effective central government for more than 17 years and is plagued by insecurity, are considered to be among the most dangerous waterways for shipping in the world.
On Monday, a major Japanese oil tanker was damaged and then chased by heavily armed pirates off the coasts of Somalia and Yemen but no one was injured, officials and crew members said.Spain's foreign ministry said the tuna boat, the Playa de Bakio, "was boarded and apparently seized while it was fishing in Somali waters" at 1:00 pm on Sunday, but that no one was hurt.Thirteen of the crew are Spanish nationals, it said, while Spanish media reported that their 13 crewmates are African nationals.Four pirates armed with grenade launchers seized the boat some 400 kilometres off the coast of Somalia, Spanish media said.Speaking in broken English on Spanish National Radio (RNE), a man who appeared to be one of the pirates said Monday they wanted "money", after snatching the phone from the boat's captain who had been contacted on board."I am the captain of the boat... we are all well and there is no problem, for the moment there is no problem," the skipper said in Spanish, before being interrupted by the pirate who said he was a member of a "Somalia militia."The newspaper El Mundo said on its Internet site Monday that the boat was headed for the Somali town of Gaan, about 50 kilometres from the southern town of Obbia.
The seizure came two days after a Paris court charged six Somalis with taking the crew of a French luxury yacht hostage earlier this month.The six were captured by French special forces, along with USD 200,000 (EUR 125,000) of suspected ransom money, after they released the 30-strong crew of the yacht on 11 April. They had held the group hostage for a week.The Spanish fishing boat was seized in the same area where the French yacht was attacked, RNE said.Last year more than 25 ships were seized by pirates in Somali coastal waters despite US navy patrols.
The International Maritime Bureau advises merchant ships to stay at least 200 nautical miles from the Somali coast.


syndicate had been using Madrid as its centre in Europe and recruited Malaysian women as couriers to Brazil, Australia, Mexico and China.

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On Thursday, Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said the ministry would seek Interpol's assistance in tracking international syndicates using Malaysian women as drug couriers.The previous day, it was reported that more than 20 Malaysian women in their 20s were detained by a drug syndicate in a house in Madrid.
The syndicate had been using Madrid as its centre in Europe and recruited Malaysian women as couriers to Brazil, Australia, Mexico and China.
It was believed that three African men and a Malaysian were key players in the plan to lure the women with promises of lucrative pay by working overseas.Two of their victims -- Norfaizura Azura Md Lias, 21, from Pangkor, Perak, and Dayang Sakienah Mat Lazim, 20, from Bukit Payung, Terengganu -- were detained by Malta police recently.


Nine Finnish tourists including a seven-year-old girl died following a bus crash near the Spanish resort town of Benalmadena

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Nine Finnish tourists including a seven-year-old girl died following a bus crash near the Spanish resort town of Benalmadena on the Costa del Sol yesterday. Some 16 others were injured, some seriously, when their bus veered off the road and over-turned after a collision with another vehicle.
The driver of car has been detained on suspicion of being over the drink driving limit The bus was taking the tourists to Malaga airport to catch their flight home when the accident happened.The driver of the four wheel drive vehicle tested 0.50 milligrams of alcohol in his breath, double the legal maximum and is being blamed for the accident. This was confirmed by the Government Sub Delegate for the province, Hilario López Luna, who also said the KIA driver has been arrested. He is a 27 year old man from Málaga and is now in the Clínico hospital with slight injuries. His father was with him in the vehicle and he was also only slightly hurt.
The 47 tourists, driver, and two TUI guides, were all then trapped inside the wreckage of the bus, and despite the efforts of other drivers who witnessed the accident, had to wait some two hours before the emergency workers could gain access by cutting a hole in the roof of the vehicle. Later heavy lifting gear was brought in to right the vehicle. The coach driver and the guides are among the injured.
The bus driver has been named as 53 year old José Jiménez. His daughter told the Diario Sur newspaper that only that morning he had been talking to the family about the responsibility of transporting so many people. His wife and children spoke of his ‘professionalism and prudence’ at the wheel.


Repossessions loom as the once buoyant homes market goes into freefall,

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The Santa Ursula based publisher of The Tenerife Property Price Guide, today releases the results of its survey of Tenerife property prices, showing falls in prices for the three regions of Tenerife, (the South and South East, the North, and the Metropolitan region).
During the last six months, property prices have fallen by 3,48% in the South and South East (from Candelaria around the coast to Santiago del Teide). In the North, prices have fallen the least, by 2,64%, and in the Metropolitan region (Santa Cruz, La Laguna, El Rosario and Tegueste) prices have fallen by 3,27%. When general inflation is taken into account (2,1% over the last six months) the real falls are 5.6% in the South, 4,7% in the North and 5,4% in the Metropolitan region.John Gardner of Value It commented: “These are averages for these regions, and are based upon a survey of 6250 properties for sale. Within each region there have been greater falls in some areas and for certain property types, and a few areas are level with inflation or still seeing prices rise. Puerto de la Cruz has seen falls below the average for example, while the falls in Adeje are consistent with the southern region as a whole. The answer for people looking to buy in Tenerife is thorough research and knowing the pricing trends in the areas and for the property types. There is no substitute if you want to buy well and protect your investment. For those thinking of selling they can work out what would be a good or competitive price to ensure that they attract serious buyers”.


Costa del Sol Home Information Packs are a legal requirement

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Felipe Martinez de Marmol, from solicitors Martinez-Echevarria Perez & Ferrero Abogados, explained in further detail the regulations surrounding Decree 218, passed in 2005, which requires all agencies selling property on the Costa del Sol to have a Documento Informativo Abreviado (DIA) and a Ficha Informativa (FI) - similar to the UK’s Home Information Packs (HIPS). De Marmol believes the need to be compliant with the Decree is becoming increasingly important as officials from local government have been conducting snap inspections of offices on the Costa del Sol recently. He added that buyers needed to be taught to ask for these documents, as well as agents providing them.Javier Ledesma, President of AEGI, the Spanish estate agents association, who spoke about the future of the area’s property market leading up to 2020, acknowledged the concerns shared by several members of the audience surrounding Decree 218, however said it was a case of recognising it was there to stay and making sure individual firms were compliant.
“After two years we still haven’t taken Decree 218 seriously. While we might not agree with certain aspects of it, we must follow it. It is the law. Some 67% of real estate offices still don’t provide the mandatory information required by the executive order published in 2005 and we are in April 2008. People didn’t believe it before and thought it was a gimmick but it is not and we are in a delicate situation.”Other speakers examined issues surrounding the Costa del Sol's property market, such as concerns over its environmental sustainability, the best way to promote residential tourism and more detail about the Marbella PGOU plan.
The LPA has another conference that will examine these and other issues, in more detail, later this year.


International drug trafficking ring originating in Spain

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Malta Police drug squad has smashed a international drug trafficking ring originating in Spain after capturing two young Malaysian women smuggling drugs through the Malta International Airport a few weeks ago.The case was kept under wraps by local authorities as the two women were also charged in Maltese Courts 'behind closed doors'. But the story was exposed in the Malaysian press which reported how Malaysian women are being lured by a Spanish drug syndicate to act as drug couriers in Europe. The Malaysian Star identified the women as Azura Maizura Alias, 21, from Pulau Pangkor in Perak and Dayang Sakienah Mat Lazim, 20, from Bukit Payung in Terengganu. the women were kept detained in a house in Madrid Spain which was heavily guarded by armed men. The women had their passports taken from them and some were even beaten up and raped. They would then be dispatched to certain countries to smuggle drugs and be used in money laundering activities.Azura Maizura was caught trying to smuggle 2 kilogrammes of cocaine through the Malta Airport and is reported to have pleaded guilty to charges on drug smuggling. She is liable to get a nine year jail term.Dayang Sakienah, who was caught on 27 January was charged with conspiring in drug trafficking and involvement in money-laundering after she was found carrying a EUR45,000 receipt. Two other victims of this drug ring have also been detained in Brazil and Mexico.“According to the source, the (drug) syndicate has made Madrid its operations centre in Europe and recruits Malaysian women to carry drugs to countries around the globe, including Brazil, Australia, Mexico and China,”


Juan Antonio Roca attempted robbery at Cala d'Or villa

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A 45 year old Austrian woman with no previous criminal record is on bail pending trial after being arrested for attempting to steal a number of high-value items from a chalet in Cala d'Or (Mallorca) belonging to Juan Antonio Roca, who is one of the main suspects in the 'Operación Malaya' Marbella council corruption case. The woman was caught red-handed with various valuable paintings, candelabra, and mirrors in the back of her Renault Laguna car that was parked outside the seaside property that had been sealed off with police tape. Before her release on bail, the woman was held for several days at the Guardia Civil barracks in Manacor.
A spokeman for the investiagting team has indicated that the inquiry remains open and further arrests are not being ruled out.


Smuggling routes in the sub-Saharan Sahel region of Africa that were traditionally used for cigarettes, arms and illegal migrants

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Smuggling routes in the sub-Saharan Sahel region of Africa that were traditionally used for cigarettes, arms and illegal migrants are now becoming highways for cocaine, heroin and hashish, with kidnapping and banditry rife, the United Nations chief crime fighter warned today.“The international community must act to prevent a further deterioration of the situation that could destabilize the entire region and have a dangerous spill-over effect,” he said. “Countries where these goods are headed should also do more to reduce the demand that is fuelling this dangerous trade.”He noted that criminals were also exploiting the region’s rich natural resources, and that the overall situation provided a lucrative source of funding for rebels, anti-government forces and terrorists in a vast inhospitable and remote area stretching across the width of Africa, where nomads and traders have for centuries moved back and forth across borders.Some countries like Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger have thousands of kilometres of almost open frontiers.Not only is this a threat to security, but also a drain on development. Badly-needed resources are being shifted away from education and health care into security. In one country alone, resources spent on border security and crime fighting last year were sufficient to have built 600 schools and health centres.
“These countries are being targeted by smugglers because they are vulnerable, and criminal activity is making them even more vulnerable,” Mr. Costa said. “We must break this vicious circle.”Among needs identifies for technical assistance were counter-narcotics, criminal justice reform, anti-corruption, border management, intelligence sharing, terrorism prevention and the battle against the illicit arms trade. Counties represented at the meeting included Burkina Faso, Chad, Cape Verde, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Togo, Niger and Senegal.


Spain "It's a spoiled generation. They've suffered little, matured little and are not well-educated,"

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Spain has become the top consumer of cocaine in continental Europe, according to a recent European Union study on drug use. By a United Nations count, 3% of Spain's adult population consumes cocaine; that's a bigger percentage than the erstwhile leader, the United States, at 2.3%. Around dawn on a Sunday, packs of young people are huddled at stoplights, or ambling down Paseo del Prado.Despite the hour, the day isn't just beginning for them. Like thousands of young Spaniards, they are ending a long night of hard-core partying that very likely included the unbridled snorting of cocaine.At crowded clubs and throbbing bars along Madrid's Gran Via, and on side streets radiating from the Puerta del Sol, the city's heart, a gram of coke is casually sold for 50 euros -- about $79 -- and quickly consumed in restrooms or nearby parked cars."It's easier to get cocaine than to get a library card," said Gustavo Rodriguez, a 31-year-old business student, recalling his nocturnal carousing before he went into rehab.Among younger age groups, the number of Spanish users has doubled, even quadrupled, during the last decade, the statistics indicate.Part of the reason for the dramatic increase is that Spain is the primary transit point for cocaine smuggled into Europe from Latin America. In cargo ships and on airplanes, hidden in machine parts, frozen octopus or just about anything else, tons of cocaine arrive at Spanish and Portuguese ports every month.And you can't be a transit point forever without eventually sampling the goods.It was a similar story a couple of decades ago for the world's top producing countries, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia; for years they boasted of being free of drug addiction in their own populations -- they merely grew and processed the stuff and shipped it onward. But it didn't stay that way.In Spain, the rise in consumption is also linked to a swift transition in Spanish society.

In barely one generation, this nation of 40 million moved from a long, repressive military dictatorship to a dynamic, youthful democracy with (until recently) a vibrant economy.With Spaniards' newfound freedom came a cultural reawakening and fast-paced change, an era called La Movida that also gave way to permissiveness and a breakdown in traditions. And though some of the hedonism of the '80s has evolved into something a little more sophisticated, a fresh crop of young Spaniards won't let go of a firmly held compulsion for frenzied celebration of the weekend."It's a spoiled generation. They've suffered little, matured little and are not well-educated," said Modesto Salgado, who runs one of Spain's main drug rehab programs. "They live for the moment, to enjoy."Salgado says Spain's predominant drug problem in the '80s and early '90s was heroin. Today, cocaine is by far the drug of choice: Nearly two-thirds of the patients in the 26 centers managed by his program, Proyecto Hombre, are cocaine abusers. Proyecto Hombre started the coke program only five years ago; it hadn't seemed necessary before that, Salgado said.At his rehab center in Guadalajara, a bedroom community 35 miles northeast of Madrid, patients are in yearlong residential programs or larger outpatient regimens. Most are in their late 20s and are middle- or upper-class professionals.
On a recent evening, the mostly male clients were standing in front of the new brick building, having a smoke. Their mothers and other relatives were inside attending a special meeting for families; some emerged tearful.Rodriguez, the business student, was there. A tall, strapping man with good looks and an easy smile, Rodriguez said the danger of cocaine is that it sneaks up on you. And, compared with heroin, it's still socially acceptable and, in the minds of many, associated with glamour and success. Plus, it's cheap -- a line costs about as much as two cups of coffee."You think you can live normally, but you don't see what it does to your health, over time," said Rodriguez, who added that he has kicked a 10-year habit. "I couldn't finish anything I started. My parents didn't know where I was or what I was doing. The tragedy is the core of my family life was destroyed."
The overwhelming majority of cocaine users in Spain, and of those who seek rehab, are men, Salgado and other officials said. Women still face more of a stigma than do men when it comes to using drugs and turning to treatment, said Antonio Cuadrado, a therapist at Proyecto Hombre.Police and some government officials question the ranking of Spain as Europe's top consumer. Authorities say they think they are getting a handle on the problem, and the Health Ministry says consumption among the young fell last year for the first time.But no one disputes the prevalence of the drug and the fact that cocaine being shipped through Spain is leaving a trail of dust and dope.Traffickers, peddlers and other purveyors of the powder "are finding a very good market here," said Jose Luis Conde Velazquez, chief of the drugs and organized crime police unit.Yet the government is still figuring out the best way to fight cocaine. Carmen Moya Garcia, an epidemiologist who heads the Health Ministry's National Plan on Drugs, said attention that has been focused on the interdiction of traffickers is finally shifting to include consumption.A four-year action plan launched last year by the government attempts to break the glorifying myths surrounding cocaine with TV and Web campaigns. And nightclubs, bars and other establishments of leisure are being asked to cooperate with authorities in prohibiting drug use on their premises, by posting signs and keeping bathrooms clear.
Moya said authorities have been able to argue to the clubs, with some success, that cooperation won't hurt business.Last summer, in party mecca Ibiza, the government sent a message by shutting down three clubs on the Mediterranean island with such names as Amnesia for a month or more, at the height of the season, as punishment for what police said was flaunting of drugs.Demand for rehab treatment has soared the way consumption has, and programs such as Proyecto Hombre are at capacity. The experts in those places say the crisis is a deeper phenomenon of questioned ideals and changing values, something that cannot be resolved merely by cracking down on clubs and rounding up small-time pushers, known here in slang as camellos."Society has gone from being very rigid to too permissive," said Cuadrado, the therapist. Cocaine abuse "is going to grow," he said. "We are only just beginning to treat this."


'Martin the Bag' Lance from Marbella arrested suspected of being the Cocaine boss of Marbella.

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Spanish police have arrested a British man suspected by French authorities of being the head of a cocaine trafficking network, the interior ministry said Monday.
It identified the man as Martin Lance N., 40, also known as "Martin the Bag", born in the central English town of Oadby near Leicester and a resident of the southern Spanish resort of Marbella.It said he was detained in the northeastern city of Barcelona.He is the object of an international arrest warrant issued by French authorities."He is suspected of being the head of a group involved in importing, manufacturing, producing, providing or acquiring narcotics, specifically cocaine," an interior ministry statement said. In particular, French police believe he was involved in smuggling 144 kilogrammes (317 pounds) of cocaine hidden in four mattresses that were found in Paris in June 2006.

The British man, Martin Lance N (40), known as 'Martin the Bag', who lives in Marbella and who is believed to be the leader of a gang which imported, manufactured, and distributed cocaine, was arrested in Barcelona. In separate raids in Barcelona, Mallorca and Málaga, Spanish police have arrested a German man, a British man, an Italian man and a Spanish man wanted by judicial authorities in Germany, France, Italy and Holland for drug-trafficking and fraud.
The investigation started in June 2006 when French police discovered 144kg of cocaine in four suitcases, which enabled them to identify the British and French members of the gang.


Juan Antonio Roca told the press on his release that he is considering returning to his job in Marbella Town Hall

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Juan Antonio Roca walked free from prison in Granada – two years since his arrest on charges of urban corruption, fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, the misappropriation of public funds, falsifying official documents and the illegal possession of firearms.Judge Óscar Pérez – who granted bail for the former chief of urban planning at Marbella town hall in late March – announced a bank transfer from Roca’s lawyers during a hearing at court number 5 in the Costa del Sol town.
Under the bail conditions, Roca has to attend court everyday and not go within 500 metres of an airport. This is over continuing police fears the former chaffeur, who is claimed to have amassed a 200-million-euro fortune during his time at the council, will flee Spain.Investigators believe he has hidden bank accounts in tax havens around the globe.

Residents of Marbella gathered in the town today to protest at the fact that the man at the centre of the Malaya corruption case, the ex municipal real estate assessor, Juan Antonio Roca, has been released from jail on 1 million € bail after two years on remand. Groups of locals and left-wing politicians from I.U. collected outside one of the properties owned by Roca in San Pedro Alcántara.Meanwhile the Marbella Town Hall issued a statement saying that they would continue to challenge the release in the courts. Town Hall spokesman, Félix Romero, said that their appeal would stay in place and they were waiting to hear the opinions of both the provincial and national courts on the matter, given the flight risk which Juan Antonio Roca represents.
For his part Juan Antonio Roca told the press on his release that the charges against him had been greatly exaggerated, to the extent that they should be in the Guinness Book of Records.
Under the bail conditions he has to sign in the court or with the police every day, and cannot go closer than 500m to any airfield.
20 minutos has reported meanwhile that after signing at the court today Roca said he is considering returning to his job in Marbella Town Hall. He described it as a possibility and a right he has, and also reminded the press that he still has not been sentenced for anything. He also said that he would, for now, remain living in Marbella, although revealed that he wanted to visit Murcia and Madrid next week.
"It is a possiblity (that he returns to his job) given that it is a right I have"
Meanwhile as one comes out, another goes back in. The ex Mayor of Marbella, Javier Muñoz, also charged in the Malaya corruption case in the town, returned to the Alhaurin Prison at 7,30am on Tuesday morning after enjoying his first three day pass. He spent the time with family and friends inside the villa ‘Mi Gitana’ with his partner, diva Isabel Pantoja, in the La Pera urbanisation in Puerto Banús. He arrived back at the jail in her four-wheel drive vehicle driven by her personal chauffer.Muñoz is also serving time for three separate sentences on town planning offences.


Angelo Caratenutto decapitated his mother and then went for a walk though the town hall square

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When police intervened at around 9pm last night, and took the package from the man, he told them that was his mother’s head.
It happened yesterday in Santomera in Murcia, and the Civil Guard say the man, named as a 35 year old called Angelo Caratenutto, has now been arrested. Reports indicate that he killed his mother in a bar in the town, and the Civil Guard say he has been admitted to psychiatric units on several occasions.He had decapitated his mother and then went for a walk though the town hall square with the head, wrapped in a rag under his arm. As he walked about barechested he could be heard saying,
‘I’ve killed her – now you are quiet, I love you so much’.The town of Santomera, with a population of some 14,000 is 30kms from Murcia city. The event has caused great upset there, with everyone surprised by the crime. Locals comment that the son was a fierce protector of his mother.


100 people in the El Torrejón district of Huelva have tried to lynch the brother of Santiago del Valle

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100 people in the El Torrejón district of Huelva have tried to lynch the brother of Santiago del Valle, the man accused of killing the five year old local girl Mari Luz Cortés. The group tried to get into the brother’s home and threw stones at the building, shouting that he had helped to cover up the crime.Francisco del Valle has however told the press that he is prepared to testify against his brother Santiago, while his wife has said they can no longer live in the area and have to move as both she and their 17 year old daughter had come under threat. National and anti-riot Police had to intervene late on Monday night to stop the aggression from progressing. The Government Sub Delegate for Huelva, Manuel Bago, commented that the brother did not deserve what was happening.Mari Luz’s father was among the protestors and commented that it was Francisco who brought his brother to the district and that initially he defended him.It’s not the first time that the locals have attacked the brother of the suspect. An earlier attack at the end of last month was caught on television.Meanwhile the parents of Mari Luz Cortés have launched a campaign and petition calling for life imprisonment for those paedophiles who are committed of murder.


Secrets of the Duchess of Medina-Sidonia

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One of Spain’s most eccentric, blue-blooded and rebellious aristocrats, Doña Luisa Isabel Álvarez de Toledo, Duchess of Medina-Sidonia, died on March 7 leaving behind a scandal almost as big as the political scrapes that bedevilled her life spent championing the poor and defying Franco.
The three children of the 71-year-old Red Duchess as she was known, are grappling with the revelation that she had married her lesbian lover on her deathbed – and made out her will in her favour.
Her relationship with Liliana Maria Dahlmann, her 50-something private secretary who had worked with her for two decades, had been kept secret until their marriage – a civil ceremony – conducted by a council official just hours before her death.
Instead of the descendants of one of Spain’s oldest families, one of whose ancestors commanded the ill-fated Spanish Armada, inhabiting the ducal palace and taking control of the priceless collection of art and archives, the place has been taken over by Dahlmann.
The Duchess’ second son, civil engineer Don Gabriel Gregorio y Álvarez de Toledo, 50, who is reported to have last spoken to his mother a quarter of a century ago, said:
“My mother was a nightmare. She tried to deprive her three children of their inheritance.”
As to Ms Dahlmann herself, Don Gabriel said: “My mother tried to help Señorita Dahlmann when she came to Spain from Germany years ago and the two became lovers. My mother was part of a group of radical lesbians.
“When I heard she had married her secretary on her deathbed I thought it was typical of her.”
As widow, Ms Dahlmann can stay on at the huge palace, which is near Cádiz, for the rest of her life.


Business groups on the island say pulling down 22 hotels will leave hundreds out of work and hit the tourist trade hard.

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Lanzarote court ruled 22 hotels were illegally built.The Canary Islands supreme court has annulled the hotels' building licences after it was ruled that two councils had openly flouted a ban on building hotels. Lanzarote council will now consider whether to grant an amnesty, or send in the bulldozers.A police unit which fights organised crime has been called in to investigate whether the former mayors of Yaiza and Teguise granted illegal building licences in return for backhanders from property developers.The police investigation comes amid fears of a repeat of the widespread civic corruption scandal that led to the dissolution of Marbella city council in 2006.In Lanzarote, eight five-star hotels, 10 smaller hotels, and four others under construction were declared illegal. In all, they account for 7,721 hotel rooms or apartments on the island. Top-of-the-range hotels that could be pulled down are the Meliá Volcán, Iberostar Papagayo, Gran Castillo, Natura Palace, Rubicón Palace, Papagayo Arena and Son Bou. The court action follows efforts to gentrify the image of the holiday island beloved of British tourists.

In 2000, authorities limited the number of new hotels and those few that were to be given permission had to be four stars or above. But officials at Yaiza and Teguise councils ignored the limit and granted licences for thousands of "tourist places" or holiday accommodation, investing €270m (£212.1m) of public funds. The EU granted €36.5m to 11 of the hotels now ruled illegal to boost tourism on the island.Carlos Espino, a Socialist Lanzarote councillor, said: "These councils broke the order which we had put in place to preserve the island, which is a biosphere reserve. We will not have an amnesty. We will knock down what we have to."Business groups on the island say pulling down 22 hotels will leave hundreds out of work and hit the tourist trade hard. Instead, authorities may bring in an amnesty in the same way as the council in Marbella did when it discovered thousands of illegally built hotels and homes, many belonging to Britons.In Marbella, an international police investigation was launched into claims of civic bribery, cronyism and embezzlement. The mayor, head of urban planning and police chief were arrested and property worth €2.4m was seized.Instead of demolishing scores of illegal properties, authorities ordered property developers to hand over rural land to public ownership. The court action against the illegal hotels in Lanzarote was taken by the council and the César Manrique Foundation, which is named after the late architect who helped to ensure there were no high-rise hotels or garish advertising hoardings on the island.
Manrique's influence went a large way to ensuring the Canary island avoided the same fate as the concrete jungles of the Costa del Sol or Costa Blanca.
More court cases are expected to follow against other hotels on Lanzarote.


Expat Brits dependent on UK pension and with Inflation in Spain which is running at a 10 year high are hit by the worstening exchange rate

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Brits dependent on UK pension or savings are the worst hit - although anyone in business who has income in sterling has taken an involuntary pay cut. This week currency markets valued £1 at 1.246 euros. Last summer, banks were offering an average exchange rate of 1.42 euros to the pound. However, number crunching for those on a tight budget makes stark reading as disposable income is squeezed. The current UK basic state pension is £90.70 per week. At last summer's average, it converted across to give a payment of 128.79 euros. But at the close of currency markets on Wednesday, the same basic pension was only worth 112.99 euros - a shortfall of 15.80 euros a week. This gloomy outlook is worsened for any expat servicing a Spanish loan or mortgage with their UK income, as well as having to meet rising community fees and local taxes. It means a radical rethink of the household budget at a time when the news is full of stories of falling property prices and the so-called 'credit crunch'. Unfortunately, businesses here in Spain reliant on a buoyant UK tourist market are also starting to suffer. A weak pound has a knock-on affect on holidaymakers heading for the sun and their favourite costa. With Britain on the edge of recession, visitors are facing their own financial difficulties at home and seeing savings buy less holiday spending money. A family of four arriving with £600 last summer were rewarded with 852 euros to enjoy investing in a little bit of Mediterranean life. However, again at the close of play rate on April 9th, the same £600 is only worth 747.60 euros - the family losing more than 100 euros that could have gone on a night out, shopping, or a visit to one of the popular tourist attractions. While tightening belts, it must be remembered that currency markets are notoriously fickle but some speculators say sterling - or GPD on exchange rate lists - will weaken several more points before making a recovery. Spanish expats relying on a UK income continue to feel the pinch from sterling's performance against the euro. The value of the great British pound has tumbled against the European currency, denting the spending power of anyone reliant on the exchange rate. And it is a double-edged sword. Inflation in Spain is running at a 10 year high - at more than 4 percent - led in particular by rising food and energy prices.


Spanish judge has been fined and suspended for a year for allowing a man to spend 455 days in prison for a crime of which he was acquitted.

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The Superior Court of Justice of Andalusia said in Wednesday's ruling that Judge Adelina Entrena was guilty of grave negligence.
Her case comes amid an uproar in Spain over a judicial system seen as overworked, underfunded and increasingly sloppy.
In the most glaring recent case, it emerged that a judge failed to execute a jailing order against a man convicted of sexually abusing his 5-year-old daughter, allowing him to remain free and allegedly commit more abuses. The man is now a suspect in the murder of another 5-year-old girl; the judge faces disciplinary action.
In the new instance of alleged negligence, defendant Jose Campoy stood trial in December 2005 on charges of purse-snatching and was in preventive detention when Entrena issued an acquittal several days later. But she neglected to notify the jail and it took 15 months for a clerk to detect the error.
Campoy had been notified by mail of his acquittal but has a long history of drug addiction and limited reading skills, the court ruling said.
Entrena blamed the oversight on a backlog of work and insufficient staffing at her courthouse in Motril in the southern province of Granada.
Spain's judicial woes were compounded recently by a strike of ministry workers seeking pay raises. This led to even more backlogs, delaying everything from marriages to trials, until the strike ended this week.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who is about to start a second term, has promised to make reform of the judicial branch one of his priorities.


The justice system failed Mari Luz, Paedophile freedom in Spain

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In 2007, the provincial court of Seville sentenced a man identified only as M. to 14 years in prison for repeatedly abusing his own daughter. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal on 8 November, but M. never set foot inside the penitentiary because he vanished from the village where he lived, although a few neighbours claim to have seen him. Santiago del Valle, who allegedly murdered a five-year-old girl named Mari Luz Cortés in Huelva last month, was not the only convicted paedophile who is walking around free. Ignacio Fernández de la Mata, a lawyer who represented the victim, is still waiting to be notified about M.'s imprisonment for sexually abusing his daughter for six years - from the time she turned eight. "Four days ago he was still a free man. I don't understand why, but that's the way it is," he said. "I wasn't at all surprised by the Mari Luz case. The system does not work, there is a shortage of courthouses and resources."Deputy prime minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega on Friday admitted that the justice system failed Mari Luz.
But M.'s situation, as well as that of another convicted paedophile in Lleida who went missing over a year ago, proves that the system is failing too often for comfort. Last Friday, Seville's courts stated that delays in implementing prison sentences are no exception, blaming the situation on insufficient resources.
There is something truly astonishing about Santiago del Valle's record. Each courthouse that he walked into worked like an isolated island, as if it had no connection with the rest of the legal system; a place where the repeat offender kept appearing as if it were the first time.
Is it really possible for a judge in Gijón to not know immediately whether a colleague in Tarragona has taken any measures against a paedophilia suspect? Can he not simply press a button and access a suspect's record? The answer is no.
"In 2008 we cannot allow a judge from Almería who is going to rule over the fate of a suspect to do so without knowing what another judge has ruled," says Antonio García Martínez, a judge at the Superior Court of Justice of the Basque Country and spokesman for the Professional Judges' Association. "We need a system that enables us to instantly know what is going on with specific people and cases."
Communications have developed faster than the courts. The only records that a judge can access immediately are those cases where there is a final verdict. That is why, when a second Seville judge convicted Del Valle in 2004 for sexual abuse, he did not treat him as a repeat offender. The 2002 sentence for abusing his own daughter was not included in the records because it had been appealed before the provincial court, which took three years to hand down its verdict.
A centralised database containing all legal sentences relating to a case would prevent offenders such as Santiago del Valle from staying out of prison. The matter raises other issues as well, such as the right to privacy. But it is one thing to create a database for judges, attorneys and law enforcement agencies, and another to create a public record of paedophilia offenders, as some people are demanding. The legal profession, in general, defends only the first possibility. "It would have to be a database with restricted access for people with a legitimate interest," says Jaime Tapia, a spokesman for the progressive judge association Jueces para la Democracia.


John Gonzales the Stelios of sperm lived the high life on the Costa del Sol

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John Gonzales, was jailed for 16 months after being found guilty of fraud, perjury and forgery at Wood Green Crown Court, London. he started an internet firm charging up to £2,000 a time to women who wanted a tot. John Gonzales, who ran online sperm bank catering mainly for lesbians and single women, has been sentenced to 16 months in prison.He pled guilty to five offences including fraud, forgery and perjury and was also disqualified from acting as a company director for five years. He was sentenced at Wood Green Crown Court today following an investigation and prosecution by the Department for Business and Enterprise (BERR).
BERR Minister Pat McFadden said:
"The Government is determined to crack down on cheats who profit by deception.
"When someone lies about their assets they are effectively stealing from honest creditors who are owed money and who can suffer as a result."Gonzales was the founder of Ltd, which arranged for the delivery of fresh sperm to women registering with its website. After initial financial success, the company entered liquidation in December 2004 with debts of more than £220,000.
Investigators found that Gonzales later lied to officials, forged documents and falsified debts in order to avoid handing over his assets and to continue trading under a different name.Passing sentence, Her Honour Judge May QC said:
"Being a company director is a serious responsibility; people who abuse this position must expect to be punished." Thanks to a change in the law last year, it is illegal to procure, test, process or distribute sperm without a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. New legislation before Parliament aims to make it easier for lesbian couples to access NHS fertilisation services.
At present there is no prohibition on licensed clinics treating same-sex couples or single women but the law requires that NHS fertility clinics take account of the "need for a father" when assessing women for treatment.
In practice this can lead to clinics deciding not to accept lesbians and those women instead using "DIY" methods in order to conceive.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill contains new rules that will allow gay and lesbian couples to become the legal parents of a child conceived through donated sperm and replaces the "need for a father" with "responsible parenting."
The provisions also mean that lesbians will have equal access to fertility services, which could mean IVF but is much more likely to mean assisted conception.
At the moment if a lesbian couple have a baby, one partner has to formally adopt the child in order to be a parent, even if the child is conceived through a fertility clinic. The new rules would mean that civil partners will automatically become the legal parents of the child, even if the child is conceived 'informally' ie: not through a clinic. DIY sperm donation will still be legal but under the proposed laws the non-birth mother not in a civil partnership could not be on the birth certificate. The advantages of using a fertility clinic mean that the donor is registered, and cannot be legally held responsible for the child's welfare or upkeep. His name does not appear on the birth certificate.
Details of the donor, such as his last known address, name and medical information are kept and can be shown to the child when he or she reaches 18, or before if the legal parents consent. For men who may be asked by a lesbian friend to donate sperm, there is the legal reassurance that they can donate informally if they want, become a registered donor, and know that they will not be legally responsible for the child's maintenance. The legislation is facing opposition from religious figures, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown has allowed his MPs a free vote on the removal of the "need for a father" provisions.
A probe by the Department for Business and Enterprise revealed he lied to officials, forged documents and falsified debts in order to avoid handing over his assets and continue trading under a different name. He invented debts of more than £100,000 and claimed they were owed to a firm in Cyprus. Finally his business collapsed last year. No money was owed to donors for the site. But it is still unclear where Gonzales obtained the sperm. Two years ago health experts warned that buying sperm over the internet was dangerous. It could be riddled with disease or even come from animals, Department of Health chiefs said. had initial financial success. The site’s first baby, a boy, was born to lesbians Jaime Saphier, 26, and Sarah Watkinson, 31, of Liverpool. Gonzales continued to pull in more customers – while After the case, business minister Pat McFadden, said: “The Government is determined to crack down on cheats who profit by deception. When someone lies about their assets they are effectively stealing from honest creditors.


Gran Canarian prostitution ring has been smashed

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Police in Gran Canaria have smashed a prostitution ring which is thought to have brought at least 50 Brazilian women into the country posing as tourists. The racket is said to have earned the gang well in excess of one and a half million euros.
So far seven people have been arrested in connection with running the operation but further detentions are expected.
The investigation got underway following a tip-off that numerous women of an exotic, Brazilian aspect were to be seen leaving and entering a building in Las Palmas.
Like other such establishments, euphemistically advertised as casas de contactos, it had ceased operating on an undercover basis in recent months and was now openly trading under the name of Excita. The new openness of brothels in the region has made police vigilance easier.
The Brazilian women were here illegally, having long out-stayed their tourist visas.
Recruited in their native country, they were under no illusion as to what they were coming to the Canary Islands for and most were seasoned prostitutes. They were selected through photos e-mailed to Excita.
Those chosen were given airline tickets, cash and hotel reservations to allay any suspicions of border police. On arrival in Las Palmas they were taken straight to the club and presented with a bill of 1,500 euros which they had to work off before they could start earning for themselves.
The six men and one woman involved in running the racket included three local men as well as a Swiss, a Cuban and two Brazilians.


Two experienced divers were presumed drowned off Punta de Rasca in south Tenerife

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Two experienced divers were missing presumed drowned off Punta de Rasca in south Tenerife where they and a party of eight others had gone out for a morning’s diving.
It was shortly after 10am and after a submersion of some eighty minutes when the divers came up and discovered that two of their group were missing, one a 46-year-old Guardia Civil sergeant and the other a Belgian resident of Arona.
Immediately the alarm went up and a search and rescue operation got underway. Six launches with specialist divers and a helicopter combed the area but with no success.
As the hours passed hopes faded. The two men vanished in an area plagued by strong cross-currents and where depths can reach 40 metres or more.


Spain has a bigger real estate bubble than “even America”.

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“The real estate bubble is bigger than most European countries, even bigger than the one in the United States,”
“The real estate bubble is bigger than most European countries, even bigger than the one in the United States,” Alan Greenspan explained. “In that sense one would have to presume that there is more vulnerability.”His prognosis comes as it emerged that at least one leading bank, Cajasol, is refusing to fund new constructions on rural land and in particular new golf course schemes.In further proof of the property slowdown, new statistics show that property prices have gone down by up to 10 per cent in a number of Andalucian areas.In the worst slump for ten years, the Guadalhorce towns of Alhaurin el Grande and Alhaurin de la Torre have seen a drop of as much as 13 per cent over the last year.
In comparison with 2007 figures there have also been falls of nearly seven per cent in Antequera. Rincon de la Victoria has seen a drop of 10.3 per cent and Mijas has dropped by 6.2 per cent.The Eastern Costa del Sol in general has seen a property price slump of nearly five per cent.While the Western coast has managed to achieve a rise of five per cent, an estate agent on the coast – and even inland in Ronda, which has seen a rise of 9.8 per cent – admit that prices have actually fallen in real terms.The study carried out by real estate company Salvago estimated that prices will not recover until at least the end of 2009.In the interview with Spain’s leading newspaper El Pais, Greenspan particularly singled out Spain as being an economy in danger of being harder hit by the current economic slowdown.He said that other European economies, such as France and Germany, were “going well”, although with modest growth.He added that the UK had also developed positively and could avoid major recession if the right regulations are put in place.Greenspan’s sombre warning is reinforced by recent figures from the Malaga courts on the high amount of home owners who defaulted on their mortgage repayments.By the middle of March, court officials confirmed that they had already received some 155 cases which amounts to half of the total number of cases registered in the whole of last year.
Banks normally wait for three months before taking cases to court and even then all efforts are made to avoid repossession.


Mark Longhurst aka Mark Cadogan linked with crime gangs in Spain

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Mark Longhurst had links with crime gangs in Spain, was caught after an 18-month investigation. The 45-year-old, of Chapel House, Newcastle, admitted conspiring to supply cannabis and money laundering.
Newcastle Crown Court heard how Longhurst enjoyed exotic holidays, expensive cars and jewellery. As well as a jail term, Longhurst, who was arrested in March last year, was given an eight-year travel restriction order to run from his release from custody. The court also made a confiscation order for almost £923,757 - the biggest ever secured by the Northumbria force. He has six months to repay the proceeds of his crimes or he will have seven years added to his sentence, the hearing heard.
Det Insp John Cox, of Northumbria Police, said: "This investigation has not only smashed a national drugs ring, but it has also sent a clear message to those who deal in drugs that the police will leave no stone unturned to catch them.
"Longhurst was operating at the very highest level and his involvement in the wholesale distribution of cannabis was making him a lucrative living. "He had a team of conspirators working on his orders, and during the investigation we taped him arranging drug deals and bragging about the fortune he was making from his crimes."
In April 2006 police and customs seized £100,000 in euros and sterling that Longhurst was attempting to smuggle out of the country, the hearing heard. Assets, including an Aston Martin, two Nissan Pathfinders and a Rolex watch, were also seized.


Last piece of the coast goes under concrete largest tourist complexe in Europe to be built at Cabo Cope.

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A 21-million-square-metre area of land – which includes small rocky coves backed onto by farmers’ fields – is to be completely transformed.
The fate of one of the largest remaining areas of virgin coastline on the Spanish Mediterranean was sealed last week when councillors at Lorca and Águilas town halls voted in the initial modifications to their town plans in order to allow one of the biggest tourist complexes in Europe to be built at Cabo Cope.A total of 11,000 properties, 22,000 hotel places, five golf courses, 10 commercial zones, a theme park, a hypermarket, a casino and a marina for 2,000 boats are to be built in the area which falls in the municipalities of Lorca and Águilas.The giant Marina de Cope complex will have capacity to accommodate 58,000 people.It is being promoted by the Murcia regional government and part-bankrolled by energy giant Iberdrola with an investment of 200 million euros.IU councillor José García Murcia labelled the plan ‘environmental terrorism’. He said: “This is an absolute calamity. One of the last virgin areas of our coast is going to be ruined and we are going to lose irreplaceable natural heritage.”


Nueva Villa Lepe,The crew of a trawler based in Isla Cristina, Huelva province, were rescued out at sea.

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Four men jumped overboard minutes before the boat sank The crew of a trawler based in Isla Cristina, Huelva province, were rescued out at sea on Tuesday after they were forced to jump overboard when the boat began to sank some 20 miles off the coast of Punta Umbría. The call to the Coastguard came late on Tuesday morning when, according to the newspaper ‘Huleva Información,’ the crew reported that the ‘Nueva Villa Lepe,’ a boat which was just over two years old, was taking on water. They said they were trying to fix the problem and did not need any help.The Nueva Villa Lepe’s engineer, Rafael Fernández, later told the paper that ‘it was like the sinking of the Titanic, the stern flooded and the water went straight through to the rest of the boat before we scarcely had time to react.’ They jumped off the trawler minutes before it sank beneath the surface.Two of the crew were rescued by another trawler which was in the area, and the others by the Coastguard helicopter ‘Helimer Andalucía’ which the Coastguard had sent out as a precaution, along with a rescue boat, after receiving the original call. Two of the men needed hospital treatment for hypothermia, but were discharged later on Tuesday.


Santiago del Valle was ordered to prison without bail last weekend on charges of murder and against sexual freedom.

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Santiago del Valle, has been transferred to Granada prison for his own security.
His sister Rosa has been transferred in prison with him to the Granada jail of Albolote. Both were imprisoned firstly in Huelva on the orders of the judge in Instruction Court One in Huelva on March 22. A prison spokesman commented that such a transfer was normal in such circumstances.
Santiago del Valle was ordered to prison without bail last weekend on charges of murder and against sexual freedom.
Meanwhile Santiago’s wife, Isabel García, was admitted into the Sevilla II prison last week on the orders of Penal Court 1 in the city. It is for her to serve a 15 month prison sentence handed down on here for consenting to the sexual abuse carried out by her husband on their five year old daughter. She also faces new charges for her implication in the Mari Luz case.
judge Rafael Tirado and the magistrate from the Sevilla Provincial Court, Javier González, have both justified the errors made in previous cases against the main suspect in the killing of Mari Luz Cortés, the Huelva 5 year old, Santiago del Valle, as being due to excessive workload. They both claim that they lack manpower and resources in the courts and that is why two earlier orders to send Santiago del Valle to prison were not followed through.
Judge Rafael Tirado has already been accused by the General Council for Judicial Power, the body which oversees the judiciary in Spain, of a ‘ very serious error’ and could find himself sacked from the profession by them in a decision which is expected to be announced on Monday. The two judges are accused of ‘passivity and a lack of control’ in the case.
It comes as both the Governing Socialists and the Partido Popular opposition have agreed on the need to renovate the Council for Judicial Power itself. A meeting was held in Congress on Friday, ahead of the investiture of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero as Prime Minister this coming April 8, to discuss the matter.


Amy Fitzpatrick Police are reportedly looking for a second car

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Police are reportedly looking for another car linked to the disappearance of the 15 year old Irish youngster Amy Fitzpatrick who vanished from Mijas Costa three months ago.The Police now consider that, given the time passed without any news, that it is no longer likely that Amy left of her own free will on January 1. Searches carried out locally, and also in the Sierra de las Nieves have found nothing despite a report of some clothes being seen in the area by a resident of the village of Tolox when out collecting mushrooms.Government Sub-delegate for the province of Málaga, Hilario López Luna, said the police were looking for another car, although there are no reports on possible car model of colour. Police continue to search for an earlier car, owned by a family friend, and missing since Amy vanished, which is a white Ford Fiesta, registration number C955 SLK.


Marí Luz Cortés body taken in a supermarket trolley to the marshes before the family started to search for the child.

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In a reconstruction of the day which five year old Marí Luz Cortés disappeared from Huelva, allegedly at the hands of Santiago del Valle, the main suspect, has concluded that he killed the child and, with the help of his sister Isabel García, got rid of the body within forty-five minutes to an hour. He hid the body in a supermarket trolley and took it to the marshes before the family started to search for the child. When the child’s father and others accused him and visited his home, just 100 m away, the deed was done and Santiago del Valle was cool and collected.
The El Mundo newspaper reports today that back in 1992 Santiago del Valle managed to be paid 20 million pesetas compensation after his first daughter, Nuria Noelia del Valle Garcia, was run over in strange circumstances when she was just two years old. The family had been living in a car at the time, and used the money to buy a flat in the Tres Mil Viviendas area of Sevilla where they had two other daughters.
The Mari Luz case has highlighted deficiencies in the Spanish judiciary system, with Santiago del Valle on the streets despite two firm prison sentences handed down against him, and the El Mundo newspaper today gives another example of its shortcomings.


Russian gang has been given the job of kidnapping Mark Thatcher and taking him to Equatorial Guinea

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Russian gang has been given the job of kidnapping Mark Thatcher and taking him to Equatorial Guinea There are more claims in the press today about the situation of Sir Mark Thatcher who got married in a quiet ceremony on Gibraltar last week.
The Gibraltar Chronicle met him in the Rock Hotel yesterday and he told the paper that he would be on the Rock for a few days. He dismissed the suggestion, made in some parts of the Spanish media, that Sir Mark had returned to rock from Spain as he is wanted by the authorities in Equatorial Guinea, the former Spanish colony, after being implicated in the alleged funding of a coup attempt there in 2004. There is no extradition treaty in place between the UK and Gibraltar and the African country.
However Margaret Thatcher’s son denied that was his reason for remaining in Gibraltar, despite some reports of him owning property in Sotogrande, or renting in Marbella, over the border in Spain.Today brings new reports from the specialist United States newsletter, G2 Bulletin, have claimed that British agents based on the Costa del Sol have intercepted phone calls made between members of the Equatorial Guinea regime and a Russian gang called the Rising Sun. The reports say that the gang is involved in shipping cocaine into Europe, via Spain and West Africa.
The Gibraltar Chronicle says there is little evidence to indicate that Sir Mark is concerned about any possible kidnap plat which has been alleged.


The chief inspector of the unit against drugs and organised crime (UDYCO) in Marbella says he is ‘very affected’ by the accusations against him.

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The chief inspector of the unit against drugs and organised crime (UDYCO) in Marbella says he is ‘very affected’ by the accusations against him. He says if he has committed any infraction, it ‘must be administrative and not criminal’.
Alfredo M and his co-chief, Carlos F, are being held in preventative custody pending trial. Two others from the Fuengirola branch of UDYCO were released on conditional bail whilst a doctor from a Marbella clinic was bailed to the tune of 30,000 euros.
The inmate, identified as Alfredo M, denies belonging to a racket involving up to 16 other officers who allegedly pocketed stolen goods. Other charges including document forgery and illegal possession of firearms have been brought against various suspected members of the operation. But Alfredo M says he has ‘always worked to combat crime and the mafia’.


Costa del Sol villas and quality apartments in good locations have dropped by as much as £20,000 to £80,000.

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Costa del Sol villas and quality apartments in good locations have dropped by as much as £20,000 to £80,000. Some high-end properties costing over £1m have lost £200,000 off their initial valuations in the past few months. Sellers are also gravitating towards auction houses, where properties can achieve a fast sale at knock-down prices. Inez Rix of Direct Auctions says she has seen a huge increase in business from owners desperately trying to offload property. "Things are getting worse and people are dropping prices drastically where they can."On Direct Auction's website, properties are being listed as much as 60 per cent below their original valuations. Banks have been incredibly slow to alter their valuation criteria and take account of the crash, but nonetheless, their figures show the kinds of reductions that are now available. A one two-bedroom apartment near Fuengirola, for example, was recently valued at £148,000 and has dropped to £84,000 – that's £64,000 less. Another two-bed property in the same location is listed at £44,000 less than its valuation. One lovely villa in Marbella valued on paper at £570,000 is now on the market at £492,000, a drop of nearly £80,000.As property prices dip, Rix has seen an increase in the number of owners falling into negative equity, and the banks are sitting on a growing cache of repossessions.

One would expect the institutions to sell them off at rock-bottom prices but this is not happening, because there is no precedent of mass repossessions in Spain. "Many people realise they aren't going to sell their homes in a month of Sundays and are just walking away," says Rix. "The banks are being slow to sell properties to cover their costs but we expect more properties to come on to the market over the next two years." Which means anyone prepared to play a waiting game could bag a real bargain. Most properties showing big reductions are new-builds, bought by investors hoping to sell before completion and in advance of the mortgage kicking in, a practice known as flipping. However, there are also rural properties and exclusive estates being sold at rock-bottom prices by owners who have simply been caught out by the upheaval.
Derek Blaney stopped selling off-plan several years ago when he saw the market becoming overheated and says more responsible agents are glad that the recent scandals and market forces have made the industry more transparent. "Things had to be cleaned up," he says. "Property was being seen as a sheer commodity, people were buying through greed and with no emotional attachment."
Who can blame buyers when they were being wooed with promises of huge returns that now seem impossible? With the credit crisis biting deep, there may be further room for prices in Spain to fall. For those who bought in Spain a year or two ago, none of this will come as any consolation. But for those looking to buy a place in the sun, it's worth following the selling prices of the nicer properties, and steering well clear of vast developments. At some stage, the outlook will change. It may not boom, but it must at some stage level off. And buyers who get the timing right could be on to a good deal indeed.


Spain extradited Ricardo Miguel Cavallo

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Spain extradited Ricardo Miguel Cavallo, a former member of Argentina's armed forces suspected of crimes against humanity committed under his home country's military dictatorship, Efe reported.
Cavallo will arrive in Buenos Aires later today, the newswire said, citing police sources. Madrid's National Court authorized his extradition two weeks ago after shelving a case in Spain accusing him of genocide, terrorism and torture, Efe said.
Cavallo had been in Spain since 2003 after being extradited to the country from Mexico, Efe said. An Argentine judge had requested his extradition from Spain in 2006, Efe reported. The Argentine military is suspected of killing as many as 30,000 people in a ``dirty war'' against its opponents, many of whom were kidnapped and tortured, during the 1976 to 1983 dictatorship.


Marí Luz Cortés errors made which resulted in the death of the five year old from Huelva

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second judge is to be investigated regarding the errors made which resulted in the death of the five year old from Huelva, Marí Luz Cortés. The magistrate, Javier González, took nearly three years to confirm the sentence which condemned Santiago del Valle to prison for abusing his own five year old daughter.
Meanwhile the General Council for Judicial Power, the body which oversees the judiciary in Spain has admitted that mistakes were made, and they have opened a full investigation. Spokesman, Enrique López, said also that the permanent commission of the CGJP had not detected any serious irregularities in the court which finally sentenced the main suspect in the Mari Luz case, and that therefore the system had to be improved and they would be putting forward a series of ideas.
The first judge named to be under investigation following the revelation that Santiago del Valle remained at large despite to firm prison sentences against him on earlier child abuse charges, was Judge Rafael Torres from Penal Court One in Sevilla. His court sentenced del Valle to prison for two years and nine months, but failed to enforce the prison order. He has been accused in the press of lying when he blamed civil servants for the errors. Both the judges now face some sort of disciplinary action, which could be announced as early as this Friday.
Meanwhile the acting Minister for Justice, Mariano Fernández Bermejo, has said that he considers the case of Mari Luz to be ‘an anomaly’ in Spanish justice. He described it as ‘infrequent’ and where a chain of unfortunate errors had been made. He said it was fundamental that the law be met, and to cover things up with talk of life imprisonment was ‘hardly serious’.