Work to rule threatens airports and border

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Protests over wages by National Police officers could bring airports and border crossings to a standstill in July with officers threatening to scrupulously follow the rules - checking almost everyone entering or leaving the country, filing charges for all offences and filling in all the relevant paperwork.The protests are due to take place on Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout July in a bid to force the interior ministry to equate officers’ salaries with those of higher-paid regional police forces.


Half a million British expatriates living on Spain’s Costa Blanca are to lose their right to free healthcare

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Half a million British expatriates living on Spain’s Costa Blanca are to lose their right to free healthcare under a radical new law introduced by the provincial government.The Spanish authorities say that providing for 500,000 Britons - most of whom are over 50 - and other European residents living in the Valencia region is placing an impossible burden on the country’s health service.Valencia region can no longer afford expats’ bills as housing market slides
In 2002 the provincial government offered free healthcare to all expats - not just UK pensioners or those working and paying tax in Spain - in order to encourage Britons and other northern Europeans to invest in the Costa Blanca’s then lucrative property market. However, with house prices collapsing, the Valencia government last week announced that the concession had been withdrawn. The move echoed a similar ruling last year against British early retirees in France.A spokesman for the regional health ministry said: ‘It is costing us an extra €1bn [£790m] annually to look after a million new residents as well as long-stay tourists, and our services are at saturation point. Some come to Spain to have their heart operation or hip replacement here at a better standard and more quickly than in their own country.’The decision has so alarmed the British community that health centres and the British consulate in Alicante have been flooded with calls. A British embassy spokesman said UK pensioners and individuals on long-term incapacity benefit who are living permanently in Spain would be unaffected, as they are covered under a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK. Those who will lose their entitlement - mainly early retirees aged over 50 - were being advised to take out private health insurance.The Spanish move comes just two months after the Department of Health closed the door on free NHS care for British expats visiting the UK. Only those still living in the EU who have obtained a European health insurance card - which provides holiday cover only - from their new country of residence will be allowed emergency treatment. However, people such as the Bridges, who are being excluded from the Spanish health service, will no longer be eligible for a card.
Political parties run by expats - some of whose members won seats in local elections last year - and other pressure groups are petitioning the British embassy and regional government. Bob Houliston, 71, a retired diplomat who is now president of a party representing the 20,000 expat residents of the Orihuela area, said: ‘It should surely be possible for UK and Valencia government authorities to find solutions for those who could otherwise face real hardship.’British residents in France put up such a fight against the withdrawal of healthcare rights that President Nicolas Sarkozy did a U-turn and the ruling now only applies to newcomers. However, many expats in Spain are battle-weary after years of challenging the country’s property laws and doubt that a government defying the European Parliament on that count will be responsive.Property sales have fallen by up to 40 per cent on the Costa Blanca in the past year, according to the Spanish government. Expat leaders say the only way forward is to gain political power. Expat parties now plan to create a federation to fight local and national elections.


55-year-old, identified in German media as Mikhail R., was picked up at his Berlin apartment on Thursday on the basis of a European arrest warrant

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A suspected Russian mafia lynchpin has been arrested in Berlin, following a swoop on Russian money launderers and arms traffickers in Spain, prosecutors said Saturday.
The 55-year-old, identified in German media as Mikhail R., was picked up at his Berlin apartment on Thursday on the basis of a European arrest warrant requested by Spanish authorities.A court will decide whether to extradite the man, who is wanted on charges of money laundering, forgery and providing support to a criminal organization, the Berlin prosecutor's office said.
Spanish police detained at least 20 Russian mafia suspects in raids carried out in the southern Costa del Sol, Barcelona, Madrid, Alicante and the Balearic Islands on June 13.They were believed to be members of the Tamboskaya crime syndicate, named after the village of Tambos near St Petersburg, where most of the gang came from.
The network, which had been active in Spain since the late 1990s, was suspected of laundering money from criminal activities elsewhere, contract killings and trafficking in arms.The man arrested in Berlin was reportedly the right-had man of the boss of the mafia clan.


Mark Thatcher faces eviction from his Costa del Sol hideaway

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Mark Thatcher faces eviction from his Costa del Sol hideaway after his landlord branded him the tenant from hell.The disgraced son of former Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is being taken to court to get him out of the £1.5million villa he has rented for two years.Exasperated landlord Stephen Humberstone claimed that Thatcher, 54, has broken antiques, messed up the garden and is months in arrears with his rent. The fellow Old Harrovian said: "If you see him, punch him on the nose for me, would you?"The news comes after a week in which Thatcher was accused of being a key player in a plot to overthrow the ruler of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea in West Africa.Mr Humberstone said: "I'm issuing court proceedings. I want to evict him. He doesn't pay the rent, he alters the garden - he does what he bloody well wants."I don't want to go round there because I'll lose my temper.
He's deeply unpleasant."He put all my furniture into my gardener's van and sent it down to some office so I didn't know where it was. It wasn't even wrapped and it was smashed, but he didn't care. He just wanted it out of the house.
"He went to the same school as me and was in the same house, and this is how he treats people."Thatcher has been paying £5,500 a month rent for Casa Flores, where he lives with his new wife Sarah Russell.The £1.5million four-bed villa with a secluded outdoor pool is surrounded by closed-circuit TV.Visitors to the development in the hills above the resort of Marbella need permission to enter.The area is nicknamed the Costa del Crime, because of the number of ex-pat British crooks there.
Thatcher's lawyer has now been sent a fax demanding rent due since March. Thatcher - nicknamed "Thickie Mork" at Harrow - must pay up or face eviction.But Thatcher, who has a hereditary baronetcy from father Denis, is thought to be looking for a property in Gibraltar where he can dodge paying tax.Despite having £64million, he would pay only £20,000 tax a year if he had an address there.Thatcher last night refused to comment on his landlord's claims.


British mother has been arrested in Spain after she allegedly left her five-year-old son to burn on a baking hot beach for 12 hours

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British mother has been arrested in Spain after she allegedly left her five-year-old son to burn on a baking hot beach for 12 hours while she went to work.
The boy's mother, aged 19, reportedly left him playing in the sand at the popular resort of Benalmadena, in the Costa del Sol, where he suffered serious sunburn and had to be later admitted to hospital.According to locals, at around 10am the woman went to work at the top of the beach for five hours, but failed to collect her child when she finished her shift.The boy is said to have later made his way to the stall, reportedly covered in blisters. 'He looked desperate for a drink and was crying his heart out.'The stallholder managed to get the girl on the phone at around 8pm.
'But it was nearly 10pm before she turned up, claiming she couldn’t find anyone to give her a lift.'She started screaming and threatening people who had helped out.'
Police arrested the woman at the scene, having being called earlier in a bid to find her.A local police spokesman refused to comment except to confirm: 'It’s being dealt with by National Police.'It is believed the woman is from Scotland and moved to Spain after meeting a man on holiday there.A police source added: 'The burns were serious enough to warrant hospitalisation.'She could be charged with abandonment and child neglect.'


20 year old Romanian man has been arrested by police

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20 year old Romanian man has been arrested by police in Madrid in connection with the death of a German pensioner couple who were stabbed to death last Monday night in their attic flat home in Teulada.The arrested man had been working as the gardener in the complex where the Germans, aged 78 and 85, had previously lived in Benissa, and police think that he knew that the couple had a large amount of money in cash as they were about to purchase a villa. The accused is said to have taken that money from the couple’s safe.
Informacíon newspaper in Alicante reports this morning that the accused was turned into the police by his girlfriend. He will go before the court in Dénia later today.


Amy Fitzpatrick psychic investigator Joe Power told Spanish police they should search a fenced-off area in the Costa del Sol

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An Englishman who describes himself as a psychic investigator has claimed that clues to finding missing Amy Fitzpatrick are to be found in an area of land in Spain.
Joe Power told Spanish police they should search a fenced-off area in the Costa del Sol for clues after he travelled to Spain in cooperation with one of the missing teenager's aunts.Dubliner Amy Fitzpatrick disappeared on the night of January 1, while walking to her mother's Spanish home in Calahonda, near Fuengirola.
Mr Power, who twice travelled to Spain after he was in contact with Amy's aunt Christine Kenny in Dublin, told police that he had found an area in the region that police should search.No clues to Amy's disappearance have yet been found and some of her relatives have been desperate for any possible help from anyone. Ms Kenny has also been in contact with Irishwoman Maura Martin who has also made claims that she has special abilities to help locate the missing girl.Mr Power has stated he gives much of his time seeking the whereabouts of missing persons and murder victims in the UK. He claimed to have come up with clues during the search for missing English child Shannon Matthews. He now claims that clues to Amy's disappearance can be found in an area which is about 12 kilometres from where Amy went missing.
The area is at the back of a Costa Del Sol hospital heading onto farm land in Los Altos.The following 'clues' are to be found in this area, he has claimed:
l Scrap cars which may lead to the white car which has also been missing since Amy disappeared.l The missing car was in this area on the night Amy went missing, he says.l A rusty diesel metal tank is in the area which could be a clue.l A yellow house above a ravine in the area has appeared in an 'image' which Power claims could be a clue.Meanwhile, Christine Kenny continues to campaign for the introduction of a European Alert System for missing children, similar to the Amber Alert System which operates in the US when a child is abducted. Her campaign has so far resulted in more than 11,000 signatures on an online and paper petition.


Gennadios Petrov, the alleged head of the Tambovskaya-Malyshevkaya gang in Spain

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Gennadios Petrov, the alleged head of the Russian mafia in Spain.Petrov is said to head the Tambovskaya-Malyshevkaya gang from the sunny climes of Calvi, one of the most exclusive villages in Majorca. He counted among his neighbours Pilar de Borbón, the sister of King Juan Carlos of Spain.Accustomed to handing out tips of €500 (£393) and not looking at the price tag when buying designer jackets, Petrov lived surrounded by tight security. But the peace at his €20m mansion was rudely interrupted when the Spanish police came knocking on Friday.In a major operation, codenamed Troika, 20 alleged members of the organised crime organisation said to have been led by Petrov were arrested in Majorca, Málaga, Alicante, Valencia and Madrid. Police seized 23 luxury cars including Bentleys and Ferraris and €200,000 in cash.The Dalí painting, signed by the Surrealist master and dated 1949, was found at a luxury mansion in Valencia linked to Petrov. More than 100 bank accounts containing a reported €14m were also frozen.Spain’s leading anti-terrorist judge, Baltasar Garzón, who tried to prosecute former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, charged Petrov and 17 others with a variety of offences including money-laundering, murder, extortion, drug dealing, illicit association, falsification of documents and tax fraud. They will appear before a maximum security court in Madrid today.The gang, said to be one of the most brutal in Russia, allegedly set up a web of front companies in Spain to launder millions in illegal property deals gained from criminal activities in Russia and the former Soviet states.After the raids, which involved 300 police, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the interior minister, said: “This is the largest crackdown on organised crime in Europe.”The operation was carried out with the help of German, US and Russian police.Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Russian mafia has gained ground in Spain, exploiting lax property laws and limited police resources to launder millions in property deals through bogus firms and into tax havens such as Gibraltar. Petrov, who is in his 50s, arrived in Spain in the early 90s, and allegedly used cash from the former KGB and communist party to buy a luxury hotel in Majorca.Operation Troika is the latest stage of an ongoing investigation into the Russian mafia in Spain, which began in 2005 with the arrest of 28 suspects.


25 people were arrested Tuesday in a new swoop against real estate corruption in Estepona, including the Socialist Mayor, Antonio Barrientos

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25 people were arrested Tuesday in a new swoop against real estate corruption in Estepona, including the Socialist Mayor, Antonio Barrientos and several councillors. Also in custody are the municipal architect Arturo Cebrián, the Councillor for Hacienda , Francisco Zamorano.Police sources indicate that the operation comes following an investigation into allegedly irregular financing in the Town Hall.

Agents from the Economic and Financial Crime UDEF specialist unit of the National Police started searching the Town Hall early in the morning after the investigation, started by a court in Estepona in 2006 with the support of the Málaga Prosecutors’ Office, had established evidence by using telephone taps. When the size of the case, codenamed ‘astapa’ became apparent, the Attorney General, Cándido Conde-Pumpido, was brought in, who, after reading the reports, passed it to the Anti Corruption Prosecutors Office in MálagaThe Town Hall’s town planning and tax offices were also searched today, as was the Mayor’s home in the Bahía Azul urbanisation. The Mayor left his home under arrest at 2pm, in the company of members of the National Police. We was taken to the Town Hall where a crowd had gathered and who greeted him with booing.Those arrested face charges of influence peddling, perversion of the course of justice and money laundering, in a case which sources say is linked to the re-classification of land in the municipality for building. The allegation is that local land was sold to several companies at prices far lower than the market rate, and that those councillors who signed the deals received an economic benefit in exchange.


Monzer al-Kassar lived an openly lavish lifestyle as the so-called "Prince of Marbella" like a villain out of a James Bond movie.

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Monzer al-Kassar has played a key role in some of the worst atrocities committed against Israeli and Jewish civilians, and his links to one Arab regime in particular - that of his native country, Syria - deserve special scrutiny at a moment when Jerusalem is just about to begin potentially historic negotiations with its government. Kassar, 63, is an international arms dealer, and, by some accounts, has spent much of his lifetime as a key supplier of weapons to many of the worst enemies of Israel, America and the West.
Earlier this year, he was arrested by Spanish authorities after allegedly offering to sell weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, to agents of the US Drug Enforcement Agency posing as representatives of Colombia's FARC guerrilla group. On Friday he was extradited from Madrid to New York City, where he is scheduled to face trial on charges that also include conspiracy and money-laundering.
The list of Kassar's alleged clients is a long one, ranging from Somali warlords to Bosnian militias, Brazilian rebels to Iranian agents. He is also rumored to have worked at times with Western governments - for example, as a middleman in the arms deals of the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s. This has led to claims that such ties have helped him remain relatively unmolested by authorities, for years living an openly lavish lifestyle as the so-called "Prince of Marbella" like a villain out of a James Bond movie. Kassar is also alleged to be a major supplier of weaponry to Palestinian terror organizations. His major legal entanglement prior to the current case against him came in 1995, when he was charged by Spanish authorities with providing the guns and explosives used by the Abu Abbas terror cell in their hijacking of the ship Achille Lauro, and the subsequent brutal murder of American Jew Leon Klinghoffer. Kassar denied the charges, but not the fact that he was a friend and supporter of Abu Abbas, telling the The Guardian two years ago: "No, you cannot call him a terrorist. He's a hero. He's a hero in the eyes of the Arabs ... I don't allow you to call him terrorist!" Kassar's acquittal in that case has led to allegations that Madrid allowed him to operate as long as he kept his business off Spanish soil and away from Spain's enemies. But Washington has in recent years stepped up its pursuit of Kassar and the pressure for his extradition, no doubt because he has been fingered as a key arms supplier for the Iraqi insurgents killing US troops. Among his reputed governmental links, there is no doubt that his closest one through the years has been to the rulers of his homeland.
Kassar's father was a significant early backer of Hafez Assad, and later served him in various senior diplomatic positions. Kassar himself is considered to be a personal protege of longtime Syrian defense minister Mustafa Tlas, one of the top figures in the Ba'athist oligarchy that has maintained an iron grip on the country for over four decades. Among the many unsavory services Kassar is alleged to have provided for Damascus is facilitating its role in the international narcotics business. Having himself been arrested in his younger days for hashish smuggling, he is believed to have played a major role in the export and distribution of the bountiful harvest of the Lebanese Bekaa Valley opium fields that long operated under Syrian protection.
Perhaps Kassar's most nefarious role is one that won't get mentioned in the New York courthouse where he will soon stand trial - the part some informed sources believe he played in the bombings of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and the Argentinean capital's AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires in 1994. Kasser was among a number of businessmen of Syrian origin or roots believed to have close ties with Carlos Menem, himself the child of Syrian immigrants, providing the Argentinean president with funds and contacts used to help further his political career, and in return protecting them from prosecution for their links to terrorist groups. In 2000, Kassar was indicted by an Argentinean court for using fraudulent documents in order to obtain citizenship there eight years earlier, possibly with Menem's assistance.
Another Argentinean judicial investigation into Kassar's activities uncovered a source claiming that the sophisticated Centex (C-4) explosive used in the Buenos Aires bombings had originated in a Spanish factory owned by Kassar, and been smuggled into Argentina via his contacts with Syrian intelligence. Just last month, an Argentinean prosecutor asked a local court for permission to arrest Menem, on charges he covered up the involvement of Syrian-Argentinean individuals connected with the bombings.
Although focus on foreign involvement in these atrocities usually emphasizes the alleged Iranian role in their execution, Kassar serves as a useful reminder of the part Damascus is believed to have played in them.
Given the shadowy and Byzantine nature of Syrian politics, it is difficult to know the nature of Kassar's current standing with the government of Basher Assad. But as Israel sits down to negotiate with Damascus over issues that decisively touch on this country's most sensitive security concerns, this shady super-criminal is an all-too-fitting exemplar of the dark side of Damascus, one that goes far beyond simply the shelter and aid it openly provides to such groups as Hamas and Hizbullah.


25,000 armed police were used to get traffic moving and restore calm after clashes between protesters and lorry drivers who refused to strike.

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25,000 armed police were used to get traffic moving and restore calm after clashes between protesters and lorry drivers who refused to strike.Authorities promised to provide police escorts to drivers wanting to work in an effort to restore the flow of supplies across the country, after fuel pumps ran dry and supermarket shelves emptied.On Wednesday, a driver working for a non-striking company suffered burns to 25 per cent of his body when his vehicle was set on fire.The incident followed the deaths of two men – one in Spain and another in Portugal – who were run over while manning picket lines.
British tourists reported being targeted. David Copestake, 40, an estate agent with a holiday home on the Costa del Sol, said his car was pelted with stones. "One rock smashed into the windscreen, heading straight for my head," he said.
Despite 6,000 lorries being given armed escorts to deliver food, fuel and other supplies to markets and distribution centres, there were reports that some dairies and farms had ceased production. Some medicines are in short supply.
While most drivers went back to work on Wednesday with a promise of tax relief on fuel, two unions representing about 12 per cent of the nation's owner-drivers refused to back down.In Portugal, drivers called off their strike after they accepted a government package of measures including lower motorway tolls and tax breaks.


Holidaymakers have been warned that fresh food supplies are running low in Spanish shops Supermarket shelves in Marbella were almost empty yesterday

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Holidaymakers have been warned that fresh food supplies are running low in Spanish shops and restaurants after the third day of a truckers' strike.Supermarkets, bars and eateries have been unable to restock essentials such as meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. Some restaurants in the Costa del Sol were yesterday offering reduced menus and many feared they will be forced to shut within days.The striking drivers have blocked off wholesale food markets and brought ports, including Alicante, Malaga, Valencia and Barcelona, to a virtual standstill.
Irish holidaymakers in Alicante and Malaga encountered queues at supermarkets and petrol stations yesterday. Xavier Martin, director of Majorca's food market Mercapalma, said stocks of fruit and vegetables will run out unless the dispute is resolved. The strike by 90,000 self-employed drivers has sparked panic buying of food and fuel. Supermarket shelves in Marbella were almost empty yesterday.


Costa del Sol, where hundreds of foreigners, especially Britons, have unwittingly purchased illegally-built homes.

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article over the weekend in the Spanish daily EL Pais, entitled ‘La Axarquia, a building and whitewash catastrophe’, shed light on the urban planning and illegal building problems in the La Axarquia region of the Costa del Sol, where hundreds of foreigners, especially Britons, have unwittingly purchased illegally-built homes.
La Axarquia is a county of 29 coastal and interior municipalities in eastern part of Malaga province, and is also part of the Costa del Sol. The number of illegal properties in La Axarquia depends upon who you talk to: 10,000 says the Regional government of Andalucia (Junta), and 21,500 say local environmentalists. The villages a little bit inland are the worst affected.Illegal constructions on rural land have surged in the last decade, driven largely by demand from British buyers for a life of sunshine in the countryside. For example, the village of Alcaucin has gone from having 1,015 properties in 1998 to 1,538 in 2007, an expansion of 52%. Many of the new properties built in the region over the last decade do not have utility connections.Uncontrolled urban development has degraded the region, perhaps irreversibly, says the article, and it has all taken palace before the very eyes of the authorities, who have been unable, or unwilling, to intervene. Many small municipalities lacked the resources to put a stop to illegal building, whilst local mayors found that giving free rein to building was a vote winner amongst locals, who could sell their small rural holdings, formerly worth very little, to British buyers for hundreds of thousands of Euros.Many properties have been built with planning permission that exploits a loophole for agricultural housing, though local farmers now appear to have names like Ronald, Terry, Michael and Patrick.In one case, dozens of properties have been illegally built on protected land around the reservoir of Viñuela, feeding sewage into the province’s biggest reservoir. Incompetence and delays by the Junta in finalising definitive urban master plans have exacerbated the problem. Hundreds of properties built on rural land are excluded from the plans, and at risk of demolition. As a concession to local authorities that will have to deal with the problem, the Junta agreed to set up a body to evaluate the legalisation of 85% of illegally built properties in return for compensation from owners. However, nothing has been done to this end.Despite the problems, all local political parties agree that construction – until recently the engine of the local economy – must be allowed to continue.


Mark Thatcher in hiding at Casa Flores rumours abound of kidnap squads Russian gangs has been mentioned being recruited to snatch Sir Mark

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It would be hard to find a better bolt hole than the Casa Flores, a luxury villa hidden in dense forest on a mountain above San Pedro de Alcantara, southern Spain.
Casa Flores is part of a complex called El Madronal. Unlike the high-density “urbanisations” that now disfigure the entire Mediterranean coast of Spain, El Madronal offers luxury, privacy and, above all, security. A central control room within the huge complex monitors all movement 24 hours a day via a bank of CCTV screens. The steep terrain makes El Madronal inaccessible other than through one
of six electronic gates, where visitors must state their business. Their names, addresses and car registration numbers are logged in the control room. A guard then contacts the property being visited and if the owner agrees, the iron gates roll open. (I was only able to gain access by posing as a potential buyer; Sotheby’s International Realty kindly escorted me in to view a villa currently on the market for a trifling E4m.) Another set of electronic gates protects every property, each of which has its own alarm system.
None of this was enough for the man who rented Casa Flores for E7,000 a month two years ago. Before he moved in with his then girlfriend, he spent £35,000 on additional security precautions that made Casa Flores virtually impregnable. But after the latest episode in his inglorious career, Sir Mark Thatcher probably has more to worry about than most. Famous for getting lost during the Paris-Dakar motor rally and making his mother cry in public, notorious for shamelessly exploiting her name to further dodgy business ventures, renowned for his rudeness, arrogance and pomposity, and no stranger to controversy, none of his previous dubious escapades can compare with his reckless involvement in an ill-fated plot to oust the offal-loving president of Equatorial Guinea. While publicly denying any significant role, in January 2005 Sir Mark pleaded guilty in South Africa, after a plea bargain, to “unwittingly” abetting the coup. He was fined 3m rand (£266,000), given a suspended four-year jail term, and obliged to leave South Africa, his home for a decade. As part of the deal, he is required to co-operate with the ongoing investigation, a rider that may yet come to haunt him. Many observers concluded that he got away lightly – the youth wing of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress called the deal “an abomination and miscarriage of justice” – but he is not yet out of the woods. It seems President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who is not a man to cross, is determined that the son of our former prime minister should stand trial in Equatorial Guinea alongside his Old Etonian friend Simon Mann, the alleged leader of the plot who is currently languishing in Equatorial Guinea’s infamous Black Beach prison. Although there are no extradition treaties between Equatorial Guinea and the EU, Obiang has noted that the US no longer troubles with the tedious details of legal process and moves prisoners around the world by “extraordinary rendition”. He sees no reason why he should not follow suit. Thus it is that rumours abound of kidnap squads – a Russian gang has been mentioned – being recruited to snatch Sir Mark, spirit him away and produce him in an Equatorial Guinea courthouse, where his chances of a fair trial would be rather less than even and he could expect a sentence in excess of 30 years. The unfortunate Mann, removed with what he called “gratuitous violence” from a prison in Zimbabwe to Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, earlier this year, faces the same fate. Jose Olo Obono, the country’s attorney-general, has promised that Sir Mark will be pursued “wherever he goes”. If the South African authorities require Sir Mark to return to answer further questions – and he is legally obligated to do so – a kidnap operation would be much simpler. Alternatively, Obiang could seek rougher justice by simply putting a bounty on Sir Mark’s head and wait for someone to claim it. Thatcher’s life began to fall apart after his conviction in 2005. His American wife, Diane, returned to the US with the children, and in September the couple announced their intention to divorce. She was furious with her husband about the Equatorial Guinea adventure, and she was fed up with his infidelities, having caught him cheating twice. Diane has always avoided the limelight and is thus mistakenly viewed as a somewhat insipid member of the high-profile family she married into. When introduced to Mrs Thatcher at Chequers in 1984, she was surprised by the formal way Mark addressed his mother. “Prime Minister,” he said, “this is Diane Burgdorf.” The formality endured: Diane was never encouraged to call her mother-in-law anything other than Mrs Thatcher or Lady Thatcher. In the autumn of 1989, shortly after the birth of their first child, they took a 10-day break at the Eden Roc hotel in Antibes, where they met the three vivacious daughters of the millionaire property developer Terence Clemence. While they were enjoying themselves, the Thatchers, Sarah-Jane Clemence recalled, behaved like “Mr and Mrs Glum”. Diane returned to Dallas while Mark flew to Paris, where he had business to attend to. Her suspicions were raised when she looked at his American Express statement and noticed that huge charges from the Ritz had been billed to his account, along with a second air ticket from the Riviera. By then Mark was in London. Diane hired a private detective and had him followed, and she was soon in possession of a photo of her husband with a woman he was spending all his time with: Sarah-Jane Clemence. When Mark got back to Dallas she confronted him with the evidence. He admitted it immediately, pleaded for her forgiveness, and promised never to see Sarah-Jane again. But Diane was not finished. The private detective had provided her with the phone number of her husband’s lover. Diane called her and asked for a meeting. Amazingly, the other woman agreed. They met in Sarah-Jane’s flat in London for what Diane describes as a “friendly chat”, although one can imagine the atmosphere was somewhat frosty. “I wanted to appeal to her sense of what was right and thought I’d gotten through to her,” Diane says. The Thatchers did their best to patch up their relationship with marriage counselling, but a few years later Mark returned from a health farm in California acting strangely, very taciturn, moody and critical of everything. Diane began to worry that he was having another affair. She said she prayed for help: “God, if you want me to know something, please let me find it out.” She would help God along a little. When Mark made a lame excuse for another business trip to California she waited until he was asleep then went into his dressing room and found his travel itinerary, flight number and hotel reservation. Next morning, she booked herself on an earlier flight.
When Thatcher walked into the lobby of a Santa Monica hotel with his arm around a pretty American air-force pilot, his wife was sitting on a sofa waiting for him. He looked, she said, “as if he had seen a ghost”. What she described as “a little confrontation” followed. He tried to introduce the woman as a business associate but Diane snorted “I’m not stupid”, and she beat a hasty retreat. After this Diane said she wanted a divorce. Thatcher seemed resigned to the fact, but over the next few weeks and after another round of marriage counselling, they effected some kind of reconciliation for the sake of their children. Diane agonised at length about whether she should go with Mark to South Africa and she was not unhappy that she did so, particularly when she became a member of a women’s bible-study group. It was his irresponsible foolhardiness getting involved with the Equatorial Guinea coup and putting his family at risk that finally convinced her to end the marriage. “I think his choice not to pull out when he became suspicious showed his priorities,” she said. “He was incredibly selfish, putting his own needs for self-fulfilment, greed and lust for power before his family.” Diane’s decision to return to Dallas with the children effectively cut them off from their father. With a criminal conviction, there was no possibility of his obtaining a visa to enter the US. Amanda, then 12, took it badly and wrote an anguished letter to President Bush: “You know how you feel about your daughters? I want my Daddy back in America.” She received no reply.
During the spring and summer of 2005 they got together for two family holidays in the Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands. Diane briefly considered a reconciliation, but then she discovered Mark was again seeing Sarah-Jane, who in the interim had become Lady Francis Russell, having married in 1996. It was the final straw and she filed for divorce
It is ironic that he should have ended up, temporarily at least, on the Costa del Sol, since it is the traditional haunt of Englishmen with criminal records. You can usually find one or two in Sinatra Bar in Puerto Banus. Deeply tanned, heavily tattooed and festooned with bling, they sit staring at the moored superyachts with rheumy eyes, perhaps dreaming of their favourite pub in south London, or a dish of jellied eels. Understandably, Sir Mark does not socialise much with the expatriate criminal fraternity and is never seen in the fleshpots of Puerto Banus or Marbella, usually only leaving his forest fastness for a round of golf or business meetings in Gibraltar. “Mark Thatcher keeps a very low profile around here,” says David Eade, a stringer for the Costa del Sol News. “Interest in his comings and goings is about zero.” Nobody seems to know how he passes the time, where he goes, or who he meets. His reputation as a businessman can hardly have been enhanced by his arrest and conviction in South Africa, yet he apparently still travels to Russia and Japan in pursuit of “oil deals”. If asked about his business he likes to say he “gambles on oil tankers”. Interest in his comings and goings is much greater in Equatorial Guinea where, earlier this year, a warrant was issued for his arrest. A mosquito-infested jungle hellhole tucked into the armpit of Africa, Equatorial Guinea has one of the worst human-rights records on the continent. A predecessor of Obiang, who seized power in a bloody coup in 1979, set a new standard in brutality by executing 150 opponents in a sports stadium to the broadcast strains of Mary Hopkin’s Those Were the Days.In truth, nobody gave a damn about the former Spanish colony until oil was discovered there in 1996. Sewage ran through the streets of Malabo, there was little drinking water, and no regular electricity supply. Oil brought prosperity, but only to the ruling elite: Obiang and his family misappropriate much of the country’s £370m annual oil revenue, while the majority of the country’s 500,000 wretched inhabitants still languish in poverty on less than 50p a day. In 2000, Thatcher attempted to do business with Equatorial Guinea through a company called Cogito, which he had set up to provide security advice and intelligence to multi-national companies in Africa. Cogito offered Obiang a £134,000 contract to gather intelligence on his opponents and draw up threat assessments. Thatcher hoped it would lead to securing valuable oil concessions, but in the end Obiang rejected the offer. The source of both Thatcher’s so-called business expertise and his fortune (estimated in the 2006 Sunday Times Rich List at £64m) is a mystery. He failed to shine academically at Harrow, where his nickname was “Thickie Mork”, and gave up a career in accountancy after failing his exams three times. Only when his mother became prime minister in 1979 did his business career take off: five months after Mrs Thatcher moved into Downing Street, Mark set up his own “international consultancy” company, Monteagle Marketing, and found his services much in demand, trading on his mother’s name and promoting everything from sportswear to whisky. There were a few hiccups, particularly when Mummy was banging the drum and exhorting everyone to “buy British” while her son was discussing a lucrative sponsorship deal with a Japanese textile firm. The Financial Times memorably described him as a “sort of Harrovian Arthur Daley with a famous mum”. It was not long before Mark was viewed as a serious liability in Downing Street, although no one dared raise the subject with his mother. Mrs Thatcher had a blind spot about her son. When Bernard Ingham, Mrs Thatcher’s plain-speaking press secretary, was asked how Mark could best help in an upcoming re-election campaign, he famously replied: “Leave the country.” In 1981 there was the threat of a full-blown scandal when it was alleged that he received £1m commission for the construction of a university in Oman, a contract negotiated by his mother. The affair led to difficult questions being asked in the Commons. Three years later he was said to have received a £12m kickback on the £40 billion Al-Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia, again pushed through by his mother. Complaining he was being victimised by the media and that he was “not appreciated” (a fundamental truth, if ever there was one), Thatcher decamped to the US, where he met Diane Burgdorf, the daughter of a Texas millionaire car dealer, whom he would marry in 1987. Meanwhile, a confidential briefing prepared in March 1984 for George Shultz, then the US secretary of state, offered a withering view of Mark Thatcher, businessman: “Most of his business dealings were predicated on the belief that he had only one asset – with a limited life span – his link to the British prime minister.” Controversy continued to dog his various business activities. The IRS investigated him for alleged tax evasion, and a racketeering case was settled out of court. In 1995 he moved with his family to South Africa and bought a large house on Dawn Avenue in Constantia, the best part of Cape Town, where Elton John, Earl Spencer and Michael Douglas all owned property. Before moving in, paranoid about his personal safety, he had had bulletproof curtains fitted as part of the state-of-the-art security equipment in every room. Three years later he was in the news again when a company he owned was accused of running a loan-shark operation, offering unofficial loans to police officers, military personnel and civil servants and then charging punitive interest rates when they defaulted. Thatcher, of course, insisted he’d done no wrong. One of his neighbours in Constantia was Mann, a former SAS officer and adventurer who had made a fortune providing mercenaries to protect oil installations against rebels in Angola’s civil war, crushing an uprising in Papua New Guinea and shipping arms to Sierra Leone in flagrant contravention of a UN embargo. In the summer of 2003, Mann met Severo Moto, opposition leader of Equatorial Guinea, who was living in exile in Madrid. At the end of the meeting, Mann agreed to recruit a mercenary force to overthrow Obiang. His fee was to be £10m plus a share in future oil revenues and 30% of all assets recovered from the Obiang family. Back in South Africa, Mann involved two friends in the plot: Crause Steyl, a pilot who had worked for him on previous operations, and Nick du Toit, a former officer in South African special forces. Steyl was to organise all the air transport; du Toit was to help with recruiting, then set up logistical support in Equatorial Guinea. In November, Mann and Thatcher had several meetings in London to discuss “transport ventures” in west Africa. Sir Mark would insist that he was never told about the coup, although he admitted agreeing to finance the chartering of an air-ambulance helicopter for one of Mann’s “ventures” and later suspected that it might be used for “mercenary activities”. He could have pulled out at that moment, but did not. In December, the newly widowed Lady Thatcher flew to Cape Town to spend Christmas with her son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, Michael, then aged 14, and Amanda, 10. Steyl and Mann were among the guests at Sir Mark’s traditional pre-Christmas drinks party around the swimming pool in the garden on December 22.
On January 12, 2004, Mann wrote a memorandum outlining the potential risks in the operation that appeared to directly implicate his friend. “If MT’s involvement is known,” he noted, “the rest of us and project is likely to be screwed – as a side-issue to people screwing him… Ensure doesn’t happen.” Four days later, Sir Mark signed an agreement with Steyl committing him to a maximum investment of $500,000 in an air-ambulance company. Despite Mann’s plea for secrecy, du Toit’s recruiting activities inevitably attracted the attention of the South African intelligence service, which alerted the governments of Britain, Spain and the US. In backstreet bars where soldiers for hire gathered, all the talk was of the upcoming action in Equatorial Guinea. Mann himself realised that the operation might have been compromised, but made the fatal mistake of interpreting diplomatic silence as tacit approval of his plans. Certainly no tears would have been shed had Obiang’s corrupt regime been toppled: apart from stealing the country blind, he maintained power through terror. Severo Moto told Mann that if he ever returned to Equatorial Guinea while Obiang was still in power, he would be tortured and murdered and Obiang would eat his testicles. Telephone records later obtained by a private detective hired by Henry Page, a Paris-based lawyer representing the government of Equatorial Guinea, showed that Mann and Sir Mark spoke very often in the days immediately before the coup. “Of course we don’t know what was said,” Page explained, “only that Mark Thatcher’s number appears on the record of Simon Mann’s calls with increasing frequency.” On the evening of Sunday, March 7, a US-registered Boeing 727 carrying 64 mercenaries, mainly former members of the South African special forces, landed at Harare airport, where they were due to collect Mann and an armoury of weapons before flying to Equatorial Guinea. The Zimbabwe intelligence service was waiting for them. They were all arrested, along with Mann. In Malabo, du Toit and 13 other men were also arrested and accused of plotting a coup. Steyl, waiting in Mali for word that the coup was a success before flying into Equatorial Guinea with Severo Moto, escaped arrest. Held in solitary confinement in the hellish Chikurubi maximum-security prison in Zimbabwe, Mann wrote desperate letters to his wife, his lawyer and friends asking them to contact the “investors” in the operation to raise more money: “What we need is maximum effort – whatever it takes – now… It may be that getting us out comes down to a large splodge of wonga.” Among the investors he suggested approaching was “Scratcher” – his nickname for his friend Mark Thatcher. Dries Coetzee, a private detective hired by Mann’s lawyer, was given the thankless task of collecting the “wonga”. It was not easy. He telephoned Mark Thatcher at his home in Cape Town, explained he had a mandate from Mann to raise funds, and demanded $300,000. Sir Mark was in his study watching a grand prix when he took the call. “Look, Mr Coetzee,” he said, “I tend not to give money to people I’ve never met, so why don’t you just f*** off.” In March, Crause Steyl quietly returned to his home in South Africa, expecting to be arrested. Instead, the Directorate of Special Operations, an elite crime squad known as “the Scorpions”, offered him a deal: immunity in return for complete co-operation. Steyl was sickened by the way his friends Mann and du Toit had been left high and dry and decided to tell all. Significantly, he was convinced that Thatcher was in on the plot from the beginning. In fact Thatcher was already talking to the South African intelligence service, possibly because they threatened to extradite him to Equatorial Guinea if he did not co-operate. At 7am on August 25, 2004, the Scorpions arrived at his Constantia mansion with a search warrant. Six hours later, he was driven away in a police vehicle and appeared in court that afternoon charged with contravening the Foreign Military Assistance Act, which bans South African residents from taking part in any foreign military activity. He was released on bail of £167,000, paid by his mother, and warned not to leave the Cape Town area.
The sensational arrest of the son of Lady Thatcher made headlines around the world. Sir Mark continued to protest his innocence, issuing a statement through his friend and unofficial spokesman, Lord Bell: “I have no involvement in any alleged coup in Equatorial Guinea and I reject totally all suggestions to the contrary.” But as damning details emerged, more and more people concluded he was lying to save his skin. Sir Bernard Ingham, whose admiration for Lady Thatcher remains undimmed, told me he thought it was “very difficult to believe” her son did not know what was going on. “He’s not the brightest spark but by God he knows how to make money. The plain fact is, he’s a barrow boy.” “Mark could not resist being involved,” said Mark Hollingsworth, co-author of Thatcher’s Fortunes: The Life and Times of Mark Thatcher. “He attended planning meetings at Simon Mann’s house, knew exactly what was going on and was looking for a slice of the action. The notion that he would invest $500,000 and not know what it was used for is risible. He hero-worshipped Mann and loved the secret world of soldiers of fortune, spies and high-risk shady business deals in oil-trading and gunrunning.”
Earlier this year, in an interview for Channel 4 conducted in Black Beach prison, Mann, shackled at hands and feet, confirmed Thatcher was “part of the team”. He also named Ely Calil, a rich businessman of Lebanese-Nigerian origin and a friend of Moto, as the principal financial backer. There had been rumours that the disgraced Tory peer Lord Archer was involved, but Mann denied it. Both Thatcher and Calil quickly issued statements suggesting that Mann’s plight had prompted him to make wild accusations. “Simon Mann is an old friend of mine for whom I have the utmost sympathy throughout this whole ghastly process,” said Thatcher. Calil’s statement read: “I confirm that I had no involvement in, or responsibility for, the alleged coup.” I asked Calil’s lawyer, Imran Khan, if his client would agree to be interviewed. Khan said he would put forward my request and get back to me either way. I heard nothing more. After his ignominious departure from Cape Town, typically protesting that his prosecution was politically inspired and that President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa had never liked his mother, Thatcher was adrift. He stayed with his mother at her house in Chester Square, Belgravia, before looking for a place to live. It was not easy. Monaco, famously described by Somerset Maugham as a “sunny place for shady people”, was his first choice, but he was told his temporary residency card would not be renewed. No explanation was given, but a spokesman for Prince Albert pointed out that the prince intended “morality, honesty and ethics” to be at the centre of life in the principality. France and Switzerland also failed to extend a warm welcome, which is how Thatcher ended up on the Costa del Sol, renting Casa Flores. Lady Francis Russell, newly separated from her husband, moved in with him in May 2006. Both obtained divorces during 2007 and in March this year they married, quietly, in Gibraltar, in a ceremony attended by only three friends. Notably absent was Thatcher’s twin sister, Carol.
Carol and Mark Thatcher actively dislike each other. No twins could be more different: Carol is jolly, down to earth and popular; her brother is rude, imperious and self-important. They have not spoken for years. When I asked her if she would be interviewed for this feature, her reply was nothing if not forthright: “Honestly, I really haven’t got anything to say about Mark. We have lived in different countries for decades.” In fact, finding anyone with a kind word about Mark Thatcher is not easy. His good friend Lord Archer was too busy writing his next novel and could not be disturbed, but his other good friend, Jonathan Aitken (who coincidentally dated Carol years ago), finally stepped forward. “Mark has never been arrogant or pompous in my company. That said, I have noticed that he can be a surprisingly shy person, which sometimes manifests itself in the form of being a little brusque. In his commercial activities while his mother was prime minister he was no saint, but he was far less of a sinner than his journalistic detractors would like to believe.” Aitken says Thatcher was a loyal and generous friend after he was jailed for perjury and perverting the course of justice in 1999. When he was released after serving seven months, Thatcher took him out to lunch and asked what he could do to help, offering him money, an all-expenses-paid holiday in Cape Town, anything he wanted. Aitken was genuinely touched.
Thatcher’s future is uncertain. He recently applied for tax-residency status in Gibraltar, prompting speculation that he intended to make his home on the Rock, but his application is likely to have been turned down. Adding to his problems, the owner of Casa Flores, a fellow Old Harrovian by the name of Stephen Humberstone, would very much like to evict him. Thatcher has an almost unique ability to rub people up the wrong way, which he has certainly done with Humberstone. “Basically, he just pisses me off. He is always late with the rent. Under Spanish law I have to wait three months before I can take him to court and he presumably knows that and pays up after two months. We were in the same house at school – I can’t believe he is treating me in such a shabby manner.
“He thinks a lot of himself. I think he likes the house because it is very secluded and a seven-minute drive from the main gate. Nobody would ever find him down there. He told me once he would like to buy it, but there is no way I would ever sell it to someone like him.


400 Ravers turn Costa del Sol home in Marbella’s exclusive El Pariaso development into a wreck.

08:22 El NACHO 0 Comments

trashed a £5million house after a girl advertised her 16th birthday party on the internet.Drunken revellers hurled a television and tables and chairs into the swimming pool, smashed doors, destroyed carpets, damaged walls and stole £6,000 of jewellery and designer clothes.Someone had spread a rumour that the owners did not mind if the seven-bedroom mansion was damaged because they were "getting divorced".British expat Amanda Hudson agreed to let schoolgirl Jodie hold the party at their holiday villa in Marbella, Spain.But Jodie posted details including the address on social networking internet sites Facebook and Bebo.She called it "party of the year" and said: "Theres gone be a lot of alcohol an amazing DJ."Hundreds of youngsters from all over the Costa del Sol turned up on motorbikes and quad bikes.Even though Amanda was present she was powerless to stop the hooligans from ransacking her home.
Eventually she called police with the party still in full swing.Two police cars arrived just after midnight.One partygoer said: "People scarpered in all directions.
"The police managed to pull people over and search their bags and pockets but it was already too late and a lot was gone."There were kids behaving like gangstas from a rap video, throwing stuff around and smashing things."There were chairs, tables, even a television in the pool."Somebody said that we were allowed to wreck the house because the birthday girl's parents were getting divorced."
The villa, which Amanda rents out for £4,000 a week in the summer, was completely wrecked and will not be suitable to let again until it is repaired.Amanda told a friend: "The place looked like a war zone."All the banisters have been broken, the walls are ruined, the carpets are destroyed, furniture is broken and it is going to take months to sort out."A friend said: "Amanda is still furious with her daughter. She hasn't spoken to her since that night."Jodie, who goes to an expensive private school in Sotogrande, sent a message to a friend from her Bebo site last week saying: "There's so much damage and clothes stolen and a lot of broken doors. People were caught having sex."I got punched by my mum for it and grounded until the summer. What a BITCH!"Estate agent Amanda, originally from Liverpool, refused to discuss the party yesterday.She said: "I am not saying anything about that."

400 revellers to turn her Costa del Sol home – in Marbella’s exclusive Paradise development – into a wreck

There were kids behaving like rap video gangsters.
.Unknown to Mrs Hudson, Jodie, who attends one of southern Spain’s most upmarket private schools, had announced the party on social networking sites Bebo and Facebook.Officers frisked everyone they could catch fleeing the house.
One partygoer said: “It was already too late and a lot was gone.“There were kids behaving like gangsters from a rap video, throwing stuff around and smashing things.”
The villa, which costs £4,000 a week to rent or is offered for sale at £4.4million, was completely trashed and will be unavailable for rent this summer.Mrs Hudson has told a friend: “All the banisters have been broken.“The walls are ruined, the carpets are destroyed, furniture is broken and it is going to take months to sort out.”The friend said Mrs Hudson was “still furious” with her daughter.Jodie, who attends the Sotogrande International School near Marbella, gives an update on her web pages.On one she signs herself “Hudson-is-a-rebel” and writes: “There’s so much damage. People caught having sex. I got grounded until the summer. What a bitch!”
When contacted at the villa yesterday, Mrs Hudson, who is originally from Liverpool, refused to discuss the party. “I am not saying anything about that,” she said.
Describing it as the “party of the year”, she posted her home address on the sites and invited dozens of friends, saying: “There’s going to be a lot of alcohol and an amazing DJ.”To add to the chaos, an unfounded rumour was circulating among the uninvited “guests” that the owners did not mind the seven-bedroom mansion being trashed – because they were “getting divorced”.Despite the presence of Jodie’s horrified mother, hundreds of Costa del Sol teens arrived at the house on motorbikes and quad bikes.The rampaging youngsters left a trail of misery for Mrs Hudson – and a sizeable bill for the damage.Dozens of items – including a TV set – were thrown into the swimming pool and half Mrs Hudson’s wardrobe was stolen. Jewellery worth more £6,000 was also taken.The distraught mother eventually called police and two patrol cars arrived just after midnight when the party, earlier this month, was still in full swing.


20 pure breed horses were left to die from hunger in stables in Ulea

01:14 El NACHO 0 Comments

20 pure breed horses were left to die from hunger in stables in Ulea, Murcia, and their current condition is reported to be critical in some cases.
The animals belonged to some Colombian drug traffickers who were arrested and simply left the animals abandoned afterwards. The whole matter has now been denounced by ecologist and animal rights organisations who have now informed the Government delegation in Murcia.The story was broken by the VegaMedia Press which also reports that in the same finca there are also a pair of abandoned exotic pigs, three peacocks, three dogs and dozens of birds, all of them in a critical condition.


Spanish lawyer G.J.S., admitted that Malaga public auctions are controlled by ‘mafia-type’ criminal rings

00:48 El NACHO 0 Comments

Spanish lawyer admitted that public auctions conducted throughout
the Province of Malaga, Spain are controlled by ‘mafia-type’ criminal rings.
The grip on the so-called ‘public’ auction of properties is such that no outsiders, whether in business or as individuals can get near the gavel’s fall. This allegation comes after many attacks on the various Spanish systems. Almost unilaterally, they fail to live up to the expectations of their northern European visitors and residents from whom so much wealth has been derived.The general face of friendliness in Spain, while genuinely displayed by the majority, belies the underlying belly of corruption and belligerence on the part of the judiciary to clear the worst elements from society.Sadly, for the majority, many of whom still live in the shadow of Franco’s regime and the ongoing corruption, the reality is that they turn the other cheek. The burden of combining the ordeals of modern-day life while dealing daily with antiquated bureaucratic systems leaves many with a permanent resignation to life’s troubles, typified by the ‘Spanish Shrug’Over development and underinvestment in basic infrastructure make unhappy bedfellows. Following the boom years, Spain’s property market, despite recent claims to the contrary is visibly collapsing. Consequently more and more properties are coming under the hammer.Many absentee owners may be unaware that auction proceedings can take place without their prior knowledge due in part to the belligerence and outdated practices of officials allied to inadequate communication especially in the rural areas.Those wishing to salvage something from this creeping financial disaster are advised to ensure their property is not sent to auction where the sharks are having a feast and the lawyers dare not tread.