Mayor of Alhaurín el Grande ordered to pay damages to the main witness in the Troya corruption case

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Juan Martín Serón, the Partido Popular Mayor of Alhaurín el Grande who faces trial this September in the Troya corruption case, has been sentenced for defamatory statements he made about the main witness in the case.

The Mayor has been ordered to pay 15,000 € to the developer who reported the corruption, who Martín Serón publically as an ‘abuser of women’. Diario Sur reports that his defence claimed at the hearing that his intention was not to damage the man’s honour, but to show that ‘the person who had denounced him lacked credibility’.

The aim, they said, was not to prevent him declaring as a witness in the case, nor to threaten him.

The Málaga branch of PSOE called on the Partido Popular, after the news of the sentence was made public on Thursday, to demand the immediate resignation of the Mayor of Alhaurín.

The Troya corruption case comes to court on September 22, when Juan Martín Serón and another 19 suspects will take the stand. The Mayor faces a possible four and a half years in prison, a 19 year ban from office and a fine of 500,000 €.



Man jailed in Colombia for killing Spanish tourist

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man who confessed to killing a Spanish tourist on holiday in Colombia has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for the death of Irene Cortés Lucas, a mother of five who was killed in the Colombian city of Barranquilla on March 2 this year.

The 30 year old victim, who was originally from Granada province and ran a nightclub with her husband in Torre del Mar, Málaga, was shot dead in the chest when she and her husband were held up by robbers in a bar in her husband’s home town on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

Irene’s family maintained that her husband had contracted a hit man to kill his wife, but the suspect who has now been convicted for her death, Brayan Darío Escorcia Blanco, told the Barranquilla court this Monday that he had never met the man and was ‘drugged’ when he fired the shot.

EFE indicates that a second suspect who was involved in the robbery is awaiting sentencing.

The victim’s husband, Farid Llinás Ariza, is understood to have applied for a distancing order against his wife’s family and, according to his lawyer, was given ‘special protection’ on his return to Spain following the threats he said he received from the family.



Wheelchair bound British pensioner rescued from a house fire in the Vega Baja

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78 year old British woman, who is confined to a wheelchair, was rescued from a fire at her home in Formentura del Segura, in the Vega Baja, on Monday evening.

Emergency services called out to the scene noticed smoke pouring out from beneath the door to the property, and decided to smash it down to gain entry and rescue the woman.

EFE reports that the pensioner and a 32 year old neighbour who ran inside to help her were both treated for the effects of smoke inhalation.

Police sources quoted by the news agency said the fire began in the kitchen after the woman’s husband left the house, forgetting that he had left a pan of food still cooking on the stove.



Police in Paris have arrested 60 suspected illegal migrants, most of them Tunisians, as France pushes for tighter border controls.

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The suspects, who include some Egyptians, Libyans and Algerians, were arrested for "breaking the residency laws", a police source said.

Unrest in the Arab world has generated a wave of migrants to Europe.

France, part of the EU border-free Schengen zone, is seeking to re-impose internal frontier controls.

No other details were given of the arrests, reported by France's AFP news agency.

France is seen as a likely destination for migrants from Tunisia because many of them speak the French language.

On Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called for the Schengen treaty to be revised.

Italy has angered France by granting visas to thousands of migrants, allowing them to travel across the Schengen zone.

About 25,000 migrants have arrived by boat in southern Italy so far this year.


Ibiza diver thought to be British woman

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A DIVER has been rushed to hospital in a serious condition after she began to suffer breathing difficulties off the Cala Martina beach in Santa Eulàlia (Ibiza) today.

Emergency services say the woman, 45 – and thought to be British - rose to the surface gasping for breath, for causes that have not yet been confirmed.

She was taken to Can Misses hospital, where she remains on assisted breathing in intensive care due to the seriousness of her condition.

Medical staff say she has fluid on her lungs, which could either be the cause or the result of her respiratory problems whilst in the water.

She was said to be slipping to and from life and death when she was brought to the hospital, but is now considered to be in a serious but steady condition.



Thanks to the subsidy the French company, Brittany Ferries, can supply a three times a week service from Santander and Bilbao to the British port of Portsmouth.

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5.6 million € grant has been awarded by the European Commission
The European Commission has granted a larger subsidy in the Marco Polo II program to the so-called Sea Motorway between Santander and the British port of Portsmouth, with a total of 5.6 million €.

The rival route between Vigo and the French port of Nantes-Saint Nazaire, receives the smaller amount of 1.2 million €.

Of the 101 projects presented for funding to the EU Marco Polo II program, finally 32 have obtained funding for a total 56.98 million €.


Hogan Lovells pair sign up for Noerr’s European IP crusade with Alicante launch

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Hogan Lovells counsel Tobias Dolde and senior associate Michael Hawkins will join the German firm to help launch the Alicante office. Both were based in Hogan Lovells’ Alicante office. Dolde joins as a salaried partner while Hawkins comes on board as a senior associate.

Noerr’s Munich-based co-head of media, IP and IT Georg Jahn will be in charge of the new office, which is slated for a 1 July launch. It will focus on community trademark and design work.
Iberian firm Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira is advising Noerr on the legal issues ­surrounding the launch.



ROW has broken out over the docking of nuclear subs in Gibraltar.

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The American vessels – which have been involved in the Libya campaign – have been slammed by the PSOE representative for Cadiz province, insisting they should use the US base in Rota.
“My opinion is the vessels should go to Rota because it is a joint Spanish – US base,” said Jose Carracao. “It has the necessary security conditions to house nuclear propelled vessels.
“The quays of Gibraltar do not comply with the minimum requirements of security.”
It was a clear reference to the docking of the USS Florida at the weekend and the USS Providence last month.
The docking of the Providence led to an incident, when a Guardia Civil boat got too close.
The Royal Navy was forced to issue a radio warning and block the passage of the craft, which appeared to be filming the sub.
The Providence spent a weekend in Gibraltar after being involved in military action against Libya.



90 Spaniards win right to be erased from Google

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Google has been ordered to remove links related to 90 Spaniards who have asked the search giant to do so.

The Spaniards concerned have all, on an individual basis, demanded to exercise their right to be forgotten, and the Spanish Data Protection Agency has agreed with them.

The reason for a request to be erased can vary, from something simply embarrassing, or for legal reasons.

Google can now appeal that decision by taking the matter to the Spanish National Court, a process it has already carried out on five earlier occasions.

Meanwhile the European Union is studying new legislation which would give citizens the right to completely erase any information published about them on the internet.



Catalan doctor assassinated in Nigeria

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Antoni Gavarró, a Catalan doctor, has been assassinated while working in Nigeria. The victim is a cousin of the President of the Catalan Government Artur Mas, and also worked in the laboratories at the Parc Taulí Hospital in Sabadell.

Local police in Nigeria informed the Spanish Consulate in Lagos that the crime was committed on Wednesday, according to a Spanish Foreign Ministry source.



12 arrested for fake work contract scam

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12 people have been arrested in Almería for selling false work contracts to immigrants. As many as 25 companies in the area have been affected by the fraudulent use of their data.

The 12 detained face charges of fraud and falsification of documentation.

They charged the immigrants with no residency papers between 400 and 1,500 € for the fake contracts for jobs such as physiotherapists or hairdressers.

The case came as the result of complaint by two foreigners who said they had paid an amount of money for a work contract to use to then get residency papers in Spain.

The common link in all those arrested was a gestor’s office in Almería city.



European Commission calls on Spain to improve safety of its national airlines

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The European Union has called on both Spain and Germany to improve their security of their national airlines, with the European Commission saying it has detected ‘high levels of failure’ in ramp inspections of planes in both countries.

It considers that Spain is showing signs of an ‘early alert’ although it says it is satisfied with the corrective measures which have been adopted so far. In Germany concern is expressed for the lack of resources available to security personnel.

Meanwhile in the new EU blacklist of airlines which are not allowed to fly in the EU, are all the companies from Mozambique, and two planes from Air Madagascar. A prohibition on four Indonesian and one Ukrainian airline has now been lifted.



34,500 dollars in fake notes have been confiscated

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National Police have seized 34,500 dollars in fake notes after breaking up an organised network which passed counterfeit 100 dollar notes through banks and currency exchange shops in Spain.

The forged notes were found at addresses searched in Madrid, Barcelona, Ciudad Real, Alicante and Valencia, where 11 people were taken into custody.

The information which led to their arrests was provided by the US Secret Service in an operation which also involved the Bank of Spain’s Investigation Brigade, the BIBE.

The Interior Ministry said in a press release on Tuesday that a separate operation in Colombia, also with the cooperation of the BIBE and of Europol, uncovered an underground print shop in Bogotá where 2.5 million dollars in counterfeit notes were found. Two people were arrested, and the materials and equipment used to produce the notes were impounded.



Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas carried an image of the Virgin of Tears and Favors through the streets of Malaga

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Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas carried an image of the Virgin of Tears and Favors through the streets of Malaga, the city of his birth, in a religious procession to mark the Holy Week.

Accompanying her husband was Hollywood actress Melanie Griffith. The actress always accompanies Banderas in the celebrations and traditions when he returns to Spain to take part every year.

The actor said he thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Holy Week celebrations and was "very emotional because it's been a very special year for the many activities" in which he had been involved.


Spain's top breeder of fighting bulls dies in traffic accident

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Juan Pedro Domecq Solis's fighting bulls helped define the evolution of the bullfight in the late 20th century, adding artistry and then muscle to the ancient breed.
Domecq, who died in a car crash on Monday, was one of Spain's foremost breeders. He first developed what became known as the "artist bull," bred to enhance sleek yet muscular lines, and later the "athlete bull," aimed at giving a more thrilling performance while facing matadors in the bullring.
Known within bullfighting circles simply as Juan Pedro, Domecq had inherited Spain's oldest breeding estate — Veragua, founded in the 18th century — which his grandfather Juan Pedro Domecq y Nunez de Villavicencio had bought in 1939.
Initially his bulls were criticized for visibly changing an ancient blood sport, but later many other breeders turned to him to buy prize breeding studs and cows.
He had helped develop bulls with broader shoulders and slender waist that came to define the beasts seen on many bullrings.
"He was the creator of the modern fighting bull," said fellow breeder Victoriano del Rio. "Within bullfighting history he will always retain a foremost position as all of today's breeding farms contain 30-40 percent of his bloodlines. His death is a tragedy to us."
Domecq, who was a qualified agronomical engineer and descended from a famous sherry producing family, had in recent years also launched a company selling some of Spain's finest "jamon" or salt-cured ham.
His company said that Domecq died Monday in Higuera de la Sierra when his vehicle crashed head-on with a truck very close to his Lo Alvaro estate in southwest Spain. He was 69.
His company website still bears a quote from Domecq. "We are a family that began making sherry in the 18th century," Domecq says. "But we always had a second passion, the breeding and selection of livestock."



Spanish police have launched a crackdown on the drunken antics of British students at Saloufest.

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Crackdown: Police officers in Spain have started fining British students for drinking in the street during the notorious Saloufest
Armed officers have started enforcing laws banning drinking in the street or roaming half-naked around the seaside resort.
Two students wearing togas were hauled to a police station and fined £265 pounds last night for flouting the no drinking law.
Police were also ordering students back to their hotels to put on t-shirts after hundreds of youths went out shirtless.

Officers had previously turned a blind eye to the breaking of the local bylaws  - but decided to act after the students' antics hit the headlines.

On Sunday 60 coaches carrying 3,000 18-to-23-year-olds arrived in Salou on the Costa Dorada for the second leg of Saloufest.

They replaced a group of 5,000 who went home last Thursday.

Hours after arriving, the new group hit the town in fancy dress, roaming from bar to bar drinking cheap shots and beer.

The two students dressed in togas were held at midnight outside Burger King after local cops spotted them drinking in the street.

They were driven to a police station after rowing with the cops who ordered them to throw the alcohol away.
A police source said: 'If they hadn't been stupid enough to argue they would probably have got away with it.

'As it is they've been fined more than the cost of their holiday.'

An hour later, at 1am, a youth with a Leeds Metropolitan University t-shirt on dropped his trousers and exposed his privates to passing motorists.

By 3am the last of the students were stumbling drunkenly back to their hotels.

Last week newspaper El Mundo described the youngsters' antics as 'a whirlwind that would would shame any parent'.

Some locals have accused them of behaving 'like animals'.

But many businesses, struggling in the grip of recession, have welcomed the students with open arms.

They are expected to spend around £7 million over the course of the two legs of the festival.

Montse Badia, 45, who runs a food and drinks store, said: 'They come in every day and stock up on food, water and beer, and they're really keeping my business going at the moment.

'I think the people who complain have forgotten what it's like to be young and enjoy yourself.'

Maria Gomez, 22, who works in the Express Italia pizzeria, said: 'They get drunk and sing and shout, but as far as I'm concerned they're just having a good time.

'They never cause any trouble.'

Eduardo Abenojar, 43, who owns the bars Underground and Bus Stop, said: 'They're good kids just out to have some fun. I love having them in my bars.'

And a spokeswoman for Salou Town Hall, in charge of local police, said: 'Overall the students have been very well behaved with no incidents of note.

'They will be welcome back next year.'

Organisers say the tour is primarily about the 22 sporting events the students take part in during the trip.

They describe it as the 'biggest and best sports festival for British and Irish students'.


AKA ‘Mr Marbella’ is to start a regular slot on Heart FM, based in Coin, from next month.

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DJ Maurice Boland is returning to the airwaves for the first time since his close relationship with a 16-year-old girl was exposed.
The Olive Press can reveal that the Irish entertainer, AKA ‘Mr Marbella’ is to start a regular slot on Heart FM, based in Coin, from next month.
He will take over the afternoon show from current station boss Lee Jay on May 1 on an initial three month contract.
This will follow a two hour in-depth interview in which he admits his mistake over his relationship with the teenage singer.
Last night Boland told the paper: “I am pleased to be back.”
And he added: “I have no problem discussing the issue. I will welcome any questions that people want to put to me. If someone wants to phone up and attack me I am going to ask why.”
The broadcaster, 62, had set out to help the teenager forge a musical career but their relationship had evolved and he had made a “terrible mistake.”
He helped the Sotogrande International School pupil to come runner up in local talent competition WOW and was guiding her musical career.
He has been out of the limelight for the past nine months since having his contract terminated at Talk Radio Europe (TRE), as exclusively revealed at the time by the Olive Press.
We revealed how the outraged parents had turned up at the radio station demanding to see him before he was then sacked.
The parents have since relocated with their daughter back to the UK due to the affair.
“We have no idea what the response will be from the public and everything will depend on that,” said producer Sid Olivera, who grilled him for the two-hour special, expected to be aired later this month.

“He was pretty honest but was very guarded with his answers, I am sure he will talk his way out of it on air.
“If he goes on air and is flippant it just won’t work, he’ll rub people up the wrong way. He’s going to have to admit it happened and say: ‘I’m sorry’, can we now move on?
“Either way, there is no doubt he’s sorely missed on the coast.”
Married for 40 years, with three children, Boland had worked since the 1980s in Marbella, interviewing famous people including British Prime Minister David Cameron, Cliff Richard and Jeffrey Archer.
Heart FM Station boss Lee Jay added: “So far the reaction has been very favourable, people can’t wait to get Maurice back.
“He will be putting out the same kind of show as before, which was obviously a very successful format and is the sort of thing that people want”


Spanish company Gowex has installed Wi-Fi hotspots on the beaches of Costa del Sol.

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Spanish company Gowex has installed Wi-Fi hotspots on the beaches of Costa del Sol. Customers can access the internet free of charge in 50 hotspots across the region. Visitors and residents can choose between two methods of access to the public Wi-Fi network. The first is a universal and free service by which anyone can access the Valladolid Wi-Fi network with speeds of 512 Kb 24 hours a day. The second is a premium unlimited access service, available for EUR 8 per month, at speeds of 3 Mbps. Additionally, Costa del Sol Wi-Fi service users will have access to all Gowex Wi-Fi networks currently available in 30 cities across Spain, including Madrid, Aviles, Ourense, Malaga, Granada and Burgos.


discovery of human remains near a well used hiking track on Benidorm’s Sierra Helada has prompted an investigation by the Guardia Civil as to the identity of the deceased

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. The badly decomposed body of a female was discovered by a hiker last week in an area of the range which is habitually used by hikers en route between Benidorm and Albir.

Authorities were surprised that the body had not been discovered earlier, given the proximity of the corpse to the busy trail, and the period that it appears to have lain undiscovered.

The remains were transferred to the Anatomical institute of Alicante were an autopsy was carried out at the end of last week. It is now known that the deceased was female but no other results have as yet been released as to the cause of death.

The woman may have been undiscovered for many months and this may make analysis of the remains that much more difficult to carry out.

Police are at the moment keeping an open mind as to the circumstances of the death, although the most likely cause would seem to be that the woman suffered a fall or heart attack.

However, the fact that it was not found earlier is one aspect of the discovery that puzzles the authorities, as the area where the corpse was found is frequented by hundreds of walkers on a daily basis at peak times.

The question the police are asking themselves is therefore, if the body had lain there for months, or even longer, then why did no one stumble across it before?


British tourist 'beaten to death in Dubai prison cell

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Lee Bradley Brown was on holiday in the Arab state when he was arrested and thrown in jail.
It is alleged that he was beaten up by a group of police officers and then dragged from his cell.
Mr Bradley Brown was not allowed access to a lawyer or given enough food and water, it was claimed.
The first his family heard about the incident was when his sister received a call from a fellow inmate who contacted her in the UK.
The prisoner had apparently found her number as the next of kin contact in his passport which was left in his cell.
Mr Bradley Brown’s family were formally told about his death on Wednesday.
His sister, who did not want to be named, told The Daily Mail: “It is very difficult at the moment, as you would expect, and his mum is extremely upset.
“We were the ones that first contacted the British embassy in Dubai with concerns after an inmate out there got in touch with us.
“We were told unofficially on Tuesday it was true and the worst was confirmed on Wednesday.
“The inmates we spoke to at the jail are currently waiting to give statements to the police but now they’re in fear for their own lives.”
Mr Bradley Brown, from Dagenham in East London, is understood to have flown alone to Dubai for a holiday where he was staying at the Burj al Arab hotel.
He was arrested on April 6 for alleged assault, intimidating behaviour and using abusive language, it was claimed.
A British embassy spokesman said: “I can confirm the man died in custody and that the embassy is taking the allegations very seriously.
“We are launching an investigation and working with Dubai police.”



DRUNKEN British students have been accused of behaving like animals at a festival in Spain.

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Around 5,000 18 to 23-year-olds have taken over the Costa Dorada resort of Salou, an area popular for family summer holidays.
The undergraduates hit the headlines in Spanish newspapers and TV reports as their drunken antics came under the spotlight.
Many of the students rampage through the seaside town each night in fancy dress, roaming from bar to bar where they sink cheap alcohol until 3am.
Some youngsters have boasted about getting drunk and having casual sex with as many partners as possible during the annual Saloufest event.
Antonia, who has had a shop in the resort for 17 years, said. “It’s terrible. They behave like animals.
“They throw bottles of beer from their hotel balconies, they get naked at five or six in the afternoon.
I want parties, girls and alcohol
“They pee in bottles and then throw the bottles from their hotels. For me it’s terrible.”
Bookshop owner Roman Maria said: “They come out of the supermarkets loaded up with alcohol, they roam the streets drunk. The whole world sees it on television and it’s not a good image for Salou.”
Local authorities have turned a blind eye as the students are expected to spend around £7million in the resort this year. Last year they introduced fines for drinking in the street or being inappropriately dressed, in a bid to appease angry locals. But police have not implemented the bans during the festival.
Some bars refuse entry to the students. Other locals however said they welcomed them. “We’re happy with them. They don’t destroy anything and they don’t take drugs. They’re well behaved,” one woman said. Around 5,000 students arrived in 90 coaches on Sunday for the first leg of the festival, which has been running since 2002. Another 3,000 will arrive this Sunday. Organisers insist it is a sports festival with 22 sporting events during the day


The average salary in Spain remains one of the lowest in the European Union at 22,000 euros per year compared to 35,000 euros across EU member countries

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The average salary in Spain remains one of the lowest in the European Union at 22,000 euros per year compared to 35,000 euros across EU member countries, an average which is only lower in Greece, Portugal and Poland, according to human resources firm Michael Page.

Despite low wages, the company says prospects in Spain are "quite" optimistic given that the average salary increase in 2010 stood at 2.8%, while the European average was 1.9%.

Another feature of the Spanish labour market is the discount in the number of jobs on offer, 40% lower than that recorded in 2007. notwithstanding, current job offers narrate to stronger projects and answer to greater steady companies, the survey said.

As a result of this fall in the number of jobs on offer, in the city has been a regional concentration and half of the skilled jobs on offer are located in Madrid and Barcelona, and 35% of companies outsource their recruitment procedures.
In addition, the company points out that the Spanish labour market is characterized by its extremely inflexible rules and ranks as the second most demanding European country after Latvia.


Woman dies in Málaga after breast resizing operation

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34 year old woman has died in the Carlos Haya Hospital in Málaga after undergoing a plastic surgery operation in a private clinic in the city.

Diario Sur reports that the woman was admitted to the private clinic for breast resizing at the start of last week, but there were unspecified complications and she was transferred to hospital. It is thought that she had an adverse reaction to medication after the procedure. Her condition got worse and she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, but died at 6am, on Sunday.

It’s not the first such case in the province of Málaga. In 2008 the family of Encarnación Salazar denounced doctors after a liposuction had fatal consequences in the Hospital Pascual and in 2005 the wife of the then president of Nigeria died after a procedure in a clinic in Marbella


British Consul says 5 percent of Britons have returned to the U.K. because of the recession

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The Diario Mallorca newspaper has carried an interview with the British Consul of five years on the Baleares, Paul Abrey.
He tells the paper that many British pensioners resident on the islands have returned to the U.K. because of the recession. He says that pensioners are those most affected by the crisis, especially when they depend on the sterling exchange rate for their pensions. Sometimes they need social or medical help and decide to return tot he U.K., estimating that 5% had decided to return.

He said that perspectives for the summer are good and that the talks he has had with airlines and tourist bosses indicate an improvement in numbers of at least 5%. Reservations in January and February have been ‘fantastic’ especially in Mallorca and Evissa.

He also revealed that 170 Britons, residents and tourists, died on Mallorca last year, out of 3.5 million tourists and 60,000 residents.

There were also 350 Britons arrested over the year, some of them held for a weekend and then released.


The U.K.Prime Minister worked up a thirst after a two-hour trek in the heat of the Sierra Nevada national park.

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The Prime Minister worked up a thirst after a two-hour trek in the heat of the Sierra Nevada national park.

He knocked back a beer at the terrace bar of the couple’s three-star hotel in Granada.

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Then at lunch at a restaurant he shared a bottle of red wine with Sam, whose 40th birthday later this month was the reason for the four-day trip.

In the evening, a guitarist serenaded the Camerons as they enjoyed a final meal of tapas at the San Francisco Hotel, a ­former 15th-century convent.

An onlooker said: “The hotel manager offered to pay for their meal. They pol­itely declined the offer and met the cost ­themselves.”

The Camerons took an EasyJet flight back home yesterday.


The Town Hall in Estepona has started proceedings against the Ex-President of the local Partido Popular for building work carried out on his house.

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Ignacio Mena, who is also the PP’s spokesman on the council, was granted permission to build an open porch, but the Town Hall says their inspectors discovered that a closed-in construction had instead been built, with a 40 square metre room built above it.

EFE reports that Mena could face a fine of more than 400,000 € for a serious infraction for the extension which has been built onto his house.


British financier John Hirst, who was based in Mallorca for a time, appeared in court in Bradford on Wednesday, facing one charge of conspiracy to defraud and two charges of money laundering.

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British financier John Hirst, who was based in Mallorca for a time, appeared in court in Bradford on Wednesday, facing one charge of conspiracy to defraud and two charges of money laundering.

He is accused by the Serious Fraud Office of operating a 10 million pound Ponzi scheme, and of attracting more than 100 people by offers of annual returns of as much as 20%. Although part of the Mallorca social scene, Hirst based his companies in Panama and the Seychelles.

Losses of some 6 million pound are estimated after some 10 million was raised by investors.

Hirst returned to the UK because of ill health in 2009.

After his appearance on Wednesday he was granted bail and saw a series of conditions and his passport removed.
He will appear again in Bradford Crown Court on April 13.


The hit from Spain’s property bust has left savings banks, which account for close to half of Spain’s banking business, unable to provide credit to the economy.

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The hit from Spain’s property bust has left savings banks, which account for close to half of Spain’s banking business, unable to provide credit to the economy. That, combined with soaring unemployment tied to builders being left with nothing to build, has left Spain’s economy as key European underperformer.

According to data released Tuesday, the purchase managers’ index for Spain’s services sector dipped back to negative territory in March, to 48.7, from 50.8 in February, indicating a decline in activity. That compares with a rise in the overall services PMI for the euro zone, to 57.2 from 56.8 in February.

All of this comes as the property sector remains underwater. In the first quarter, Spanish property prices dropped by 5.1% from the same period last year, a faster pace than the 3.4% fall posted in the last quarter of 2010, data compiled by IESE business school shows.

In part, that is due to the expiration of some tax breaks for property purchases on Dec 31.  But even if new tax breaks were approved—which is unlikely as the government scrambles to maximize revenue and lower budget deficit to 6% of gross domestic product this year from over 9% last year—the housing glut works against a recovery in prices.

Spain, with a fast-aging population of 47 million, has between one and two million of empty homes, and just over 400,000 homes were sold in the whole of last year, according to Spain’s statistics institute, INE.

As the European Central Bank is widely expected to hike interest rates later this week, the worry is that property prices will drop for a while more. And that is exactly what the banks, which already require around €15 billion to recapitalize themselves this year according to the Bank of Spain, don’t need.

Last month, when Moody’s Investors Service cut Spain’s debt rating to Aa2 with a negative outlook, from Aa1, it cited the hole left by property losses in banks’ balance sheets as a key reason.

Moody’s believes that, under the Bank of Spain’s own rationale, the banks may need €40 billion-€50 billion; in a more stressed scenario, funding requirements could soar to approximately €110 billion-€120 billion.

Moody’s analysts said that this is because they anticipate a 30% drop in peak-to-trough property prices in Spain, in line with similar trends seen in bust-afflicted countries like the U.S. and the U.K. They declined to provide an estimate of where we are now exactly, but official figures show a decline of around 15% from the peak level.

Thus, Spain’s government finds itself in a paradoxical situation—hoping that its own numbers are wrong, and some private sector estimates of a 20%-plus drop in prices from the peak, which would imply a price rebound is due any quarter now, are closer to the mark.


Ryanair says it is cutting 80% of its capacity at its Alicante base in Spain from October.

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Ryanair says it is cutting 80% of its capacity at its Alicante base in Spain from October. The airline says this is due to the AENA Alicante airport's decision to force it to use airbridges and pay over €2m a year for what it called the 'unnecessary facilities'.
Ryanair says it will cut its aircraft based at the airport from 11 to two while it will also cut 31 routes, including services from Cork, Kerry, Knock and Derry. It will also cut the frequency of other services - including the Dublin route. This will see the weekly number of flights to Alicante fall to less than 200 from over 600.
The airline says the use of the airbridges will delay its turnarounds - as passengers can use only the front door of the plane - and will also lead to more handling delays.
Ryanair has submitted a formal complaint on the matter to both the Spanish government and the European Commission.
Despite the cuts, Ryanair will continue to be the biggest airline at Alicante. 'AENA Alicante must understand that Ryanair is an efficient, low cost carrier, and we have many other low cost airport alternatives across Europe if Alicante doesn't want to provide low cost facilites,' commented the airline's chief executive Michael O'Leary.
He added that if the airport reverses the decision, the cuts in routes, traffic and jobs can also be reversed.


65,000 UK families currently benefit from the "furnished holiday lettings" (FHL) rules, costing the Treasury millions. The rules apply to holiday lets in the UK and anywhere in Europe – defined as the European Economic Area.

13:12 El NACHO 0 Comments

Until now, those letting holiday accommodation were allowed to offset the cost of repairs, furniture and fittings against capital gains tax when they sold up and, more importantly, used losses they incurred on that home's "business" to lower their annual income tax bill.

It is thought about 65,000 UK families currently benefit from the "furnished holiday lettings" (FHL) rules, costing the Treasury millions. The rules apply to holiday lets in the UK and anywhere in Europe – defined as the European Economic Area.

Owners were allowed to deduct expenses such as mortgage interest, cleaning, agent commission, utilities, business rates, insurance and any improvements and furnishings from their rental income.

For example, if your annual rental income is £10,000 but your total expenses £15,000, and you made repairs totalling £5,000, your loss for the year would be £10,000.

In the past you were able to offset that loss against your other income. But not any more. The relief made particular sense for higher-rate taxpayers, who were saving considerable sums, particularly if they "worked" the relief.

Many over-60s bought homes both here and on the European mainland on the basis that the outgoing relief would be there for years to come.

Experts are predicting the removal of the tax break, added to low rental returns, particularly in Europe, could result in many second home-owners selling up.

From 6 April it will be possible to offset losses from a holiday lettings business only against certain income from that individual business. Stephen Barratt at accountant James Cowper says: "The impact of the proposed changes will be severe for many people ... In the case of most second homes which are let as furnished holiday lets, this will mean there is no tax relief.

"The cost of maintaining those properties will therefore go up significantly, making them less affordable. This is potentially serious for many owners whose incomes are already stretched."

He warns that further changes are on the way which will make holiday lets even less attractive from next year.

"The present minimum requirements for letting the property are that it must be let for 70 days a year and be available for letting for 140 days a year.

"These minimum requirements are set to increase, with effect from April 2012, to 105 and 210 days respectively," he says.

A spokesman for property tax legislation specialists Hedge Tax Mitigation says owners should seek professional advice if they are in any doubt as to how the changes will affect them.


last month Spain was named one of the world's most overvalued housing markets.

01:56 El NACHO 0 Comments

last month Spain was named one of the world's most overvalued housing markets. A report in The Economist claimed Spanish homes are overvalued by more than 43%, and said this compared with just under 30% for Britain, 20% for Ireland and -12% for Germany (ie, the market in Germany is "undervalued"). It reckons home prices should reflect the rents that tenants pay, so its index calculates the ratio of prices to rents in 20 economies. Spain was the fourth most overvalued after Australia, Hong Kong and France.

But, writing on his Spanish Property Insight website, Mark Stucklin says: "You have to take these figures with a pinch of salt as far as Spain is concerned." The problem, he says, is they are based on official figures which "significantly understate the true extent to which prices have fallen. Spanish prices have fallen much further than this index suggests ... If you want to know what's going on in the residential property market, a much more revealing figure is the collapse in planning approvals, down by 90% since 2006".