Spanish sailors to be decorated after rescuing French woman taken hostage by pirates

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The Defence Minister, Carme Chacón, announced that Spanish forces from the amphibious assault ship, ‘Galicia’, are to be decorated for rescuing a French woman who was taken hostage with her husband by Somali pirates off the coast of Yemen earlier this month. Evelyne Colombo was rescued on September 10 two days after the catamaran she and her husband were sailing had been attacked by pirates. Her husband, Christian Colombo, was murdered and his body thrown into the sea during the pirates’ assault. The Galicia was on patrol with the EU anti-piracy mission Operation Atalanta when it intercepted the skiff which was transporting the 55 year old French woman. Operation Atalanta command ordered the Galicia to open fire on the skiff’s engines and the pirates responded by shooting at the Spanish ship. The pirate skiff capsized after the gun battle, but the hostage was rescued and seven pirates were arrested.


El Hierro still on yellow alert, but no fears of an imminent eruption

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UME Emergency Military Unit was deployed to El Hierro on Wednesday as the island remained on yellow alert amid fears of a volcanic eruption. The Defence Minister, Carme Chacón, was also due to travel there on Wednesday afternoon to supervise their work, and spoke of the UME’s deployment as a preventive measure to assist emergency services in any evacuation over the increased seismic activity on the island. EFE indicates that there is a 15 percent probability of an imminent eruption, but the island’s government has ruled out any need to evacuate the island. The President of El Hierro’s Cabildo, Alpido Armas, said, ‘That’s not going to happen. We will not need to evacuate 4,000 people. If there is an eruption, it will not be a violent one and the worst that can happen is that a 200 metre mountain emerges’. Fifty three people were evacuated from Frontera due to the seismic activity and it’s understood that they will not be allowed home for the moment. Local schools there were also closed as a precaution because of the risk of landslides. The last volcanic eruption on El Hierro was in 1793, when the Lomo Negro volcano erupted. The last on the Canary Islands was just 40 years ago on La Palma.


Wanted Belgian fugitive arrested in Alhaurín El Grande

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wanted Belgian fugitive has been arrested in Alhaurín El Grande after a marijuana plantation was discovered at a property in the town. He was found there with a man and a woman, and all three are believed to have been part of an organisation which cultivated the drug for distribution in Europe. The Civil Guard found 55 marijuana plants on the property plus a 9 calibre revolver. One of the group was identified as F.V.B., who was wanted on a warrant for extradition to Belgium to serve a prison sentence of four and a half years for armed robbery. EFE indicates that he took part in an armed hold-up of a goods lorry in Wervik in 2009, where the lorry driver was assaulted with an electric shock weapon and left handcuffed and tied up by the neck.


Franco mass grave found in Jerez

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It has been a local rumour for many years, that the El Marrufo estate in Jerez de la Frontera had been used to bury hundreds of people shot under Franco. The rumour was well known in nearby Cortes de la Frontera, Jimena de la Frontera and Ubrique. But the investigations made by archaeologists over the summer have confirmed the site, the size of ten football pitches, filled with bones and bullet casings. There were so many casings the archaeologists said they were like seeds, labelled ‘Piritécnica Sevilla 1936’. Jesús Román, one of the archaeologists working at the side says they think it could be ‘one of the largest mass graves away from an official cemetery, and think there are between 300 and 600 bodies present. The El Marrufo Estate was used as a detention, torture and execution centre, dealing with about ten people a day. Women and children as well as men were killed at the site.


Ferronats, a company formed by Spanish construction firm, Ferrovial and British air traffic controllers, Nats, has won 10 of the 13 tenders to run control towers at Spanish airports

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Ferronats, a company formed by Spanish construction firm, Ferrovial and British air traffic controllers, Nats, has won 10 of the 13 tenders to run control towers at Spanish airports as AENA privatises 49% of the company. It will control Alicante, Valencia, Ibiza, Sabadell, Sevilla, Jerez, Melilla, Cuatro Vientos, Vigo and A Coruña. The remaining three towers on the Canary Islands at Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and La Palma have been awarded to the Sacerco company. AENA estimates savings of 46.6% as a result, with Ferronats bidding 70.4 million, and Sacerco bidding 20 million.


Iberia to launch new low cost airline next week

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Iberia is planning to launch a new low cost airline next week. The Iberia board is expected to approve the project on Tuesday 4 October, to launch the low cost airline for the company’s short and medium distance services. The new airline is expected to take up 37 of the 69 A-320 aircraft the airline currently has in service. Iberia is now merged with British Airways to create the IAG, the International Airline Group, and the IAG board would have to ratify the decision on Thursday. Iberia has been holding talks with the pilots’ union SEPLA on the conditions for them in the new airline. The airline contends that it needs a structural reorganisation, but the union considers that all the flights should remain under the Iberia brand, and considers maintenance would be cheaper with a single company. An earlier leasing of six planes to Vueling, the budget airline with a 45.85% Iberia shareholding, proved unsuccessful with Iberia passengers complaining they were being put on Vueling flights. Five of those six planes are now back with Iberia. The expected name for the new airline, Iberia Express, was first mentioned back in October 2009.


Belgian couple spot the men who stole their car in Belgium on a Spanish beach

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Sometimes it a very small world. A Belgian couple who had their car stolen at gunpoint in Belgium some months ago could not believe it when they recognised their attackers when on holiday in Alicante. They saw them on the beach in Guardamar, Alicante last Monday, and made no hesitation in calling the Spanish police. While they were waiting for the police to arrive, the couple found their own car parked nearby, and the owner decided to puncture the tyres to ensure that the thieves could not take it again. After the police arrived a search of the car revealed a simulated pistol. The two men, 47 year old L.J. and 20 year old G.C.D., were taken into custody and it’s now known that there was an international search and capture order in force against them. One of them has served time for serious sexual crimes against children. They have now both been passed to the National Court ahead of being extradited to Belgium.


Major heroin haul in Algeciras

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The second largest ever haul of heroin in Spanish history has been seized at the port in Algeciras, from a container which was on route to the Ivory Coast from Pakistan. The consignment of heroin was found in three hundred cylinders, each weighing half a kilo, which had been hidden in the cargo of iron oxide powder. The Agencia Tributaria Tax Authority had tracked the container until it arrived at the port, where it was searched on Wednesday. There has been no announcement of any arrests in connection with the find as yet. Spain’s biggest ever haul of heroin was in Sitges, Cataluña, three years ago, where more than 300 kilos were seized.


Ex Ronda Mayor released on bail in corruption case

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Antonio Marín Lara, the ex Socialist Mayor of Ronda who was amongst seven people arrested on Tuesday in an operation against alleged planning corruption, dubbed ‘Operación Acinipo’, has been released on 150,000 € bail. He was freed on Thursday after questioning by the judge and is charged with perversion of the course of justice, bribery, money laundering, misappropriation of public funds and influence peddling. It’s understood that he has 15 days to pay his bail. Marín Lara left the court in Ronda at around 5pm, five and a half hours after he arrived there under police escort. The six remaining suspects who were arrested on Tuesday have also been released from custody, but all have been charged. Two other people have been questioned at courts in Madrid and Valencia and face similar charges as the ex Mayor. The four Socialist councillors, including the ex-Mayor, among those arrested on Tuesday have now resigned from the PSOE party. The party had previously suspended the four.


UK pressure group set up to help Spanish property victims

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While there are similar groups already in existence in Spain, this group is the first of its kind in the UK and aims to raise awareness and pressure the UK Government and MEPs into taking action. Many thousands of Britons are believed to have bought property in Spain and through the actions of various levels of Spanish government, property developers and banks, find themselves unable to enjoy the rights to these properties. The Protection of Property Purchased in Europe (POPPIE) is run by husband and wife team Chris and Angela Beattie, who have first hand experience of the issues that surround buying in Spain. In 2004 they spent €150,000 on an off-plan Andalucian villa that was supposed to back onto a golf course, hotel and villa complex. After a building delay of two years, the house was finally built, although the surrounding complex was not. Due to the developer not having planning permission to build their home, they remain unconnected to mains water and electricity supply and are unable to sell the property.


Irish expat charged with prostitutes' murder in Spain

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The 42-year-old man, who is believed to be Irish, was arrested near his home in the resort of Mijas Costa, near Marbella on Spain's southern coast on Friday. The suspect's girlfriend and her mother were also being held over possible involvement in the serial slayings. Police suspect him of stabbing two prostitutes to death, the first in August and the second a month later. The killer was dubbed the "10 murderer" because both women were killed on the tenth of the month. The first woman, said to be 45 years old and of Argentine origin, was found dead in her apartment in the nearby resort of Calahonda. She had been stabbed at least 15 times and was found by her son with a pillowcase tied round her neck and a cushion over mouth. A month later police discovered the body of a 47-year-old Ecuadorian born woman at her home in San Pedro near Marbella. She had 12 stab wounds to her chest and neck. Both women reportedly advertised their services through local newspapers. Post mortem evidence suggested the two women shared the same killer. Police are investigating whether the suspect could be linked to other unsolved murders across Spain.


Blasts hit ex-home of Franco-era politician

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A Spanish official says two homemade explosive devices detonated outside the childhood home of Manuel Fraga, the last surviving member of the regime of Gen. Francisco Franco. No one was hurt. An official with the Interior Ministry office in Lugo province in northwest Spain says Monday's blasts broke windows and damaged the facade of the house, which is being turned into a museum by the conservative Popular Party, which Fraga founded. The devices were composed of explosive power of the kind used to make fireworks and butane gas canisters used for camping stoves. The official said there was no immediate claim of responsibility. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with ministry rules. Fraga is 88 and has a seat in the Senate.


Spanish police hold suspected 'Irish serial murderer'

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SPANISH police were last night reported to be holding an Irishman on suspicion of stabbing two women to death in their Costa del Sol homes. Leading Spanish TV station Telecinco described the suspect as Irish. Last night speculation was mounting that detectives were treating him as a suspected serial killer and looking to link him to a series of other unsolved murders across the country. Detectives established a link between the deaths of two women reported to have worked as prostitutes advertising their services through papers. A 45-year-old Spanish woman of Argentine origin was found in her luxury apartment in the Costa del Sol resort of Calahonda on August 11. She had been stabbed 15 times. A month later, police discovered the body of a 47-year-old Ecuador-born woman at her rented home near Marbella. She had bled to death after being stabbed up to 12 times in her chest and neck. Secrecy Due to the investigating judge granting a secrecy order on the case, spokesmen from Spain's National Police and Civil Guard were unable to confirm the name and nationality of the suspect or discuss local media reports he had been carrying false ID when he was arrested. A spokesman for the National Police said: "I've seen the reports suggesting the suspect is Irish and I've also seen other newspaper reports he's from central Europe, but I cannot give you any details about the man who is in custody." His Moroccan girlfriend and her mother were also being held. The man being held in custody was arrested on Friday at a gym near his home in Riviera del Sol near Fuengirola. The block where he was arrested is just a stone's throw from the home of missing Amy Fitzpatrick's mum, Audrey. Police are believed to have arrested him after stolen credit cards belonging to one of the victims was used to withdraw cash from ATMs in the area.


El Hierro prepares for a possible volcanic eruption

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Canary Island of El Hierro is preparing for a possible volcanic eruption as the Canaries have lifted the alert level to yellow for the first time in the recent history of the archipelago following a group of ever-stronger earthquakes. Saturday night saw a 3.4 quake among a total of 48 seen over the weekend. The fear is that there could be a possible volcanic eruption on the island of El Hierro, but the Councillor for Security, María del Carmen Morales, called for calm. ‘These seismic movements are normal given that we are on a yellow alert and we have never seen a similar crisis’. She said that more movements were expected over the next few days given that the magma has been estimated to be active 15 kms below the surface. They estimate the possibility of a volcanic eruption to be 15%. Despite the low possibility the regional government are carrying out an information campaign in case evacuation of the island is needed. They say there will be plenty of time, in the case of an eruption, to evacuate the population to a safe place.


Canadian gold diggers look to Coruña

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Canadian company, Edgewater Exploration, are to reopen an old gold mine in Coruña and say they will employ 100 people in Cabanas de Bergantiños in the efforts to extract a million ounces of the metal. An ounce of gold is currently 1,800 € on the market. The Las Médulas mines have a long and distinguished past, and were responsible for ten percent of the Roman empire, as 96,000 kilos of gold was taken over 250 years as the Romans used thousands of slaves to find the metal. The new gold fever is the first in the area for 2,000 years. Despite their advanced plans the company is still waiting for a licence to proceed from the Xunta de Galicia.


Two British swimmers cross the Strait

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British swimmers, Edward Thedore Cox and Frazer Lloyd-Jones managed to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar on Saturday. A third Briton, Richard Woodrup Skelhorn, had to abandon his attempt halfway, being unable to keep up with the other two. The two successful swimmers, both aged 34, left La Isla de Tarifa at 0910 and arrived at Punta Almansa at 1357, helped by calm seas and weak westerly winds. A Moroccan police patrol inspected the documentation of the participants without any problem on their arrival on the Moroccan coast.


Arrested man admits to killings on the Costa del Sol

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An alleged serial killer, who has been operating on the Costa del Sol and who is believed to be responsible for the deaths of two women, has been arrested. The crimes were on August 11 and September 10 in Calahonda and San Pedro de Alcántara, and in both cases the women had Spanish nationality but were of Latin American origin, and both were stabbed. Preliminary reports from the autopsies show certain similarities between the crimes. The 42 year old man, who has been revealed to be a foreigner although his nationality has not been announced, was arrested in Mijas, and the man’s mother and girlfriend have also been arrested to determine their possible implication in the crimes. The arrest took place on Friday night in a gymnasium near the suspect’s home in Urbanisation Riviera del Sol in Mijas Costa, and he was taken for questioning at the Fuengirola Civil Guard Barracks, while the two women were taken for questioning by the police in Marbella. The investigation was carried out jointly by the Guardia Civil and the National Police. They say that they cannot rule out other victims in other parts of Spain or in other countries, and they will continue to investigate over the next few days to try and establish if the suspect has taken part in other killings. On Saturday they said that the arrested man could have committed two more crimes, and believe that the tortures his victims before death. Latest reports indicate that he has admitted to the two crimes on the Costa del Sol.


FALKLANDS war veteran went on a lavish £1million spending spree after ripping off two gangsters

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FALKLANDS war veteran went on a lavish £1million spending spree after ripping off two gangsters. Ex-Royal Navy officer Dean Priestley had been asked by the crooks to drive the used notes across the Channel to Spain. But instead of sticking to the plan the 47-year-old went on the run and set about leading a life of luxury for six months. Advertisement >> Priestley splashed out on holidays, homes, cars, boats and jewellery as he hid from the villains who put out a hit on him. A court heard the furious crooks, known only as Mull and Steve, vowed to spend £5million hunting him down. The extraordinary case emerged as wife Derry, 48, was convicted of conspiracy to launder money. Her husband was jailed for three and a half years earlier this year after pleading guilty to conspiring to convert criminal property. Detective Constable Graham Duncan said: “This is the first case I have come across in 25 years of someone who allegedly stole £1million from criminals and has not given it back. “Dean Priestley was spending money like it was going out of fashion. He has shown a brass neck to the criminals he stole money from and shown no remorse.” Dad-of-two Priestley fled his £900,000 home in a water mill in Bielby, East Yorks, after stealing the cash. He called his wife to say: “I’ve done something really bad. I’m going to have to stay away for a long time.” He opened bank accounts in his privately-educated son’s names before depositing thousands of pounds in stolen cash. Priestley quickly splashed out on a luxury £230,000 Sealine S48 motor cruiser on Lake Windermere to hide from the villains. He also bought a £162,000 stone cottage for son Nathan, a semi-pro rugby player, in Wilsden, Bradford. He blew £20,000 on a Land Rover Defender 90 to drive between Lake District marinas and two £23,000 Audi A3s for cash from showroom dealers. He soon traded in one of the Audis, swapping it for a £32,000 black BMW 630 cabriolet picked out by his wife. At the time, Priestley was also being hunted by the police as he was wanted for extradition to France after being convicted in his absence of cannabis smuggling in his lorry. Wife Derry told Hull crown court she was threatened by two men from Manchester’s underworld to tell them where her husband was. She was told to take his birth and medical certificates to them just before they attacked his two sons with spray paint and an iron bar at their home. She said: “I got very depressed and suicidal. I was very low for a long time. I fled my home.” She remained in contact with her husband by mobile phone and made repeated visits to the Lake District to see him. The court heard Priestley bought a £5,000 diamond and 18 carat gold pendant from a jeweller for his wife’s birthday. He then paid for holidays to Spain, Amsterdam and a £4,000 trip to Australia. He even roped in his nephews, paying them £1,000 for every £10,000 they could put into banks. Mrs Priestley stopped using her Range Rover after finding a tracking device put on it by the Manchester criminals. It was Mrs Priestley’s call to the police saying the gangsters had told her that her husband had stolen £1million which started the investigation. Twice-married Mrs Priestley denied joining him when he ran up credit card bills on shopping trips. Prosecutor Timothy Capstick said her husband’s empire came crashing down when he was arrested by police coming out of a Leeds Hotel. They knew criminals had put a price on his head. The jury took less than 60 minutes to find Derry Priestley guilty. As well as the money laundering charge, she was also convicted of attempting to convert criminal property and converting criminal property. She will be sentenced at a later date. Her luxury home in Bielby, which the family had a mortgage on, has since been repossessed and sold on. Dean Priestley along with sons James, 23, Nathan, 22, and nephews Simon Taylor, 35, and Christopher Taylor, 32, all pleaded guilty to conspiring to convert criminal property before the start of their trial in March. His sons and nephews got suspended prison sentences. Priestley now faces an assets recovery hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize any criminal cash he has left.


Germans don't like the British, and the British are the majority in Benidorm

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A spokesman said part of the problem was that the Germans don't like the British, and the British are the majority in Benidorm hotelsPhoto EFE Air Berlin has cancelled five direct flights from El Altet airport as the company puts a tough cost cutting scheme into operation with the goal of saving 200 million €. The plan will leave 18 planes on the ground, and Alicante is reportedly hard hit because of the high seasonality of traffic at El Altet. In addition numbers show a marked fall in German traffic using the airport this August compared to last, down 22% with 78,988 German tourists. A spokesman for the airline is reported by Europa Press of having commented that part of the problem is that the Germans don’t like the British, and the Brits are the majority in Benidorm hotels. The town’s hoteliers have described that as ‘an urban legend’. The cutbacks come into effect in November and will see the number of direct destinations from Alicante reduced by 45%. The lost destinations are Frankfort, Munich, Nuremburg, Stuttgart and Zurich. The airlines connections to Berlin, Hamburg and Palma remain. The Air Berlin decision follows the earlier announcement from Ryanair reducing flights from Alicante, and dispels the opinion voiced by the PP at the time that Air Berlin could take up those vacant slots. Air Berlin is one of five airlines which use El Altet airport currently.


Owner of marijuana plantation caused Ibiza fire by negligence

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Spanish man who was arrested for starting the fire which broke out on Ibiza on Sunday night is believed to have started it through negligence while he was caring for his marijuana plantation nearby. Civil Guard sources have told the EFE news agency that the cause is thought to be either a cigarette he was smoking or a fire he had lit to cook food. The suspect had spent the past few days caring for his crop in the area where the blaze broke out. He spent his nights in a home-made shelter and used a nearby cave to dry out his plants. The Civil Guard seized marijuana plants and dried leaves at the site, amounting to almost 6 kilos of the drug. The man now faces additional charges of a public health crime. The fire which began in Cala Llonga and forced hundreds of people to be evacuated in Santa Eulàra des Riu destroyed more than 80 hectares of pines and just under 9 hectares of agricultural crops. The amount of land destroyed is however lower than the original estimate of 115 hectares. The Baleares Nature Institute, Ibanat, gives the amount as 92.3 hectares.


Ten Britons arrested in new Ibiza raid against drug traffickers

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The gang dealt in cocaine and designer drugs at the clubs on the island.Britons and an Irishman have been arrested by the Guardia Civil on Ibiza, accused of supplying drugs to discotheques on the island over the summer. The head of the gang was arrested in Manchester where a search of his flat revealed 40,000 pounds sterling and five kilos of cocaine. Information leading to the arrests came from a previous operation carried out at the end of August against other British traffickers on the Baleares, in which there were 13 arrests, nine Britons, three Irish and a Polish man. The Guardia Civil say the groups only operated in the high summer season, and made the use of several homes on the island to store small quantities of drugs which would be distributed within days. The main store of the drugs were hidden in hard to access parts of the countryside more than 5 kms away from any homes. They were protected in plastic bags, sealed with tape and placed in lunchboxes to avoid damp and any deterioration of the drug.


Two men drown on western Costa del Sol

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Two men drowned on the beaches of the western Costa del Sol on Wednesday. The first was at 2pm on Playa de La Carihuela in Torremolinos, where a 65 year old man was rescued by others on the beach after he began to experience difficulty in getting out of the water. He unfortunately died, and emergency services who arrived on the scene could do nothing more than certify his death. The second man was a 45 year old who drowned just a few hours later on Playa de Las Gaviotas in Fuengirola. He and another swimmer were also having trouble reaching the beach and he died after they were both rescued and taken to the shore. Neither of the two victims’ nationalities has been given in reports.


Detectives suspect possible serial killer in two murders on the Costa del Sol

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The National Police are working together with the Civil Guard to solve two recent murders on the Málaga coast which La Opinión de Málaga reports officers believe could have been committed by a serial killer. Both victims were women, of a similar age, and were both from South America. They had both taken out Spanish nationality and were both found stabbed to death in properties which were not theirs. The first victim was Susana M.F. from Argentina, whose son found her stabbed to death in a flat in Calahonda, Mijas, on August 11. One month later, on September 10, the body of Maryuru Alice P., a 47 year old woman from Brazil, was discovered in San Pedro de Alcántara, by the owner of the flat where she was found. The autopsy has shown that she died the previous day. Domestic violence has been ruled out in both cases. La Opinión has spoken to detectives who are working on the investigation, who believe the killer could be related to previous murders with a similar modus operandi.


61 year old British woman dies in Quad Bike fall

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61 year old British woman has died after falling from a Quad Bike in Los Gallardos, Almería. Europa Press quotes a Guardia Civil spokesman as saying the accident took place at 0930 on Thursday in a rural area known as ‘ El camino cortijo Los Burgos’. It’s not known why the woman fell from the bike and was left unconscious. An ambulance went to the scene, and although the woman, named with the initials D.P.B. was evacuated by health service helicopter, she died shortly after arrival at the Torrecádenas Hospital.


Spain’s central bank reported this week that things were getting worse for that country’s banks

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Spain’s central bank reported this week that things were getting worse for that country’s banks — but not because they held a lot of Greek debt or bonds issued by other troubled European economies. The problem, instead, is the same old one. With Spain’s economy weak and home prices falling, bad loans are growing. And the central bank thinks things are getting worse. In a surprisingly frank presentation to investors in London on Tuesday, José María Roldán, the Bank of Spain’s director general of banking regulation, said that Spanish land prices had fallen about 30 percent from the 2007 peak, adjusted for inflation, and that home prices were off about 22 percent. “In both cases, we expect further corrections in the years to come,” he said. For land prices, he said, the bank’s “baseline scenario” was that prices would fall to little more than half of the peak level. The “adverse scenario” indicated that the decline could be significantly worse. That was a significant change from a presentation he made in February. Then, with home prices down about 18 percent from the peak, he argued that the decline was similar to past cyclical downturns and that prices were likely to begin rising soon. Remarkably enough, collapsing home prices have not left Spanish banks holding large amounts of bad mortgage loans, thanks largely to the fact the Spanish mortgage market operated during the boom in far different ways than the American market. But if lending to home buyers was conducted in a far more prudent manner than it was in the United States, lending to real estate developers and construction companies was, if anything, more irresponsible. The higher land prices went, the more eager the banks were to push out loans. The story of how Spain’s banks got into the mess — and the way its mess differs from that of American banks — show that it is impossible for banks to walk away from a collapsing bubble in real estate. It also shows that the structure of mortgage markets can make a major difference in how a collapse plays out. The figures released by the central bank this week showed that by the middle of this year, 17 percent of Spanish bank loans to construction companies and real estate developers were troubled — or “doubtful,” the term favored by the central bank. That figure has been rising rapidly, reflecting the deterioration in real estate values. When the financial crisis first broke out, in 2008 and 2009, it appeared that Spanish banks were in a better position than most, in part because of regulation that had kept the big banks from making some of the mistakes others made. But it turned out that smaller Spanish savings banks were heavily exposed to a real estate market that had outpaced even the United States’ market for a time during the first decade of this century. That market continued to rise after the American housing market stopped climbing. The Bank of Spain has created a program to force mergers of the smaller banks and to bring in better management. It has put about 11 billion euros into the banks to recapitalize them, and is putting in another 15 billion euros in a process that is supposed to be completed by the end of this month, said Antonio Garcia Pascual, the chief Southern European economist for Barclays Capital. But, he added, “our estimate is that the overall number needed is closer to 50 billion euros.” The banks are bleeding from loans secured by raw real estate, and from loans for construction. The pain is made worse because such lending soared during the property boom. It is those loans that are now devastating bank balance sheets, as developers who borrowed to build offices, stores and neighborhoods saw demand dry up and now cannot pay the banks back. Other corporate loans are also showing weakness, as would be expected when unemployment is above 20 percent and not expected to improve for at least two years, but less than 5 percent of those loans are said to be doubtful. There are also signs of trouble in car loans and other loans to individuals.


Spanish consumers have appetite for grass-fed lamb

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Spanish consumers have rated English Quality Standard grass-fed lamb highly in blind taste tests carried out by Eblex. Consumers at three different Spanish locations with a tradition of high lamb consumption rated English lamb equally to Spanish lamb, with no clear preference between the two. It is hoped the research, carried out with 476 people in Catalunia, Aragon and Extremadura, will encourage more Spanish buyers to consider fast-growing breeds of lamb reared on rain-fed pastures, which they have traditionally shunned out of a perception that it has too strong a taste compared to their milder, grain-fed domestically produced lamb. Jean-Pierre Garnier, Eblex head of export services, said: “Traditionally, we have faced a wall with some Mediterranean countries, particularly in Spain, who believe the lamb produced in northern Europe is not to the liking of their palate. They have a preference for their own grain-fed lamb.   “This has been a real barrier to trade, but something we felt was based on historic perception rather than people actually tasting the difference, so we put this to the test.” Consumers were asked to rate the lamb on tenderness, juiciness, flavour and overall acceptability. A small majority (51%) of the tasters in Catalonia and Aragon preferred the English lamb, while a small majority in Extremadura (58%) preferred the Spanish lamb, suggesting that there was no real preference between the two. “This really does show that the Spanish consumer has an appetite for grass-fed lamb and we hope this will encourage more Spanish importers to look to buy from countries like England that use this system,” added Garnier.


U.S. deep-sea explorers must turn over to the Spanish government 17 tons of silver coins and other treasure recovered from a sunken Spanish galleon in 2007

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U.S. deep-sea explorers must turn over to the Spanish government 17 tons of silver coins and other treasure recovered from a sunken Spanish galleon in 2007, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. But Tampa, Fla.-based Odyssey Marine Exploration has vowed to continue the protracted legal battle over the cache, which could be worth as much as $500 million. In a statement Wednesday, the company said it would take the next step in the appeals process, requesting a hearing before all the judges of the 11th Circuit Circuit Court of Appeals. That came after a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit had issued its ruling in a case that could case spill over to treasure hunts for years to come. "We are certainly disappointed by the 11th Circuit's ruling," said Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey's vice president and general counsel. "We believe the U.S. Constitution and all other applicable laws give jurisdiction to the U.S. courts to determine the rights of Odyssey, Spain and all other claimants in this case." Attorneys for Odyssey asked the three-judge panel to overturn a lower court ruling and uphold the "finders keepers" rule that would give the treasure hunters the rights to coins, copper ingots, gold cufflinks and other artifacts salvaged in April 2007 from the galleon found off the coast of Portugal. Spain's lawyers countered that U.S. courts are obligated by international treaty and maritime law to uphold Spain's claim to the haul. The ship, called the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, was sunk by British warships in the Atlantic in 1804 while sailing back from South America with more than 200 people on board. Odyssey created an international splash in May 2007 when it announced that it had recovered more than 500,000 silver coins and other artifacts from the wreck and flew the treasure back to Tampa. Spain went to the U.S. District Court in Tampa, where the company is based, claiming ownership. Odyssey disputed the Spanish government's ownership of the valuable cargo. James Goold, a Washington attorney who represented the Spanish government in court, called the appeals court decision "a complete and much-deserved victory." "The court recognized that stripping the sunken Spanish ship of coins to sell to collectors is no more appropriate than to do that to the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor," Goold said. "We are pleased and gratified that the court recognized U.S. obligations under international law, just as Spain respects the sanctity of sunken U.S. Navy ships." A federal judge sided with Spain in the first round of the tug-of-war in June 2009, accepting the Spanish government's argument that it never surrendered ownership of the ship and its contents. Attorneys argued the case before the 11th Circuit panel in May. Odyssey had argued that the wreck was never positively identified as the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes. And if it was that vessel, then the ship was on a commercial trade trip — not a sovereign mission — at the time it sank, meaning Spain would have no firm claim to the booty. International treaties generally hold that warships sunk in battle are protected from treasure seekers.


La Tasca evolves brand into Spanish Tapas Bar and Kitchen

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LA TASCA RESTAURANTS LTD IS RE-LAUNCHING THEIR 65 STRONG CHAIN THROUGH THE NEW CONCEPT LA TASCA SPANISH TAPAS BAR & KITCHEN. The first to see the change were Windsor and Leeds, which have had the complete overhaul into the new concept. The change is set to bring a more contemporary, sincere approach to the brand and deliver a fresh new menu, which has halved in size and is sourced from Spain where possible to enhance provenance. La Tascas' customers remain a central focus for the future of the business, Simon Wilkinson CEO said: "We want to keep our current customer base but attract plenty of new ones too, it's been a frantic but very exciting few months, and we can't wait to roll out another six before Christmas for people to enjoy." The change also brings an innovative approach to its people within the business, focusing on a new training programme, recognition and reward and re-instating the value of being part of the La Tasca family. David Pepper, people director said: "People are the core cog of the business and drive every aspect of its success. Implementation of innovative training with flow, a new training manager and people development strategy in place are just the beginning of what we want to do for our 'family' at La Tasca." Today a new website launched as part of the evolvement of the brand, allowing customers to engage more via social media, enhance the online guest experience with a simplified booking system and new features in the form of a customer gallery, what's on and a bigger focus on careers for the business. This innovative approach brings the people and its customers back to the heart of the business and both Windsor and Leeds restaurants have been a test bed of which the successful elements will appear next in Glasgow, St Martins Lane- London and Bluewater. La Tasca Restauarants became a private company in March and is operated by CEO Simon Wilkinson. Prior to this the company had 3 previous owners including most recently Bay Restaurant Group, which is now Stonegate Plc. The first La Tasca opened in 1993 in Manchester and now has 65 UK restaurants spread over all regions and five in the USA and aims to double its estate in the next three years.


Spain’s CAM Says More Than Half of Developer Loans in Default

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Caja de Ahorros del Mediterraneo (CAM), a Spanish savings bank seized by the Bank of Spain, said more than half of its loans for property development were in default. Of 12.7 billion euros ($17.2 billion) lent to developers, 6.4 billion euros were classed as doubtful, the lender said in explanatory notes to its first-half earnings published late yesterday. Another 1.3 billion euros of those loans were classed as “substandard,” the lender said. The Bank of Spain is looking for a buyer for CAM, which was seized in July. It posted a 1.14 billion-euro first-half loss as its default ratio more than doubled to 19 percent since December. Selling the stricken lender is a priority for the regulator as it seeks to bolster confidence in a banking industry pummeled by defaulted loans to developers. Auditors KPMG said yesterday that the bank’s viability depends on the success of a plan put together by the government’s rescue fund. The Alicante-based lender said 5.4 percent of its 1.1 billion euros of mortgage loans to individuals were in default. Property development and business-services loans accounted for 29 percent of its loan book, the lender said.


Halle Berry taken to hospital after breaking her foot on set of new movie

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Halle Berry broke her foot while in Spain today. The actress, who is in the country filming scenes for Cloud Atlas, injured herself after a simple misstep on property where she is staying, according to TMZ. She is understood to have been taken to hospital where her foot was put into a cast and she later left in a wheelchair. The accident has put her film bosses in a spin however, with sources saying they plan to shoot around her injury by shooting her from the waist up and using a stunt double. Berry is in Spain after shooting scenes for the movie in Glasgow, where she was spotted running around in 70s gear for an action scene. She is among an ensemble cast starring in the big-screen adaptation of David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas - a collection of six different stories set between the 19th century to the post-apocalyptic future. She plays journalist Luisa Rey who investigates reports of corruption and murder at a nuclear power plant. A host of A-listers are taking part, including Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving and Hugh Grant. This month Berry has also spent time in Majorca with daughter Nahla and her boyfriend Olivier Martinez as part of her European stay.


Spain Examines Long Hidden Swiss Account

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Emilio Botín is a billionaire Spanish banker renowned for running a tight ship. He asks that his top credit officers at Santander — one of Europe’s largest banks — make a trek to his vacation home each summer to report on loan exposures. And he queries the head of his charitable foundation, euro for euro, on its smallest donations. Enlarge This Image Daniel Ochoa De Olza/Associated Press A Spanish court is investigating whether the family of Emilio Botín, the head of Banco Santander, paid too little taxes. Add to Portfolio HSBC Holdings PLC Barclays PLC Go to your Portfolio » Enlarge This Image Nacho Cubero/Reuters Emilio Botín is head of Banco Santander, which is based in Madrid. Readers’ Comments Share your thoughts. Post a Comment » Read All Comments (30) » Yet, there is one not-so-small matter that Mr. Botín (pronounced bo-TEEN) has failed to keep tabs on: a Swiss bank account secretly opened long ago by his father that grew to such a size that when Spanish authorities discovered its existence last year, Mr. Botín and other family members paid 200 million euros (about $273 million currently) in taxes to avoid tax evasion charges. At the request of tax fraud inspectors, a Spanish national court is investigating whether the payment is enough, given the amount that was stashed abroad; tax experts in Spain say that the account could reach two billion euros. The court has also said that officials need more time to sift through the blizzard of documents that the family submitted and will consider whether a criminal charge of document fraud should be brought. A lawyer for the Botíns, Jesús Remón, said the family was cooperating with the investigation and was “fully in compliance with its tax obligations following their voluntary filing” last year. He added that no family member had been charged with wrongdoing. Mr. Botín’s tax problems come as debate intensifies over whether struggling governments should demand more tax revenue from the rich. On Monday, President Obama called to end some tax breaks for the wealthiest taxpayers in the United States. Last Friday, the Spanish government reintroduced a wealth tax that it had abolished three years earlier, hoping to collect an estimated 1.08 billion euros from taxpayers with more than 700,000 euros in declared assets. Spain’s wealthiest have so far not publicly endorsed calls for higher taxes, and Mr. Botín on Friday told reporters that “it seems to me very bad to reintroduce” the wealth tax. More so than in other European countries, where bankers are largely anonymous figures, Mr. Botín holds sway in Spain. Although he avoids social events and his public utterances are few, his influence is seen as wide-ranging. And he has been able to retain control of Santander despite his family’s controlling just 2 percent of its shares. Neither the judiciary nor the family has provided details about how much money the Swiss bank account contained or how the amount grew over time. Nor would Mr. Remón, the lawyer, comment on whether Mr. Botín had been aware of the account. What is known is that Mr. Botín’s father, also called Emilio, left Spain with part of his wealth in late 1936, after the start of the Spanish Civil War, fearing, like many other Spaniards, what might come. The elder Mr. Botín spent a few months in London before moving to Basel, Switzerland, and eventually returning to Spain to resume leadership of the bank that he had run since 1933. But while he returned to Spain, the money he salted away in Switzerland did not. The senior Botín died in 1993. Last year, the French government passed on to Spain data that it had obtained from Hervé Falciani, a former employee in HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary, naming almost 600 Spanish holders of secret bank accounts. Among those was one belonging to the estate of Mr. Botín’s father. In his opening summary, the judge in charge of the case, Fernando Andreu, highlighted “the complexity of the hereditary structures” of trusts, foundations and other companies set up to oversee the account. The closest he came to explaining what was in the account was to say that it also included a 12 percent stake in Bankinter, a midsize bank in which Jaime Botín, Emilio’s brother, is a leading shareholder. That holding, at current stock market value, would be worth about $310 million.


Bullfighting to end in Spain's Catalonia,

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Bullfighting fans will shout "Ole" for the last time in Barcelona's Monumental bullring on Sunday before a ban on the sport takes effect across the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia. The regional legislature banned the centuries-old tradition -- which pits a sword-wielding matador in a skin-tight shiny suit and red cape against an enraged bull -- last year after Catalans signed a petition against it. The bullfighting industry is still convinced it has a chance to overturn the ban and bring back the "toros" next season to Catalonia, the only mainland region in Spain that has blocked the sport -- or the art as its fans see it. "I think the politicians will think twice about the ban and bullfighting will live on. And thank God because Catalonia has plenty of serious bullfighting fans and in a democratic country they should be able to go to a bullfight," said Moises Fraile, 64, owner of El Pilar, the breeder supplying bulls for Sunday's spectacle. Some 20,000 spectators are expected to fill a sold-out Monumental -- the only bullring still operating in Catalonia -- for Sunday's blockbuster corrida starring celebrated Madrid "torero" Jose Tomas. Tomas retired in 2002, but came back in 2007 at a bullfight in Monumental, his favorite ring. Since then he has made sporadic appearances and is the only bullfighter who can still sell out Monumental.


Three German women injured as helicopter comes down in the middle of El Puerto de Santa María

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Three people were injured at 1650 on Sunday when a helicopter taking pictures for a TV report fell in the centre of the old town of El Puerto de Santa María, Cadiz. The pilot tried to make an emergency landing on waste ground when one of the blades hit a wall and the craft was catapulted into the centre of a street. The three injured, all German women were all on board. Local police report that two of them are only slightly hurt, while the third has ‘more serious’ injuries to her back and chest. She has been taken to the hospital in Puerto Real. The Mayor of El Puerto de Santa María confirmed the three were taking photographs for a report, and that they had taken off from Jerez airport.


Brits arrested for drug trafficking on the Baleares

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The Organised Crime Squad ECO of the Guardia Civil based on Mallorca completed the second part of an operation against drug trafficking on Sunday. The first part of the operation had been started at the end of August. At that time ten Britons were arrested and on Sunday the ECO agents picked up another ten youngsters of the same nationality. Judicial sources say that seven of the ten were sent to prison in Eivissa, on remand, while two were granted bail of 10,000 € and one was released without bail. Reporting restrictions have been imposed in the case. And in a separate case on Saturday the Guardia Civil have arrested a British man in Sant Antoni, Ibiza found to have 300 ecstasy pills hidden in his hotel room. The investigation is being handled by the Judicial Police of the Guardia Civil. We also have more details about a Guardia Civil drugs raid last Wednesday, also in Sant Antoni, when four homes were searched in the second phase of the Rula operation. 5 kilos of cocaine was recovered along with 5,000 ecstasy pills, and ten more arrests were made. Diario Ibiza reports that all those arrested are men, nearly all of them young and also British, although there are some Irish in the group. Judge Carmen Martín in Instruction Court 3 in Ibiza took their statements on Sunday.


British man breaks his hip in new 'balconing' incident

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British man has broken his hip in yet another case of ‘balconing’ on the Baleares. The 29 year old, who was said to be very drunk, fell from the first floor of his hotel when trying to cross to the neighbouring balcony. It was a fall of some 3 metres and happened in Avenida Isidor Macabich in Sant Antoni. He was taken to the Can Misses Hospital where he is expected to stay for a few days. The Guardia Civil is in charge of the investigation, although the Local Police also attended the incident.


Two patients killed as ambulance overturns in Sevilla

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Two patients have been killed when an ambulance overturned at Los Molares on the A-375 road between Utrera and Puerto Serrano in Cádiz. The two fatalities are a man and a woman aged about 70. The emergency services say they received the call that an ambulance had overturned at 0950 on Monday morning. The driver of the ambulance was injured and has been taken to the hospital in Utrera with multiple contusions. The patients were on their way to the same hospital for out-patient treatment. The Guardia Civil in Utrera has opened an investigation into the accident.


Ibiza fire brought under control

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Some 1,200 people were evacuated overnight as their homes in the Roca Llisa urbanisation in the town of Santa Eulàra des Riu were threatened by the fire. The fire was declared at 8pm on Sunday afternoon in Cala Llonga, but given the size of the blaze in the early hours of Monday, 16 men from the Emergency Military Units UME were scrambled to the scene to reinforce the fire crews already working. They arrived on the island overnight on two helicopters. 160 fire fighters brought the fire under control on Monday morning, and there are no reports of any injuries. A total of 115 hectares were affected. In a separate incident a fire at Marratxí on Mallorca has affected some 5 hectares and is now also under control.


Marrakesh bomb trial to resume

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The trial in Morocco of nine suspects in a bomb attack in April that killed 17 people, mainly European tourists, is set to resume on Thursday with bereaved relatives in attendance. The main suspect, 25-year-old Adil El-Atmani, and his accomplices face the death penalty if proven guilty. The trial opened on June 30 but was then adjourned to August 18 and further postponed to September 22 in order to allow the plaintiffs to prepare their case. "So far the trial is taking place in normal conditions. The judicial guarantees are there and personally, I'm ready. So I don't wish for another postponement," Omar Abouzouhour, a lawyer for nine of the victims' families, told AFP. The nine suspects are accused of "seriously undermining public order, premeditated murder and laying an ambush, the possession of and making of explosives, and belonging to a banned religious group." The victims, most of them tourists, included eight French nationals as well as citizens of Britain, Canada, Switzerland, Portugal and The Netherlands. Relatives of the victims of the April 28 attack on the terrace of a cafe on Marrakesh's bustling Djemaa El-Fna square are in Morocco for the hearing. The Marrakesh bombing was the most deadly in the north African kingdom since attacks in the coastal city of Casablanca in 2003 which killed 33 people and 12 suicide bombers. Security sources have alleged that El-Atmani, wearing a wig and carrying a guitar, left two bags containing bombs on the cafe terrace and triggered the blasts with a mobile phone just after leaving. Major cracks "Morocco wants this trial to wind up by the end of December, they want it to finish as quickly as possible because every time you talk about the attack, it doesn't do any good to the tourism industry," said Jacques Sombret, one of the French victims' father.


Marbella Club Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa: Marbella, Spain hotel:

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Located on the Southern Spanish Costa del Sol, in the heart of the 'Golden Mile' only 5 minutes to Old Town Marbella and Puerto Banús, with 320 days of sunshine and a mild year round average temperature of 21ºC). Open year round, the renowned Marbella Club Hotel, was once the private residence of Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe. The 121 luxury bedrooms and suites, spread over the beach front resort, harmonize with 14 Andalusian-Style villas throughout 42,000 square meters (452,083 sq. ft.) of lush subtropical gardens. Each guest room is decorated with the finest fabrics and Mediterranean interior design, reflecting the surrounding elements and has furnished balcony / terrace and spacious luxurious bathrooms with separate shower and bath. The 14 charming villas are in the unmistakable style of the Hotel, faithful replicas of traditional Andalucían architecture, blending harmoniously with their surroundings, and are ideal for families and guests seeking to enjoy more space and privacy. The 2, 3 or 5 bedroom villas have their own private garden and heated pool, providing guests with both comfort and privacy during their stay. Both of the 2 outdoor heated swimming pools, one with seawater invite you to relax in the surrounding gardens or to enjoy the views of the Mediterranean through the palm trees of the famous beach club.


Housing Market Woes Even Hit Celebs

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Even celebrities are having a hard time selling their mega-mansions. More on DIS Fan Cam: The Next Sports Cash Machine?Jay Rasulo, Senior Executive Vice President And Chief Financial Officer, The Walt Disney Company, To Speak At The Goldman Sachs 20th Annual Communacopia ConferenceBond Funds See Huge Spike in Inflows Market Activity The Walt Disney Co| DIS Mommy-to-be Hillary Duff has put her first mansion that she purchased while starring in Disney's Lizzie McGuire up for sale with an asking price of $6.25 million. But according to The Real Estalker, Duff also attempted to sell the estate last year, listing for $7 million last time around. Real estate records reveal Duff bought the 9,277 square-foot house in Toluca Lake, Calif., in March 2004 for $3.5 million. Mark Wahlberg, a.k.a. Marky Mark, also recently re-listed his Beverly Hills estate with a $2 million price cut. Wahlberg originally listed the property in 2008 for $15.9 million. The 1.41-acre home is now listed for $13.9 million. The executive producer of Entourage purchased the mansion in 2001 for just $5 million, later remodeling it. Earlier in the summer, Christina Aguilera reduced the price on her home in the Hollywood Hills to $5.5 million from $8 million, while Jodi Foster's Beverly Hills mansion was brought down to $8.9 million from $10 million. The housing market continues to wobble with few consumers taking advantage of record-low mortgage rates. Sales of newly built homes are expected to be at their worst levels for decades this year, while sales of previously occupied homes are on pace for their poorest showing in nearly 15 years


Spain finance chief admits odd quirk in wealth tax

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One aspect of a plan to restore wealth tax in Spain makes no sense but there's nothing the government can do about it, the finance minister said Saturday. Elena Salgado spoke from Poland where she was attending a meeting of euro zone counterparts. The tax stems from the central, Socialist government but is collected by regional administrations. It was suspended in 2008 to stimulate growth as the global economic crisis started to bite in Spain. But the Madrid government has kept compensating regional governments for the lost revenue. Now, regions stand to get the money twice: once from high-earning taxpayers under a decree passed Friday and again from the central government because the compensation must continue under a separate law that has a higher status than a decree. Salgado said "this does not seem reasonable" but there's no way around it. "With a decree, there is nothing you can do to avoid it," she said. Her comments were the latest in a sea of confusing government statements about the wealth tax, which is levy on a person's net worth: assets minus debts. The flip-flops concerned the wealth level at which it will kick in and how much revenue it will raise. In the end, if passed by Parliament next week, the levy will apply to taxpayers' net worth above euro700,000 ($963,000), or an estimated 160,000 people, and raise euro2 billion in revenue. It is temporary, and will be in effect only in 2011 and 2012. The government says the tax is aimed at getting richer people to chip in more as Spain struggles with a 21 percent jobless rate, anemic growth and a high deficit. But it has been criticized by the conservative opposition as a populist nod to leftist voters angry over deficit-cutting austerity measures as Nov. 20 general elections approach. The ruling Socialists are projected to lose badly. Salgado's remarks seemed to contradict some made just Friday by government spokesman Jose Blanco, who said no region would get the wealth tax money twice. Salgado said Blanco really meant the same thing she did: that it seems unreasonable for regions to get the money doubly.


Spain to cover 20bn euros in potential bank losses

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The Bank of Spain has promised to cover up to 20 billion euros ($27 billion) in losses at Caja Mediterraneo as it seeks to offload the troubled savings bank, a newspaper said Monday. The Bank of Spain took control of the bank in July and is now trying to sell it off. According to the daily El Mundo, the central bank let investors know it would cover up to 20 billion euros of losses, the estimated amount of property-related assets at risk in Caja Mediterraneo (CAM), if necessary. If confirmed, the central bank intervention would be "the costliest for the public treasury in Spanish financial sector history," the newspaper said, without identifying its source. The price tag could unnerve financial markets -- it is equal to a government estimate of the maximum cost of recapitalising Spain's entire banking sector. Contacted by AFP, Bank of Spain officials were unable to respond immediately to the report. The Bank of Spain injected 2.8 billion euros and opened a three-billion-euro line of credit for the CAM when it took control of the institution in July. But in early September CAM revealed a first-half loss of 1.136 billion euros and a high 19-percent ratio of bad loans, mostly property-related credits whose recovery was doubtful. The average bad loan ratio for the Spanish banking sector was 6.416 percent in June. According to El Mundo, the Bank of Spain is trying to complete the sale before general elections set for November 20. It said rival banks Santander, BBVA and CaixaBank, as well as a union of three Basque banks, were among candidates to buy the CAM, with Santander the favourite.


66 year-old Daniel Healy was found by police to have 100kg of cannabis resin, said to be worth £500,000, hidden in the water tank of the campervan he was driving

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66 year-old Daniel Healy – or ‘Mad Danny’ as he is known in Ardfern in Mid Argyll – was arrested last week, as he went to drive across the border between Morocco and Ceuta, a Spanish owned city enclave. Healy was travelling under the false name of John McLeish and was found by police to have 100kg of cannabis resin, said to be worth £500,000, hidden in the water tank of the campervan he was driving, protected in metal containers. Since his arrest he has been held in the Moroccan prison of Tetouan, said to be worse than Guantanamo.


Roche threatens to stop supplying Spanish hospitals

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multinational pharmaceutical company, Roche, has warned Spain that it may stop supplying its products to Spanish hospitals and clinics. It comes as the company has stopped supplying medicines to Greek hospitals because of the debt they are owed, and that say that what they are owed by some regional administrations in Spain is ‘at the limit’. CEO of the company, Severin Schwan, made the revelation to the New York Times, and El País then asked Roche España for comments. The response was ‘As is happening in other countries, the crisis situation and the debt in Spain is significant and some regional administrations are at their limit’. Regions such as Castilla y León are now paying medical suppliers after two years, but Roche reports delays of 900 days are now happening, while Andalucía, Valencia and Castilla-La Mancha has an average payment time of more than 600 days.


Case summary reveals the size of Astapa corruption in Estepona

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The judge in the Astapa case, regarding corruption in Estepona Town Hall, has more than 40 million € belonging to the 99 indicted in the case frozen, and Hacienda has detected a missing 20 million from appraisals on four real estate deals. These are named a El Ángel, Valle Romano, Arroyo Enmedio Este and Camino del Cerrillar. The case summary shows that as many as 1,800 properties have been impounded in the case, along with 50 vehicles, and a stud with 38 horses. One of the papers dated December 2010 shows that police have requested information from more than 100 local companies, most of them hotels, banks or builders and from what was obtained have concluded that the Town Hall and the political parties organised events and other items paid for by third parties, or by the people alleged to be at the centre of the case. El País reports that the ex Chairman of the Caja Jaén is among those implicated for bribery. José Antonio Arcos Moya, is alleged to have been involved in the payments surrounding concessions made by the Town Hall in 2007 regarding the first occupancy licence for La Reserva de Selwo Golf S.L. The case summary notes the high life style of the ex Councillor, José Ignacio Crespo and says there are indications that he received a 40,000 € payment from a company with town planning interests in the town. The tax authorities are investigating more than 120 companies and individuals and the police continue to wade through 160 boxes of files and 100 hard disks of information.


Handling of Saudi prince's Spain court case challenged

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Lawyers for a woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia say the case has not been properly handled by Spain's criminal justice system. The woman, known only as "Soraya", says she was assaulted on a yacht moored off the island of Ibiza in 2008. A spokeswoman for the prince denied the allegation and said he had not been to Ibiza for more than a decade. The case was shelved by an island court but has now been reopened. This followed a successful appeal by Soraya's lawyers. The judge is preparing a second official request to the Saudi authorities for assistance in formally questioning the prince. The nephew of Saudi King Abdullah, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is a multi-billionaire with major investments in both Citigroup and NewsCorp. 'Something in my drink' "In our opinion, the Court of Instruction No 3 in Ibiza and the police did not follow full procedure in cases of alleged sexual abuse," the lawyers from Madrid-based firm Turiel and Beloqui told the BBC. "There are things that should have been investigated that were not - like questioning staff on the yacht and the guests, an analysis of the victim's clothes and so on," the lawyers wrote, describing the fact these steps were not taken as "very unusual". The claim that the case was not being pursued with proper rigour was dismissed by the Ibiza court in 2010, saying that the identity of the accused in no way affected its decision to drop the case that year. The court ruling cites insufficient evidence to proceed. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote My daughter was in a terrible state, [...] scared to death, crying, awful” Mother of 'Soraya' Soraya, a Spanish-German model, was 20 at the time of the alleged attack on 13 August 2008 on board the 117-metre luxury yacht Turama. She told police she had begun to feel nauseous in the VIP zone of a local night club, where she believes something was slipped into her drink. She had been taken there by a man claiming to be a chauffeur for "an Arab prince" who was visiting the island. According to court documents seen by the BBC, Soraya sent the chauffeur an SMS text message at 05:12, saying: "I haven't drunk much but I think there was something in my drink." The model says she came round some hours later on board the Turama to find a man on top of her. She later identified the man as Prince Alwaleed bin Talal using images taken from YouTube. Forensic reports from a medical examination the following day revealed traces of a sedative and semen, but no physical injuries. A woman identifying herself as the mother of Soraya told the BBC her daughter had called on the morning of the alleged attack asking her to come and collect her from the island. "My daughter was in a terrible state, [...] scared to death, crying, awful," the woman said, responding to questions sent by email. "The Spanish justice system has treated this case very badly. In my view they did not want to get too involved because of who the accused was." A 2010 prosecutor's report says three men who were questioned by police during the investigation were unable to corroborate the model's version of events "in any way". The Saudi foreign ministry rejected an initial request from the Ibizan court to investigate, citing "an inability to identify the accused and a lack of solid evidence". This week, a spokeswoman for Prince Alwaleed's Kingdom Holding Company said the prince had never been informed of the 2008 court case, or that it was eventually shelved. In a statement, she also said the billionaire's travel records confirm he was with dozens of friends and family at the time of the alleged attack, nowhere near Ibiza. "There have been many examples of people impersonating Prince Alwaleed over the internet and elsewhere for their own purposes," Heba Fatani said in a statement. She called the allegations against him "salacious" and "completely and utterly false". The Audencia Provincial court in Mallorca - which has jurisdiction over Ibiza - has ordered the case to be reopened in order to ensure the prince can be questioned in accordance with Spanish law. Soraya's lawyers have urged him to provide a DNA sample to rule himself out of the inquiry.


Spain raises taxes on the rich

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Spain today became the latest European country to hike taxes on the wealthy, with a new asset-based tax targeting the country's richest people. Spain's socialist government hopes that the new wealth tax will raise up to €1bn in a country where growth is grinding to a halt and this year's 6% deficit target looks increasingly tough to meet. The move represents a U-turn for prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who abolished a similar wealth tax in 2008 — just before the country plunged towards recession. "The economic crisis makes it necessary to bring this tax back, applying principles of fairness so that those with bigger assets can be taxed and so those who have greater wealth can contribute more to getting the country out of the crisis," a finance ministry statement said. Spaniards with €700,000 of assets in real estate – excluding their main home – as well as in stocks and bank deposit will have to pay the new tax. "It excludes the middle classes, who were the ones who had been largely affected by it when it was eliminated in 2008," the statement said. "We estimate the number of people who will contribute at around 160,000, with annual payments of about €1.08bn if it is applied evenly across Spain," it added. The wealth tax will go to Spain's cash-strapped regional governments, though some of them are opposed to it. Only one of the eleven regions currently governed by the right-wing opposition People's Party (PP) has so far indicated that it will apply the tax. It remained unclear how many others, including the wealthy Madrid region, would join the PP-administered region of Extremadura. But with fierce austerity measures in place, PP regional governments will come under intense pressure to use the tax. "In moments of hardship it is fair that those who have more should give more, just as some of the wealthiest people in Germany and France have offered to do, especially as they are less affected by measures that have been applied to pensions, salaries, lay-offs and income tax or VAT hikes," said José María Mollinedo, head of the tax inspectors' union. Spain's wealthy largely avoid income tax, with only some 7,000 people declaring annual taxable income above €600,000. Emilio Botín, head of the Santander banking group and Spain's tenth wealthiest individual, said that he disagreed with the move. "I think it's bad," he told journalists


Mijas Fire NOT arson Bonfire

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BONFIRE not been properly extinguished near a stream in Entrerrios, Mijas, was the cause of the wildfire which started on Sunday (12th September) night destroying a vast stretch of land. This was the conclusion reached by the regional government’s fire investigation unit, Brigada de Investigacion de Incendios Forestales, on Monday (12th September). Remedios Martel, from the Junta de Andalucia, dismissed rumours suggesting the fire was an act of arson. Five homes were damaged, two of which were completely destroyed by the fire. But witnesses say minor damage has affected several other houses in urbanizations including El Soto de Marbella, Elviria, set in a UNESCO designated nature reserve.   Jan Mansi, former president of Phase 2 at El Soto de Marbella Urbanization described the landscape after the fire as “a skeleton of what it was.” “People mainly come to live in the area for the greenery,” she said. But residents at El Soto should consider themselves very lucky, she said, as the flames spread to just metres from the properties. The blaze affected 6.8 million square metres of in Mijas, Ojen and Marbella – the equivalent of 958 football pitches – according to Infoca, the regional fire department. Around 300 properties were evacuated in these areas but occupants were able to return to their properties on Monday. Twenty five patients at a drug rehabilitation centre in Mijas were also evacuated after the staff were told by Guardia Civil they were at risk due to strong winds, according to Paloma Alonso from the facility. They spent the night at the Las Lagunas sports centre being allowed to return on Monday afternoon. The fire was brought under control at 9am Tuesday, and declared completely extinguished at 10pm. Five hundred people participated in the effort to extinguish the blaze, as well as 11 fire engines, and 22 planes and helicopters. This is the biggest fire in Mijas since 2001 when a car blaze led to a wildfire that affected 700 hectares of land.


Torremolinos shooter pushed wife off Eiffel Tower

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THE man, 79, accused of killing another in Torremolinos town centre served time for pushing his wife off the Eiffel Tower in 1963, according to a Spanish daily. He was 31 at the time, she was 28, and they had emigrated to France and were working in a factory on the outskirts of Paris. Although he denied the accusations, he was sentenced to five years in prison. Last week he was arrested for shooting a man of the same age outside the Entreplazas office building in Torremolinos and has since remanded to prison without bail. Apparently some years ago the victim wanted to sell an apartment and spoke to the other man who found him a buyer, although the transaction did not go ahead at the time, but later, in 2006. The shooter asked for commission and although the victim gave him some money, the attacker wanted €12,000, and was sentenced to four years in prison in 2007 for stabbing the buyer. He was released in January 2009 and began to threaten the victim, who reported him to the police last month. When he was caught by police after the shooting he claimed that a bag containing the weapon which he was carrying was not his.


Saudi Arabia: Pretty Maids From Morocco Seen as Threat

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Back in early September, the recruitment committee of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry announced that recruitment companies would be established and will be licensed to bring in housemaids from Morocco, East Asia and South Africa. The move has caused outrage in unusual places. The reason for this recruitment move, according to a Saudi chamber official, was that they were turning to Morocco and other countries to get its domestic workers following a dispute with the Philippines and Indonesia, the largest suppliers of housemaids to the Gulf countries. The dispute has centered on pay and conditions, but Indonesia had earlier this year also criticized the Saudi government for beheading an Indonesian maid. Of the 1.2 million Indonesians working in Saudi Arabia, over 70% are domestic helpers. The ban on maids from Indonesia and the Philippines hit Saudi households hard, causing many to resort to hiring illegal maids over Ramadan. The Saudis are reliant on foreign workers to perform their household tasks for them and very few Saudi women will work in such menial positions despite high unemployment, as they would be looked down on by other Saudis. The ban came into effect following the two countries attempts to introduce regulations for the work conditions of their nationals. Trade Arabia said both countries demanded better working conditions for their employees. Saudi walked away from the negotiations abruptly and decided to look for domestic employees from countries such as Morocco who they perceive as not as concerned about imposing regulations to protect their workers. It also became clear that lower rates of pay could be offered to other nationals. Right from the beginning the scheme ran into problems in respect to recruiting maids from Morocco. The recruitment committee said that the immediate employment of Moroccan maids could prove an issue as there were no official recruitment offices in Morocco to process the papers of prospective domestic helps. It was suggested that there could be a way around the problem with Saudi citizens being given work visas to bring housemaids from Morocco on their own. The whole issue of Saudi maids has been at the centre of international protests for years, especially in regard to exploitation, sexual harassment and torturing of foreign housemaids. The notion that individual Saudi's could fly to Morocco and find a young woman and take her back to Saudi, is truly worrying and will, no doubt, offend our readers. The chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, warned Saudi citizens against contacting any offices claiming to be able to send housemaids from Morocco to the Kingdom. "They are all fake. You should not heed the false claims of these fake offices." he warned prospective employers. The spokesman of the Labor Ministry, Hattab Al-Anzi, said the recruitment offices would grant citizens work visas for housemaids from Morocco. "It is now the responsibility of the citizen to look for authorized private recruitment offices to bring workers from Morocco," he said. Then, suddenly, the plan to import maids from Morocco ran into even more problems. Those fighting to stop the "maid-trade" got support from an unlikely source - Saudi women. They objected to the importing of Moroccan girls, not because they didn't think they would work hard, or that they were against the exploitation of young foreign women. No - it was because they thought the Moroccan women were too beautiful. At first it sounded like a sick joke, but the Saudi women were serious.     "Many Saudi woman have objected to plans to import domestic workers from Morocco…they say the Moroccan women are beautiful and this will cause continuous anxiety and concern in Saudi families,” - 'Sharq' Daily It is a relatively rare for the voices of Saudi women to be raised in protest. This year there have been notable exceptions as some women protested for the right to drive, whilst others demanded the right to vote. Now they have another common cause - to ban female domestic maids from Morocco. It started slowly, but over a few days the protests grew to the point where the Saudi women inundated the government with complaints that Moroccan women are just too beautiful and may lure their husbands away. According to the website Emirates 24 the Shura Council was “deluged by demands from Saudi women” "Moroccan women are so attractive that their husbands could easily fall for them…others said Moroccans are good at magic and sorcery and that this could enable them to lure their husbands.” - 'Sharq' Daily If the women of Saudi Arabia fail to stop this "maid-trade" then it is imperative that the Moroccan government scrutinize the contracts and conditions of every maid taken to Saudi. They should also take steps to educate Saudi women to understand that while Moroccan women may be beautiful, they are not dangerous.


Passenger 'tried to open jet door'

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A holidaymaker who allegedly tried to open the doors of a plane at 36,000ft has been arrested. The Thomson Airways flight from Palma, Majorca, to Newcastle early on Wednesday was diverted to Gatwick. Witnesses said friends tried to restrain a man as he attempted to open the door, and he shouted: "It's OK, we are just on a simulator." Passengers and crew wrestled him into a seat and he was tied up with seat belts. A man aged 22 from Ashington in Northumberland was arrested at Gatwick on suspicion of endangering the safety of an aircraft and bailed to 8 November.


British man arrested in Martorell facing paedophile charges

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British man has been arrested in Martorell, near Barcelona, accused to taking photographs of and abusing youngsters in the locality. The complaint against him was made by a shop owner who saw how the man was taking photographs of his children in his shop. Closed circuit television in the shop confirmed the behaviour of the suspect who visited the shop every day and who told the children how to pose, including showing their underwear. The shop owner also alleges that touching took place. The 54 year old Briton has not been named in reports, but is said to live in Burjassot, Valencia, and faces charges of involvement in child pornography and also the sexual abuse of children, according to the regional police, Los Mossos d’Esquadra. They found some 40,000 paedophile archives on the man’s computer at his home and the suspect is being held in prison ahead of appearing in court


Boxer Scott Harrison released from Spanish jail

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SHAMED Scottish boxer Scott Harrison is a free man after being released from a Costa del Sol prison. Harrison, 34, walked free from the notorious Botafuego jail near Algeciras after serving two and a half years for assaulting a policeman, and factory worker Jose Manuel Ortega in 2006. The former WBO title holder was jailed in 2009 for the assault – which took place in Alhaurin el Grande – but could still face extra jail time for another alleged attack in a Costa del Sol brothel in May 2007. He and cousins David McGill, 37, and Edward McGill, 39, were accused of battering bar boss Rafael Sainz Maza, 31, with Harrison facing three counts of assault. Following his release on Saturday, the Glaswegian spent time with his family at an apartment in Estepona’s Albayt Resort before strolling along Bermuda Beach with his fiancee Stacey Gardner, 27, and two-year-old son Jack. The father-of-three returned to the UK on Sunday, flying from Gibraltar in a possible bid to avoid the Spanish airport authorities. In 2009, Harrison told the Olive Press of his determination to rebuild his career once he was released. “I can tell you now that Scott Harrison will be back. I want to repay the fans for the faith they have shown in me,” he said. “I have never been so focussed and determined in my entire life. Being locked up helps develop that. “I’ll have a clean slate – a new start and the determination to show everyone I’m back.”


At least two die in fire on Norwegian cruise ship

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Two crew members have died in a fire on a cruise ship off the coast of Norway. At least a dozen people were injured, two seriously, as the blaze forced rescuers to evacuate more than 200 passengers from the ship, the Nordlys. The ship was sailing close to the port of Aalesund in western Norway when a fire broke out in the engine room. Police believe there was an explosion, but do not know what caused the blast. Some people were taken hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation. Television pictures showed clouds of thick black smoke rising from the ship after it was taken to Aalesund. The Nordlys, which belongs to the Hurtigruten company, was sailing northwards from Bergen to the Arctic circle when it caught fire. All 207 passengers were rescued. The ship can carry nearly 700 passengers. Some of the 55 crew members remained on board to help firefighters battle the blaze. "The fire is under control now but we have a problem with the ship taking on water so right now they are working on stabilising the vessel," a spokeswoman for the rescue services in southern Norway, Borghild Eldoeen, said. The nationalities of the passengers were not known, but most of the tourists on Hurtigruten ships are from Norway.


Marihuana seized in Rincon de la Victoria

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LOCAL POLICE in Rincon de la Victoria arrested a 25-year-old man and seized 30 kilos of marihuana from his home. The police estimate that it would have had a street value of more than €30,000.


Fury over 'link' of drug arrests to Jodie's death

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SPANISH police investigating the circumstances surrounding Jodie Nieman's death made nine arrests last week. Although police are certain the Kenley beautician died from a heart attack, it is not clear whether her death was drug-related. ​ MISSED: Jodie Nieman An investigation has been launched into drugs supply in Ibiza and police announced last Thursday that they had arrested nine men after seizing cocaine, thousands of ecstasy pills, steroids and laboratory equipment. One of the men is from Croydon but it is not suggested Ms Nieman, who died just days before her 20th birthday on July 15, knew him. The former nail technician's mother Debbie, of Waterbourne Way, Kenley, said she was "disappointed and angry" Spanish police had linked the arrests with her daughter. She said: "We still don't know if Jodie took any pills. The doctor in Ibiza said they weren't told she had taken any tablets. "Until we have results saying she took any drugs, we just don't know and it is upsetting because we are still waiting on tests." Spanish police said most of the pills found are known as Pink Rock Star, similar to those thought to have caused the death of Ms Nieman and the poisoning of others in July, officers added. The UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency took part in the operation against a mostly-British gang which travelled to Ibiza to feed the demand from the summer influx of clubbers. Detectives arrested five British men, including a 39-year-old from Croydon, three from Ireland and one from Poland. They were being questioned by officers from the Guardia Civil on suspicion of various drugs offences. The former Riddlesdown student was just three days into her holiday when she had a heart attack on a night out at the Space club in the Playa d'en Bossa resort. The teenager's funeral took place at Croydon Crematorium on August 16. Mum Debbie said her 19-year-old daughter was a "stylish princess" who would defend her friends to the end. Ms Nieman added: "She had champagne on the plane over and it came in a plastic glass – Jodie just said: 'Who has champagne in a plastic glass?' "That was just Jodie. Every day another person tells me they knew Jodie and they went to the funeral. I didn't know she was so loved."


solutions to the expat Spanish property scandal

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Entering the Andalucian property market is like entering a minefield. Some will emerge unscathed and others will step on the unexploded bomb. There is no reliable map to guide you. The tripwire for the unlucky is a poorly-policed system for urban planning and land management, which has resulted in an estimated 300,000 illegal buildings in this region of Spain alone. The consequences of owning an illegal property are many and varied, ranging from unexpected and expensive urbanisation costs to land grab, court proceedings, fines, denial of access to basic services or in the worst case scenario, demolition of your property. Since the problem emerged over a decade ago, the regional government has made efforts to cauterize the wound. It has introduced new regulations which attempt to ensure that mistakes are not repeated. However, it has thus far failed to effectively tackle the stockpile of illegal housing which continues to stink up the market place. Its latest legal manoeuvre, a draft decree, describes a complex, sometimes ambiguous, lengthy and expensive solution which fails to bring any immediate relief to those facing demolition or denied access to basic services. More decisive action is required in my view. The market demands it and the homeowners desperately need it. As president of AUAN (Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora, NO), an association of some 700 British homeowners who have become trapped in this mess, I have a fairly detailed perspective on the problem and its possible solutions. I believe that the following should be done. Change the law The genie is out of the bottle and cannot be returned or ignored. The regional government must create a complete and up-to-date legal framework to deal with illegal constructions. This requires changes to the planning laws, rather than clarification of its finer details via various decrees. For example, current planning law does not recognise the existence of a house in the countryside unless it is associated with farming or is more than 25 years old. This does not conform to the needs of rural communities, the demands of the market or the current reality of homes in the countryside. Current planning law does not permit the segregation of a rural parcel of land to create a building plot. In reality, such parcels exist in large numbers, and must be dealt with to solve pressing problems with title to land and the property on it. Introduce interim measures Realistically, a properly-ordered solution will take years to implement. In the meantime, prosecutors are obligated to seek demolition of illegal properties and service providers are obligated to deny access to basic services such as electricity and water, creating untenable situations for the homeowner. Interim legal measures are required whilst fair and just solutions are put in place. Remove planning powers from small town councils In my experience small councils lack the funding and the technical expertise to prepare complicated town plans. There is also the frequently irresistible temptation to rezone the land of friends and family as lucrative building land at the expense of the wider community. A centralised function would create economies of scale and be more impartial. Act decisively against illegal construction It is easy to find examples of continued illegal construction. There are less than 50 planning inspectors in Andalucia for a land mass of 33,694 square miles. The complicated intermingling of politics, business, wealth and favours in small Spanish towns makes it unlikely that such activities will be reported. Citizens alerting the authorities to illegal construction need a means to protect their anonymity. Compensate Create a fund to compensate those whose homes have been demolished through failings in the system rather than any wrongdoing on the part of the unsuspecting homeowners. Divert money from marketing campaigns for this purpose. It will do more good. The government of Andalucia has complete control over planning matters within its borders. This gives them the power to amend the law to solve the problem. One can only hope that they heed the demand for change not only from Spanish nationals who are similarly affected and who will have their say in the coming elections, but also from the thousands of foreign homeowners who were encouraged to settle here only for their investment to be wiped out and their dreams shattered. If Spain wishes to remain the premier choice for European retirees and to bring in much needed new investment, it needs to make changes that will offer the security demanded by purchasers. If it continues to ignore the mistakes of the past or papers over the cracks with piecemeal legislation, consumers and the property industry as a whole will continue to be badly served.


Fitch downgrades five Spanish regions

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Fitch Ratings has downgraded the credit of five Spanish regions, including the powerhouse of Catalonia, warning they will struggle to cut deficits in a weak economy. The red ink running through the accounts of Spain's regional governments is a major concern for the markets, which fear it could compromise the central government's goal to cut the annual public deficit. Fitch cut the ratings of Catalonia, Andalusia, the Canary Islands, Murcia and Valencia a week after official figures showed most regions missed their deficit targets for the first half of 2011.  Lower credit ratings tend to make it more expensive to borrow on the debt market. Fitch also kept the long-term outlooks on all of them at "negative." The budget deficit for the 17 regions amounted to 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product in the six months, already nearly reaching the full-year target of 1.3 per cent, the government said last week. "Fitch Ratings has downgraded five Spanish regions following a comprehensive review," the credit rating agency said in a statement. "The downgrades reflect the sharp fiscal deterioration seen in recent years which has led to sharp increases in debt levels." The agency said it believed the regions would take all possible steps to cut spending but it expected the weak economic recovery would limit any growth in their revenue. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero tipped economic growth in the third quarter of this year would be "similar" to the 0.2 per cent quarterly rate recorded in the second quarter. Uncertainty because of the Greek debt crisis could impact that prediction, he warned. "Fitch is of the opinion that considerable efforts will still need to be undertaken by the regions, particularly in the area of cost control, to ensure adherence to the established limits," the agency said. Fitch said it expected that most regions would be able to break even on their annual budgets by 2013 given a renewed focus on spending cuts. "Nonetheless, the negative outlooks reflect the still difficult fiscal and economic environment and the execution risks in implementing some of the cost cutting measures announced," it said. Fitch trimmed the rating for Andalusia and the Canary Islands by one notch each to A-plus from AA-minus; Catalonia and Valencia by one notch each to A-minus; and Murcia by two notches to A. The overall accumulated debt in the 17 Spanish regions, 121 billion euros ($161.34 billion), is also a concern. Deepest in debt are Valencia, with a debt equal to 17.4 per cent of GDP, and Catalonia at 17.2 per cent. Spain is seeking to slash the total public deficit to 6 per cent of gross domestic product by the end of 2011 from 9.2 per cent in 2010. It aims to reach the EU-agreed ceiling of 3.0 per cent by 2013.


Expat fraud suspects arrested in Spanish mountain retreat

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According to Spanish local media, police estimate that the couple, known as John and Amanda Treagust, may have netted up to £150,000 by advertising bogus Spanish rental properties, complete with pictures, on their website, Costa Blanca Live. Up to 60 holidaymakers, including Britons, French, Portuguese, Italians and Belgians, are alleged to have fallen for the scam and paid upfront for properties that weren't, in reality, available for rent, or had been rented out to multiple people. The pair ran a blog entitled Life on the Costa Blanca, and boasted of growing their business from a "small project" in 2007 to "a busy and bustling company.....with over five thousand properties managed directly by us, meaning you have the peace of mind that should anything go wrong, or should you have any concerns, we are here to help." Amanda Treagust, referred to as the company's commercial director, is described on the blog as "never resting until her clients are settled into that perfect property and are enjoying the Spanish lifestyle she has come to love and adore". The Treagusts were arrested at a small property in the mountains of Mojacar, Almeria, after an eight-month police operation following an initial complaint lodged back in February. Originally from the Chorley area of Lancashire, John Treagust used to run the Last Orders pub in Wallagate, Wigan. On the pub's Facebook page, created by Treagust, he says: "I had three happy years there, now running a property business in Spain." An online forum about the couple's business dates back to March 2009 and has been inundated with 23 pages of comment, containing more than 200 threads. One comment, posted on August 20 this year, read: "13 girls put down a deposit for a hen weekend away in a villa in Los Balcones also and were informed two days before that the villa was double-booked. As it was a special occasion we have to find somewhere else very quickly and pay the additional fees. "We have still not received any money back and are still chasing. We all want to take action and stop others suffering in the same way." Spanish police were unable to comment on the ongoing investigation.


Rossi is hopeful his Misano setup will be a good base this weekend

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Rossi is hopeful his Misano setup will be a good base this weekend

Image by Impact Images

Marlboro Ducati's Valentino Rossi is expecting better results for himself at the put-upon team at this weekend's Aragon MotoGP round after he found a good setup at Misano which allowed him to run a faster pace in the early part of the race.

Rossi is still sixth in the world championship standings despite having, by his standards, an utterly abysmal year and only trails Ben Spies by two points and Dani Pedrosa by 17.

“Last year at Aragon was the best race of the year for Ducati, so we approach this round with our expectations a little higher than usual. In addition, after the difficult practice sessions at Misano, we found a good setup in the end and I had a better feeling with the bike and managed to ride it better in the race, especially in the early laps," said The Doctor.

"Now we’ll try to combine the two things—the track that seems to work well with the Desmosedici and the good setup work—in order to find the same feeling on Sunday.” 


Spanish police retrieve diamond swallowed by thief

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Spanish police have foiled an attempted robbery from a British woman, after discovering a stolen diamond inside a man's stomach. The woman's handbag - which contained cash and a diamond pendant worth 12,000 euros (£10,500) - was taken as she dined in a restaurant in Marbella. The suspects were caught four hours later with most of the loot. But it took three days to retrieve the most valuable item, the diamond, after one of the men swallowed it. The woman had been sitting in the Marbella restaurant with a friend when two smartly dressed men entered - one of the men taking the table behind the women. Some time later the women realised that both men had disappeared along with the handbag, which contained 2,000 euros and £500 in cash as well as the diamond and other valuables. At 18:00 the same day police were conducting a routine vehicle check about 50km (30 miles) up the coast in Torremolinos when they spotted four men, known to have criminal records for robbery. Their suspicions raised, they inspected the vehicle and discovered jewellery and a woman's purse containing British currency and ID documents. But it was the sight of a suspect raising his hand to his mouth that drew the attention of one sharp-eyed officer. He guessed the man was swallowing some of the evidence. All four suspected thieves were promptly taken to a local clinic, where X-rays revealed a diamond, minus the chain it once hung from, inside one of their stomachs. The British woman was reunited with most of her possessions that same evening. But she only received the precious jewel three days later. According to police spokeswoman Ana Moreno in Torremolinos: "It was retrieved in the simplest and most natural way."