Friday, 30 September 2011

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.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

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.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

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.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

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.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Spanish jail-house film shows without on-the-run actor

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A Spanish prison screened a short film made by inmates Friday with one missing ingredient -- a key actor in the jail-house drama is on the run. Inmates spent months making "Guilty", about a murderer haunted by his victim, to show in an annual festival behind bars in Leon, northern Spain, a prison official and media here said. "Among the inmates taking part, there was one in the final stages of his sentence who was allowed out regularly with leave, but who did not come back from one of those leaves," said a prison service spokeswoman. Prisoners completed the film without the missing actor who disappeared at least two months ago, said the spokeswoman for the Secretary General of Penitentiary Institutions. She denied reports he had the leading role. "He may have had some more important scenes but he was not not necessarily the hero." The actor is being sought for breach of a six-year drug-dealing sentence, which had been due for completion in 2012, she said, stressing that he was not considered a danger.

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.

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.

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.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Elizabeth Taylor's designer clothes to be auctioned

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Designer clothes owned by Hollywood legend and fashion icon Elizabeth Taylor, including haute couture by Chanel, Yves St. Laurent and Dior, will be sold at auction in New York, Christie's said on Wednesday. The silk chiffon dress that the Academy Award winning actress wore for her first wedding to actor Richard Burton will be among the nearly 400 times included in the four-day series of sales in December. "One of the many great treasures within Elizabeth Taylor's vast collection is her extraordinarily well-preserved wardrobe," said Marc Porter, chairman and president of Christie's Americas. "The stunning outfits she wore to galas, award ceremonies, AIDS benefits and even her own weddings to Richard Burton are all here, lovingly maintained along with the handbags, shoes, hats and other accessories that completed her superstar looks," he added in a statement. The December 13-16 sales, which span over 50 years of fashion, will follow a global three-month tour which will also includes Taylor's renowned jewelry, fine art and memorabilia. It will be the second in a series of auctions from the estate of the legendary film star who died in March. Nearly 6,000 people viewed the collection this month when it was displayed in Moscow. Stops in Los Angeles, London, Dubai, Geneva, Paris, Hong Kong and New York will follow. Meredith Etherington-Smith, Christie's' curator for the fashion auction, described the items as "a highly personal collection." "This is not a red carpet wardrobe edited by stylists but a treasure trove of looks chosen by the last of the great movie stars. Many of the pieces in this lifetime collection were couture, custom made for Ms. Taylor by designers who became her close friends, including Valentino Garavani, Gianni Versace and Gianfranco Ferre." Some 68 of Taylor's most iconic looks will be auctioned at a gala evening sale on December 14, followed by hundreds of other fashion items and accessories in other sales. Highlights will include a Versace beaded evening jacket arrayed with portraits of the actress in some of her famous movie roles, which is estimated to sell for up to $20,000. The sunflower yellow dress by Hollywood designer Irene Sharaff that Taylor wore to her 1964 wedding to Burton has an estimated sale price of $40,000 to $60,000. Taylor's estate was valued at up to $1 billion when she died of congestive heart failure at age 79. A portion of the proceeds from the exhibitions, events and publications related to the auction will be donated to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which the actress founded in 1991. The series of Taylor sales are individually devoted to jewelry, haute couture, fashion and accessories, decorative arts and memorabilia from Taylor's Bel Air home, and Impressionist and modern art.

Ernest Hemingway’s final visits to Spain are remembered at a new exhibition in Rioja.

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Ernest Hemingway’s final visits to Spain are remembered at a new exhibition in Rioja.

Hosted and created by Bodegas Paternina at its Conde de los Andes winery in Ollauri, the exhibition entitled “Tinta, Sangre y Vino” – “Ink, Blood and Wine” – celebrates the writer’s visit to the winery 55 years ago and marks 50 years since his death.

However, the exhibition does not focus solely on Hemingway’s visit to Paternina in 1956.

Making use of never-before-seen photographs and working with the Hemingway family, Paternina’s exhibition is more of a look at Hemingway’s association with Spain in the final years of his life.

Greater attention is given to his passions for wine in general, bullfighting, writing, fiestas and good company. Carlos Eguizábal, CEO of Paternina, spoke to the drinks business at the opening ceremony in Ollauri.

“We felt the exhibition was appropriate because of his relationship with wine and Rioja in general,” he said.

“There is a connection between wine, culture, bullfighting and literature which Rioja encapsulates and which underpinned his love of Rioja and Paternina. It’s a celebration of his life.”

Hemingway’s daughter-in-law Valerie and grandson John were also at the opening of the exhibition and Valerie tolddb about the author and his connections with wine.

“He was always looking for what was good,” she said. “Not always the best but what he could enjoy. He didn’t follow trends or labels or vintages but wine was part of the fabric of his life.”

As for his reputation as a heavy drinker (and at worst a drunk), Valerie countered: “He was very disciplined with his drinking and never drank because he ‘needed’ the drink. He would also never write after drinking, saying: ‘Anything you write after drinking is worthless’.”

Much of the exhibition centres on Hemingway’s return to the bullfights between 1956 and 1960.

His visit to Paternina in 1956 coincided with the coming of age of Antonio Ordóñez son of the bullfighter Cayetano Ordóñez also a friend of Hemingway and model for the character Pedro Romero in The Sun also Rises.

Antonio was on a tour of the Basque country and Rioja in 1956 and Hemingway followed his fights in cities such as Bilbao, Pamplona, Haro, Logroño and Calahorra.

It was on this trip that the two of them visited Paternina and a great many of the unseen photographs in the exhibition show the pair being shown around the cellars – and tasting wine.

Hemingway would follow Antonio on subsequent returns to Spain between 1956 and 1960.

These, along with the mano a mano contest between Antonio and his great rival and brother-in-law Luis Miguel Dominguín in 1959, formed the basis of Hemingway’s last series of articles for Life magazine, The Dangerous Summer.

To help commemorate the event, Paternina’s winemaker Carlos Estecha has designed a special edition label for the 2006 Conde de los Andes reserva.

The exhibition runs from Tuesday to Sunday – with more limited opening times on Sunday – until 15 April 2012. Admission with a tasting is €3, €2 for over 65s and under 18s and free for under 14s.

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.

Manchester airport reopens after bomb scare

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Manchester Airport’s main terminal has reopened after bomb disposal experts were called in to check a suspicious package on Wednesday, police said. A man was being questioned, although police said earlier reports that he was being held under the Terrorism Act were inaccurate. The package, a bag, was found to be safe. The airport’s operators had earlier said 11 flights leaving Terminal 1 would be affected. Incoming flights are operating normally and the airport’s two other terminals remained open. Manchester Airport is Britain’s fourth biggest and handles around 20 million passengers each year.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


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Firefighters discovered five hundred marijuana plants on Sunday when they entered a house in Jacarilla to attend a fire. According to sources from the emergency services, the two-storey building was empty when emergency staff arrived at the scene. The Civil Guard is now trying to locate the owner. The marijuana plants were fitted with an irrigation system and lighting for easy cultivation and a spokesman suggested that the flames could have been caused by an electrical short caused by excessive energy consumption. The Bomberas reported that the fire broke out about 2pm on Sundat afternoon and took about an hour to quell the flames and ventilate the building, which had been affected by smoke.

Spanish custom officers seize cigarette packs

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SPANISH customs officers in La Linea de la Concepción seized 2,848 packets of cigarettes last weekend, according to press reports. Contraband tobacco was found hidden in three vehicles crossing the border into Spain from Gibraltar. In a fourth case, the bag of a person walking by the Levante area was searched and was found to be carrying 1,000 packets of contraband tobacco.

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.

Monday, 19 September 2011

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.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

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.

Friday, 16 September 2011

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.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

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."

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Smuggler Tosses Passengers Off Jet Ski

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Spanish police say a human smuggler trying to sneak two Moroccans into Spain by crossing the Strait of Gibraltar on a jet ski threw them into the water when detected by coastal authorities and that one drowned. A Civil Guard statement Tuesday said the incident happened Sept. 9 near the Spanish town of Tarifa. The Moroccan driver has been charged with negligent manslaughter. One of the travelers managed to swim ashore after being dumped 500 meters from it, but the other did not survive. Spain is a lure for poor North and sub-Saharan Africans because it is Europe's southern gateway. Every year, thousands try to reach the Spanish mainland or Spain's Canary Islands off the coast of west Africa.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Families flee crime and jobs horrors

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MILLIONS of hacked-off Brits are fleeing the UK for a home in the sun. More than three million have emigrated since 1991, shock new figures reveal. That means around one in 20 of the population have fled in search of a better life. And the mass exodus has sparked more fears of a brain drain generation as Britain’s brightest hopes go. Many say they are being driven out by crime, a shattered economy and bungling Government ministers. Huge numbers are young workers desperate for jobs and pensioners searching for an easy sunshine life. A string of tax benefits is also tempting away Brits who had been forced to get two jobs to try to ride out the recession. Australia has been the most popular sunshine spot for migrating Brits since 1991. America and Canada remain “attractive destinations”, think tank MigrationWatch said yesterday. But the popularity of Spain and France has slumped over the Eurozone debt crisis. MigrationWatch, which released the figures, warned the move was inflicting a “brain drain” on Britain. Its report said: “The profile of those leaving is a concern. Sixty per cent of emigrants since 1997 have been of working age.

Rejuvenated Kinahan network 'back in trafficking'-

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AN international drug trafficking network, built by Ireland's wealthiest criminal Christy Kinahan, is back in business, gardai believe. Operation Shovel, the European police crackdown that emanated from the work of the Garda National Drugs Unit (GNDU), dismantled the multi-million euro empire. But officers say that the gang members have "re-invented" themselves and are using old contacts in Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium to renew their role in drug trafficking. Kinahan (53) is regarded by gardai as being in the top tier of drug traffickers in the European league. "He's a 'Premiership' player," one officer said. "There is no doubt that Shovel caused major disruption of their lucrative business. But a leopard doesn't change its spots and we don't expect these people to undergo a conversion on the road to Damascus." Officers say co-operation between law enforcement agencies in Europe is "second to none and allows gardai to focus on Irish organised crime gangs (OCGs) involved in trafficking drugs that end up in Ireland". "Drug trafficking has always been a borderless crime for the gangs but now it is more or less borderless for us as the co-operation allows us to overcome former legal obstacles. "Law enforcement groups can reach out and take them, no matter who they are or where they are," the officer said. The mayhem created by Operation Shovel is partly responsible for the reduction in drug shipments coming into the country. "It's hard to quantify how much is due to Shovel and other intelligence successes and to the reduced demand arising from the recession." The fatal shooting of Eamon Dunne last year has also had an impact on the trafficking scene here and it has taken his old gang time to regroup after the murder. Not all of them have stayed together, but gardai are satisfied that some of them are again operating as an OCG even if the gang is not as potent as before the murder and does not represent the same threat. Others are keeping a lower profile and detectives say the personnel changes among the gangs have become very fluid. The GNDU does not operate on the basis of a Mr Big or Number One target. "We focus on certain figures, based on intelligence, public need and resources, but we don't respond to public outcry. A lot of the time we are dealing with relative unknowns, who can become big in the future," the officer said. The profits built up by gang leaders from drug trafficking and other crimes are assessed by the Criminal Assets Bureau. But many of those who make the headlines and live flash lifestyles in pubs and clubs, driving fast cars and surrounding themselves with "models", usually end up with little money at the end of their short-lived careers.

Freddie Thompson has spent most of the previous 15 months in England, returning only for brief visits to Dublin and the gang violence in the south city had reduced

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Freddie Thompson has spent most of the previous 15 months in England, returning only for brief visits to Dublin and the gang violence in the south city had reduced. It is believed he was concerned that he would be arrested and extradited to Spain after Spanish police said they had issued a warrant for his arrest and extradition at the time of a series of high- profile raids in May last year on the mainly Irish gang led by Dubliner Christy Kinahan, who has been living in Estepona, Spain. However, the warrant has not been sent to gardai even though they have informed the Spanish authorities of his presence here. Thompson had been staying in Estepona up until shortly before the launching of Europe-wide raids aimed at the organisation, which Spanish, British and Europol police said was headed by Kinahan. There were 78 raids including 45 here, 21 in Spain and 12 in Britain. Some 34 people were arrested and €1m in cash seized. Spanish police said their criminal assets agency was investigating properties worth millions including a holiday resort in Brazil. Thompson was questioned in February 2007 when his associate, Paddy Doyle, 27, from Dublin was shot dead in Estepona but Thompson was not at the scene and it is thought the murder was carried out by Turkish mafia.

Forest fire burns out of control in Mijas

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official in southern Spain says a forest fire burning out of control in the picturesque town of Mijas forced the evacuation of 300 homes. Andalusian regional government spokesman Agustin Perez said Monday the fire broke out Sunday evening, and most of the evacuees have since been able to return because strong winds fanning the flames have shifted. He said no one had been hurt in the fire. Mijas _ near the resort city of Marbella _ is a tourist magnet renowned for its narrow streets with whitewashed homes. More than 200 firefighters and 17 aircraft continue to battle the fire in a hillside area of pine trees and scrubland. Perez said the amount of land burned was not yet known. The regional government said Marbella was not threatened.

200 evacuated as forest fire spreads to Marbella

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FIREFIGHTERS are battling a blaze which has so far led to the evacuation of over 200 people. The forest fire – which is threatening parts of Marbella and Ojen – broke out at around 8.30pm on Sunday evening in the Entrerrios area of Mijas. Efforts to tackle the fire – which has so far led to the evacuation of La Mairena and La Bugancilla urbanisations – are being hampered by high winds.

Irish drug gangs change tactics as downturn ruins their fortunes

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Drug traffickers and other organised gangsters have lost millions of euro as a result of the recession. A huge fall-off in demand for cocaine, allied to a series of dodgy investments in property and shares, have devastated the lucrative nest eggs they had built up during the boom times. Now the criminals are switching their focus in a bid to recover some of their losses and tap into new areas. Dozens of Irish gangsters have become heavily immersed in the European scene and are no longer confining their activities to sending drug shipments back to Ireland. They have developed their range of contacts in countries such as the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium and are using these to buy into shipments intended for destinations with much larger markets than here. Gardai confirmed last night that the Irish are among the big players on the European scene and regularly show up on the radars of local police forces on the Continent. Interact "The Irish criminals have learned to follow the market and interact with other OCGs (organised crime gangs) to purchase large shipments and then become involved in selling on the drugs in smaller quantities," an officer explained. "There is a lot of crossover among the gangs and there are no cell structures that might exist in a terrorist organisation. "The Irish are acceptable as partners to become involved in joint enterprises with international gangs moving drugs from South America and west Africa to Spain and the Netherlands." Detectives from the garda national Drugs unit work closely with their European counterparts to combat the gangs as they know that, despite the reduced demand, they will continue to send shipments here and these are likely to increase again when the market improves. "The Irish picture is a reflection of what is happening globally. What is going on in the real economy is mirrored in the drugs world," the officer added. "The spending power of the end user has diminished and the state of the economy dictates that some drug types become more popular." A lot of people who were cocaine users can no longer afford to buy it, resulting in a big drop in demand and supply. The new drug of choice for many is herbal cannabis and the Irish gangs have discovered that's where the growth in the market lies although it took them some time to realise that the Chinese and Vietnamese gangs were ring fencing the new craze for growhouses. It makes economic sense for the gangs to develop growhouses as they can eliminate transportation and logistical costs, increase profits by removing the European middlemen, reduce the risk of being caught by police and customs services here and in Europe and face lower penalties for cannabis rather than cocaine dealing. The homegrown gangs have also suffered heavy financial losses as a result of advice from crooked accountants who advised them to invest in properties overseas or gamble on the stock exchange. During the Celtic Tiger era, traffickers extended lines of credit to customers and drugs were given out "on tick". But now the credit has disappeared and a lot of the dealers have been left with huge debts. The growhouses represent one of their main hopes of recovering some of those losses

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Spain to bring back Patrimonial Tax

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The Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, will bring back Patrimonial Tax at next Friday’s cabinet meeting, following a request to do so from the Socialist candidate for the November General Election, Alfredo Pérez-Rubalcaba. A Royal Decree will be used, and no new law will be needed to reactivate the tax, although the new tax will be modified so as not to affect the middle classes. However press reports indicate that Rubalcaba is not entirely happy with the tax which will result, although it is the only option which can be introduced so quickly. The new Socialist manifesto was to promise that Patrimonial Tax would become a state controlled and not regional tax as present. Even so Rubalcaba considers the re-introduction of the tax as ‘just’. It is expected to generate 1.4 billion €.

Woman stabbed to death in Marbella

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47 year old woman was found stabbed to death inside a flat in Marbella on Saturday. The woman had Spanish nationality but was of Ecuadorian origin. Reports indicate the victim did not live in the flat in San Pedro de Alcántara where her body was found, but she was a frequent visitor. Police sources say there was a lot of blood at the scene and she had been stabbed more than a dozen times. Some 20 National Police have taken over the investigation of the case, and reports are that they are considering it a crime of passion. Neighbours say the woman worked as a prostitute, inviting her clients to the flat. They note that there was no forced entry to the flat. Last August 11th, another woman, aged 45 and of Argentinean origin was found stabbed in a flat in nearby Mijas. That case remains open and is being investigated by the Guardia Civil.

Spanish police said their criminal assets agency was investigating properties worth millions including a holiday resort in Brazil.

Posted On 09:13 0 comments


Dissident republican crime gangs in Dublin have split and are feuding in ways similar to the bloody factionalising of the remnants of the terror group the Irish National Liberation Amy (INLA) in the late Eighties and Nineties. Since former Real IRA man Liam Kenny, 53, was shot dead at his home in Chapelizod, Dublin, in June a series of serious incidents including several attempted murders have taken place. Kenny, a former Provisional IRA member had been a member of the Real IRA in Dublin but fell out with other members after it split acrimoniously into two factions in the city. Last Wednesday, an associate of Kenny's, Frank Nolan, 49, was shot and seriously injured when a teenager on a bicycle pulled up beside him at Oranmore Road in Ballyfermot and shot him at close range. There had been a pipe bomb attack on Nolan's home in July. Nolan, who served a term of imprisonment for reckless endangerment in an incident in which a man was shot in the thigh in a Ballyfermot pub in 2000, is recovering in hospital. The incident has created more tension and gardai expect there were will be more attacks. The reasons for the attack were not clear but gardai say there had been a public meeting of republicans last weekend and threats had apparently been exchanged afterwards. It is believed that after his row with his former dissident republican associates, Liam Kenny left the Real IRA faction and moved to the group styling itself as the Continuity IRA. This group has now split in two as well, with one group led by a Limerick man in his late fifties but with support in Dublin and which is opposed to another faction also still styling itself with the same name based in Dublin. In traditional republican style, the various groups send coded claims to newspapers making allegations and threats against each other, followed by counter-claims that the initial statements were from "gangsters" or "drug dealers" and not republicans. This is exactly what went on when the INLA went into its finally destructive round of feuding in the late Eighties. All the Dublin dissident groups are aligned in one way or another with the city's drug gangs and gardai are concerned that they are adding an extra dimension to the already violent state of organised crime in the city. The investigation into Kenny's murder has become highly complicated with detectives trying to work out the reasons behind the killing as Kenny was at odds with not only his former dissident associates but also with drug dealers in the west of the city. There was initially suspicion last week that there might be a dissident link to the murder of Thomas McDonagh, 49, a traveller shot dead at his caravan in Ballymun last Saturday night. Gardai have known for some time of tensions between Traveller and settled gangs in north Dublin and believe that Travellers have been selling pipe bombs to both ordinary criminal and dissident republican gangs. However, Mr McDonagh was not involved in these activities and is believed to have been murdered by a Finglas-based gang of settled criminals involved in the drugs trade and in armed robberies including tiger kidnappings. It is believed he had been involved in drug dealing and had a heroin problem and was shot because of an unpaid debt of €15,000. One of the main current concerns among gardai in Dublin is the re-emergence of the gangland figure Freddie Thompson following a fire-bomb attack on his mother's house in the Coombe area. Gardai in the Dublin South Central Division have been on high alert since the attack on the home of Lisa Thompson, who has no involvement in criminal activity, but is believed to have been targeted by her son's rivals. Freddie Thompson had spent most of the previous 15 months in England, returning only for brief visits to Dublin and the gang violence in the south city had reduced. It is believed he was concerned that he would be arrested and extradited to Spain after Spanish police said they had issued a warrant for his arrest and extradition at the time of a series of high- profile raids in May last year on the mainly Irish gang led by Dubliner Christy Kinahan, who has been living in Estepona, Spain. However, the warrant has not been sent to gardai even though they have informed the Spanish authorities of his presence here. Thompson had been staying in Estepona up until shortly before the launching of Europe-wide raids aimed at the organisation, which Spanish, British and Europol police said was headed by Kinahan. There were 78 raids including 45 here, 21 in Spain and 12 in Britain. Some 34 people were arrested and €1m in cash seized. Spanish police said their criminal assets agency was investigating properties worth millions including a holiday resort in Brazil. Thompson was questioned in February 2007 when his associate, Paddy Doyle, 27, from Dublin was shot dead in Estepona but Thompson was not at the scene and it is thought the murder was carried out by Turkish mafia

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Apple to open a new store in Marbella

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Apple has chosen Marbella for a new store which Diario Sur reports will be the company’s largest in Spain. The paper says it will open in La Cañada in November and will cover an area of 1,700 square metres. It’s understood that work is already underway on preparing the premises. There has been no official confirmation from the company as yet, but Diario Sur notes that Apple includes the Marbella store on its web page under its job offers in Spain. The paper however reports that the selection process for Apple’s 65 Marbella staff began in June and is close to conclusion.

Puerto Banús bar owner has set himself his biggest ever charity challenge – to climb La Concha 40 times in 40 days.

Posted On 11:04 0 comments

Russell SodenRussell Soden
enlarge photo

Russell Soden, a co-proprietor of Terra Blues in the port and Lick FM DJ, is taking on the mammoth trek to raise funds in memory of his daughter Coral, who he lost to cot death 14 years ago.

The money raised will go to the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID), the UK's leading baby charity aiming to prevent unexpected deaths in infancy and promote infant health.

Russell, who has lived on the Costa del Sol for 11 years, is no stranger to fundraising challenges. In previous years he has trekked up Kilimanjaro, built a school in Africa and earlier this summer leapt out of an airplane with 14 other Marbella area bar owners in a sponsored skydive to raise 2600€

But the 40-day hike could be his biggest yet and he hopes to have raised 4000€ at the end of it all.

“Obviously, this cause is one that couldn’t be closer to my heart and over the last few years I have picked one big charity push each year, usually by getting involved in organised expeditions, to help raise money for it,” said Russell, aged 40, originally from Leamington Spa in the UK.

“I was struggling to find something different to do this year so first I managed to rope some other local bar owners into jumping out of an airplane. Then I thought I would try and do a more physical challenge close to home rather than flying halfway round the world.

“My initial idea was to climb La Concha twice a day for 20 days but then I thought that was a bit much – so I’ve made it a little gentler at 40 times in 40 days!

“It does seem like a huge task that will go on for well over a month but it’s too late to back out now. I have climbed La Concha a few times before so know what I am a letting myself in for but it is still a little daunting.

“I really hope that people can get behind me and support me on this and that we can raise a significant amount for this vital research and support from FSID which I know from first hand experience can be a huge help at a very difficult time.”

La Concha is 1,215 metres high at the western end of the Sierra Blanca mountain range. Russell will start his first ascent on 19 September from Refugio de Juanar. It is 11 kilometres to the summit and back and expects it to take about six hours each time.

You can sponsor Russell by or find out more on the terra Blues website at, or call 686 908 016

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Rapist of British girl gets two year prison sentence

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22 year old Bolivian man, Hernán Jesús V.A. has been given a two year prison sentence for the rape of a British woman on January 27 2007. The Murcia provincial court also ruled that he must compensate the victim with 12,000 €. Hernán Jesús admitted his guilt to the court which must now decide whether to replace the two year prison sentence with extradition from Spain. The rape took place in the doorway of the woman’s home, and the victim was hit hard twice in the face as the rape was carried out. Finally the British victim tricked her attacker by inviting him to her room to continue the relations, managing to get inside and lock the door to escape. Hermán Jesús told the court on Thursday that all he wants to do is forget the episode. He said that he has made the most of the time he has been held on remand by doing courses on cooking, computing and other subjects. He accepted the sentence telling the court – ‘I am no delinquent, and all I want to do is forget this and spend every minute with my family’.

Body found in car boot in Vilalba, Lugo

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The Guardia Civil found a body in the boot of a parked Seat Toledo car in Vilalba at 10pm on Friday. They had been alerted to the body by a local resident who noticed the strong smell, and the body was found to be in an advanced state of decomposition. The car was parked close to the bus station in Vilalba, Lugo, and locals have said it had been there for some time. First indications are that the body is male. A full investigation has been opened by the Lugo Judicial Police to first establish the identity of the victim, and then the circumstances of his death.

Pensioner shot dead on a bench in Torremolinos

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man in his seventies is under arrest after shooting a 79 year old man dead while he was sitting chatting with a friend on a public bench in Torremolinos. It happened in broad daylight at around 7 on Wednesday evening in the Plaza Costa del Sol in the town centre. The victim, 79 year old from Ciudad Real who Málaga Hoy newspaper said has a holiday apartment in Torremolinos, was shot at point blank range in the back of the head. His killer is a man from Cádiz province who lives locally and has a previous criminal record. He was arrested near the scene shortly afterwards, still carrying with him in a bag the shotgun he had used for the murder. There is no clear motive for the murder as yet, although friends of the victim said it could have been an argument over the sale of a property. There are unconfirmed reports from Público that it was an argument over a game of dominoes.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Marbella Casino board face charges of document falsification

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TWELVE of the Marbella Casino’s 14-strong board face charges of document falsification. The Casino, one of the town’s oldest but with no links to the Casino de Marbella in Nueva Andalucia, has been at the centre of internal conflict for several years. Differences over renting out of part of its La Alameda installation to a restaurant business resulted in the sacking of the Casino’s former president Antonio Ric and ex-secretary Manuel Porras in April 2010. Both started legal proceedings against the remaining board members, claiming that their rights had been violated and they were excluded from the meeting which decided to remove them. After examining the dismissal document, the judge from Marbella’s Number Two Court decided there were grounds for suspecting forgery. He has now summonsed 12 board members, including the current president, Agustín de la Fuente Perucho, for questioning on September 19.

Germany's top representative on the European Central Bank resigned in an apparent protest of the bank's recent interventions in euro-zone debt markets

Posted On 20:17 0 comments

Germany's top representative on the European Central Bank resigned in an apparent protest of the bank's recent interventions in euro-zone debt markets, dealing a severe blow to an institution struggling to retain its credibility amid the region's worsening debt crisis.

Jürgen Stark is stepping down "for personal reasons," the ECB said in a statement. ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet "wholeheartedly" thanked Mr. Stark for his tenure at the ECB, the bank said.


European Central Bank's Executive Board member Jürgen Stark.

Mr. Stark, one of the ECB's most outspoken anti-inflation "hawks," had opposed the ECB's decision last month to reactivate its government bond purchase program, as did the head of Germany's central bank, Jens Weidmann. The ECB has purchased €50 billion ($69 billion) in government bonds since reactivating the program.

Mr. Stark's departure comes as a surprise. His term doesn't expire for nearly three more years. As head of the ECB's economics division at the ECB's Frankfurt-based executive board, Mr. Stark holds considerable sway over the economic analysis behind the ECB's interest-rate decisions.

The news sent the euro tumbling to $1.3697, its lowest level since February, and ensured U.S. stocks got off to a weak start. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 300 points in interday trading, while Germany's DAX ended the day down 4% to 5189.93

Mr. Starks' resignation comes at a dicey time for the ECB. Mr. Trichet's eight-year term ends at the end of October. He will be succeeded by Mario Draghi, who currently heads the Bank of Italy.

Unless Mr. Stark is replaced by another German, his departure leaves the prospect of the ECB having three Italians on the 23-member governing council, and only one German.

Germany's government may nominate its deputy finance minister, Joerg Asmussen, to replace Mr. Stark on the ECB's executive board, according to one person familiar with the matter.

Mr. Stark is the second top German official at the ECB to step down this year. Former Bundesbank President Axel Weber resigned in April. Mr. Weber, who had been seen as a front-runner to succeed Mr. Trichet, later cited his opposition the the ECB's bond purchases as a factor in his decision to not seek the presidency.

German politicians have denounced the ECB's decision to purchase Italian and Spanish bonds during the past month, though the decision was praised in other parts of Europe, and in the financial markets, as having prevented a Lehman-like collapse in financial markets.

German President Christian Wulff, whose position is largely ceremonial, has called the ECB's bond purchases "politically and legally questionable." The head of German's center-left SPD party, Sigmar Gabriel, has also denounced the move.

At his monthly press conference Thursday, Mr. Trichet blasted his German critics, saying the ECB has kept inflation lower over its 12-plus years of existence than at any time in Germany over the past 50 years.

"I would very much like to hear the congratulations for an institution that has delivered price stability in Germany," Mr. Trichet said.

Germany's finance ministry declined to comment on who would succeed Mr. Stark. But it said Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble will discuss Mr. Stark's resignation at a press conference in Marseille on Friday evening.

Mr. Stark's departure won't change the "fundamental direction" of the ECB, which is "clearly set in the EU treaty," Ewald Nowotny, an ECB Governing Council member and head of Austria's central bank, said in a statement Friday. Still, Austria's central bank regrets Stark's departure, the statement said.

Mr. Stark will leave once a successor is appointed, which will be by the end of the year, according to the bank's appointment procedure, the ECB said.

Mr. Asmussen, a member of Germany's opposition SPD party, became deputy finance minister in 2008 and was able to stay on in the post even after his party left government after the 2009 election.

Kicking in shop windows. Setting a police car on fire. Clashes with police. Tottenham? Hackney? Brixton? No. Lloret de Mar on the Costa Brava.

Posted On 16:47 0 comments


Kicking in shop windows. Setting a police car on fire. Clashes with police. Tottenham? Hackney? Brixton? No. Lloret de Mar on the Costa Brava. Last month police fired rubber bullets – but not at rioting Spaniards but at drunk foreigners. After two nights of riots that dragged on until the early hours, there were 20 injured, including nine police officers, and 20 arrests. Significantly – in a city of 40,000 with 25 discos, 261 bars and approximately a million tourists a year – all those detained were foreigners. Now, it’s only a small minority of Spanish resorts that have this problem with drunk foreigners and for every Lloret del Mar, there are hundreds of other resorts where peace reigns. But we have to remember that it was the British, after all, who created many of the bars and discos on the Costa Brava, not the Spanish. The exchange rates were low and everything was cheap. Freddy Laker organised cheap flights and Wallace Arnold cheap coach tours. In the late 60s, many hotels, bars, restaurants and nightclub/ discos were British-owned. The intention was to create a Blackpool with sunshine (and chip shops and … pubs). For decades it worked well but then, as in Blackpool, the clients changed. Spain, too, after the death of Franco. The Guardia Civil and local police lost some of their powers. Somehow the Spanish now need to strike a balance between tourism and civic order but the current economic climate makes that increasingly difficult. Binge drinking is definitely frowned upon and discouraged in the UK. But there’s a whole raft of British teenagers who leave what little common sense they have back at the airport and, when they touch down at some Spanish party town, immediately get blind drunk, in the belief they can get away with even more immoral/ anti-social behaviour abroad because ‘out of sight’ means ‘out of mind’. It’s these same people who get drunk on a Saturday night in English city-centres who go to Spain for longer and cheaper drinking hours. Some attribute this anti-social behaviour to a lack of discipline at all stages of a teenager’s development. British parents can’t smack young children, teachers can’t punish those who behave anti-socially and the UK police are tied up with human rights law. So, drunk teenagers believe they can carry on getting away with it. All of which could, unfortunately, go on longer than those DFS sales …

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Spanish site crashes as lawmakers reveal worth

Posted On 23:25 0 comments


In a country with 21 percent unemployment, learning the net worth of lawmakers plugging austerity right and left is turning out to be irresistible. Spanish parliament released such numbers for the first time and its website immediately crashed. Hours later access was still spotty. Highlights of Thursday's revelations: Mariano Rajoy, the conservative likely to be the next prime minister, reports having nearly euro600,000 ($843,000) in bank accounts and shares, plus properties in Madrid, the Canary Islands and his native Galicia. His Socialist opponent Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba reports having about euro1 million ($1.4 million), a Madrid apartment, a parking place and no debts. This transparency stems from a reform approved July 10.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Pilots complain of laser lights at Málaga airport

Posted On 11:58 0 comments


The Spanish Air Safety Agency has called on the local authorities in Alhaurín de la Torre, Málaga to control the lights coming from discotheques on the Costa del Sol. The high powered spotlights and laser lights fired up into the sky to draw attention to their venues are bothering pilots trying to land and take off at Málaga airport. The pilots say the problem is worse in the summer and obviously on night time flights. There is a body in Spain, The Department of Operative Coordination of Airspace, which can inform the discos about the conditions which are attached to using such lights, limiting the bother to pilots and allowing the normal development of services at the airport. The Department is requesting that they are allowed to control new opening licences on such establishments to ensure correct use near airports. Alhaurín de la Torre Town Hall commented that they have already sent a local policeman to patrol the airport area, to stop anybody pointing laser lights at the planes.

Marbella Town Hall debt continues to increase

Posted On 11:51 0 comments


Despite paying off a million € every month to Hacienda and Social Security, the debt at Marbella Town Hall is continuing to increase. The million € payment is only covering the interest generated on the debt amassed in the 15 years of the GIL administration in the town when the Mayor was the late Jesús Gil y Gil. The debt which remains is put at some 300 million €, and the administration led by the PP Mayor, Ángeles Muñoz, says the Town Hall is suffocated. Three moratoria and different agreements reached between the Town Hall and Central Government have not solved the matter. Hacienda and Personal coordinator, Carlos Rubio, has said that there are already judicial sentences in favour of the Town Hall worth some 400 million €, and he told La Opinión de Málaga that this should be taken into account. The Mayor travelled to Madrid on Monday to meet with the PP Economy Spokesman in Congress, Cristóbal Montoro to discuss the matter. They agreed to present Congress with the proposal to allow debt payments to be linked to the judicial processes which are open, investigating the differet corruption cases which have emptied the public purse in Marbella. The PP notes however that the PSOE does not want to get implicated in the problem.

British man shot in Arona hold-up

Posted On 11:47 0 comments


British man, aged 58, was injured in an armed hold-up of a currency exchange shop in Arona, on the south of Tenerife, on Tuesday morning. It happened on the Paseo de Las Tosqueras in Playa de Las Américas, shortly before 9am. The injured man is named as Dennis in reports, and it’s understood that he works in the store and was shot in the right arm by the gunman. He is now under hospital treatment with an entry and exit wound in his arm from a 22 calibre weapon.

British couple arrested for holiday rentals scam on the Costa Blanca

Posted On 11:46 0 comments


British couple resident in Mojácar have been arrested by the Civil Guard for an alleged holiday rentals scam which is believed to have brought them profits of more than 150,000 €. Europa Press reports that the pair advertised properties available for short term let on the Costa Blanca which were not in fact available for rent but were occupied by their legitimate owners. The couple, who are named as John Anthony T., aged 41, and 37 year old Amanda Jane T., advertised online on several sites with photographs and descriptions of each of the properties. Their victims, which the Civil Guard said could number more than 60 in the UK, Portugal, France, Italy and Belgium, made the bookings online and were then contacted by email by the property management company. There was however no further contact once the deposit and then the remainder of the cost had been transferred into the couple’s account. Some of those affected then travelled out to the property they had rented in good faith, only to find them occupied by their owners. The Civil Guard investigation began in February after an official complaint was presented by a French woman to officers at the barracks in Pilar de la Horadada. It was followed by other denuncias from other foreign nationals with similar stories

Irishman stabbed on Ibiza

Posted On 11:43 0 comments


19 year old was attacked by two men, thought to be British, in what is thought to be a drug-related attackArchive Photo EFE A 19 year old Irish man, named as Jack McCarthy, was stabbed four times in the back and once below one of his eyes in an attack on Monday in Sant Antoni, Ibiza. It happened at 4pm in Calle Barcelona, and it’s thought that the man was ambushed by two others, thought to be British. One of the stab wounds perforated a lung, and the victim is now being treated in the Can Misses Hospital. The latest hospital statement says that he is making progress and is stable although serious. Tuesday morning the youngster wanted to discharge himself, but the doctors advised the duty Guardia and they have kept him under treatment. The Sant Antoni local police say that they found small quantities of drugs in the victim’s home, and materials indicating that he was dealing, and they presume the aggression was therefore drug-related.

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Wine Museum (Museo del Vino), Ojen, Marbella

Posted On 10:53 1 comments


You’ll need a car to reach Ojen. It was made famous by a local liqueur and Julio Iglesias has a home here. It’s heaven for nature lovers, set in the mountains just above Marbella and is definitely worth a detour, not just for a taste of some fine Spanish wines, but for a feel for the quieter side of Marbella, where birdsong and the whizz of mopeds are the soundtrack in spring and summer. This is Malaga’s “spiritual” home, but it’s not just wines that are on display or for tasting. Resident guide Antonio will tell you it’s Ojen’s own special Eau-de-Vie (a concoction of aniseed and aromatic herbs that packs quite a punch) that originally put the Ojen on the worldwide map. In 1840 a man called Pedro Morales started distilling the special liqueur but he kept the recipe a secret. Soon, visitors were asking for a “copita de Ojen” in bars around Spain and it was exported all over the world. Picasso probbly enjoyed a swig or two – he immortalised a bottle of the anisette liqueur in his work “Bodegon Espanol”. But after being passed down from father to eldest son over four generations, one father died suddenly before he had the chance to pass the formula on, so the recipe remains a mystery. Also worth visiting: The local 16th-century church with its square minaret-style Mudejar tower; the Caves of Ojen; the Los Chorros fountain; and Juanar Palace, a very old hunting lodge (game is still shot here) that is now a hotel and restaurant, set in the hiker’s and rider’s paradise in the Sierra Blanca mountains.


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