Illegal building in Benalmadena

Benalmadena joins corruption list

According to reports several municipal workers at Benalmadena town hall have been arrested and charged in connection with planning irregularities. What a surprise!

Two members of the Urban Planning Department were summoned by Guardia Civil officers this week. Meanwhile, other civil servants, including some who are no longer working there, have also been charged. In total there are 10 people under caution.

The accused will appear at the Guardia Civil station in Malaga next week as part of the investigation opened by the Nature Protection Service following complaints received from residents concerning illegal building.

The work was allegedly authorised at a municipal level during the term of ex-mayor Enrique Bolin, reported the Euro Weekly News.

It seems to me that there aren’t any honest government workers in Spain at all. How long until the next corruption headline? Spain should be embarrassed by all this. I write about a newly discovered corrupt town hall official or politician almost every week. Do Spanish government workers have to attend courses on how to be corrupt, how to lie, how to misappropriate government funds?

Come on Rajoy, get your house in order!

Corrupt Casares Mayor released on bail

Juan Sanchez released
Former mayor Juan Sanchez

Ex-mayor of Casares Juan Sánchez has been released from prison after supporters raised 200,000 euros to bail him out.

The supporters and members of the public managed to raise the money in just three days meaning Sánchez was in custody for less than a fortnight.

Sánchez was arrested at his home in Manilva two weeks ago, along with his wife, in an joint operation between the National Police and Guardia Civil acting for the anti-corruption prosecutor.

In total eleven people have been implicated relating to charges of town planning corruption, fraud, money laundering and involvement with organised crime groups.

Juan Sánchez was mayor of Casares prior to becoming president of the association of town halls of the western Costa del Sol. He stepped down following last years elections and took up another mandate as the councillor for institutional relations and housing in Casares. He has since been suspended from his post.

The operation was codenamed ‘Majestic’ after the property developers that are alleged to be at the heart of the case. Allegedly, as mayor Sr Sánchez allowed the Majestic Group to build a large urbanisation at Casares Costa.

Go back to England? Not likely!

Sleep on the beach or go back?
Sleep on the beach or go back to UK?

A spate of stories in the British press suggesting a third of expats are desperate to move home appear to be wide of the mark.

A number of newspapers and an ITN documentary have claimed over the last week that hundreds of thousands are throwing in the towel, tired of mounting financial difficulties.

While bank repossessions are up and some have the feeling of being trapped by an inability to sell homes, it is easy to understand why some may want to jump ship.

What’s more, it is statistically true that last year the number of immigrants leaving Spain outnumbered those arriving for the first time in a decade.

But, according to the National Institute for Statistics, the majority leaving were Latin American and Eastern European.

And many locals are far from convinced that there is such a British exodus.

Aside from celebrated Driving Over Lemons writer Chris Stewart (see article here), in a straw poll of calls made last night to expats on the Costa del Sol, nobody could believe that figure.

“I would be amazed if it is even near 10 per cent,” said Paul O’Connell, who has lived in Mijas for over a decade.

“I am talking to loads of people every day and practically no-one says they are desperate to go.”

Estepona-based Keith Lippingwell confirmed that while some people he knew had gone back, a similar number had moved over.

Estate agent Adam Neale, from Terra Meridiana, meanwhile, insisted that it is ‘absolute rubbish’ and the figure was probably ‘less than five per cent’.

Marketing executive Charles Bamber, based in Torre del Mar, agreed: “It’s a massive exaggeration. The majority of people I know are insisting on making it work and have no intentions of going back.”

The figures are backed up coincidentally by Paul Rodwell, the British Consul in Alicante, who told the Observer earlier this year: “There is no statistical evidence of people returning home. The vast majority of them are enjoying life. People do really pursue the dream and it’s admirable that they have that get up and go.”

Expat Jo Morrison exemplifies the case. Despite falling on hard times after a proposed gym business in Nerja failed when the crisis hit in 2008, she said: “Sometimes we’ve gone without food and I still can’t believe that I don’t have my house or any savings any more,” says the 49-year-old, who now works as a cleaner and rents a one-bedroom house in Frigiliana.

“But Spain is my home now. I’d rather sleep on the beach than go back to the UK.”

Article Source: The Olive Press

Spain struggles on as an EU bailout gets closer

Guest post by Jimmy Kane

Will the Euro survive the year?
Will the Euro survive the year?

Spain’s economy is still slowly limping along, getting worse all the time. Concerns about the European country’s financial condition and mounting doubts about Europe’s ability to bail out the country dragged stock markets and the euro sharply lower on Wednesday.

Although Greece may be the epicenter of the debt crisis, Spain has been a growing source of stress and fear over recent weeks. Everyone’s watching Spain’s banking system and this microscope view has magnified last week after Bankia, the country’s fourth largest lender, announced it need 19 billion euro ($23.8 billion) in state aid.

Not surprisingly, investors are biting their nails that Bankia’s woes might translate across the Spanish banking sector, which suffered terribly from the collapse of the construction industry. This economic recession has unemployment at almost 25 percent, which just adds worry fuel to the concern fire. Some speculate Spain will become the fourth euro country to be bailed out after Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Given that precedent, who’s to say the rest of the European Union wouldn’t follow suit? It’s not like Germany can bail out the entire continent. Naturally, the European Union’s executive office on Wednesday called on the eurozone to create a so-called “banking union” that can centrally oversee and bail out the sector if it needs to be. Lately, it’s a weak link in a very weak chain in the continent’s financial system.

However, bank failures have already overwhelmed the public finances of Ireland, which has forced it to take an international bailout. Will Spain be next? The European Commission recommended that Spain be given an extra year to meet its deficit targets, however likely or not that seems to happen.

The problem with the idea of bailing out a country the size of Spain is that its economy is double the size of the three countries already bailed-out and investors are skeptical whether a rescue operation can be mounted or would even do anything.

The general malaise hit stocks even harder, particularly in Europe, and the selling was aggravated after a VPRC poll for Epikaira magazine in Greece gave Syriza 30 percent of the vote, followed by conservative pro-bailout New Democracy at 26.5 percent.

This year, Spain’s stock market has been performing as terribly as a legless circus monkey on a unicycle. It dropped yet another 1.6 percent Wednesday – and the country’s cost of borrowing has rocketed higher to frightening levels. The euro itself fell another 0.6 percent to $1.2411, a tiny bit up from its nearly two-year low of $1.2405 hit earlier. Economic confidence also continues to slump.

Jimmy Kane is an avid traveler and Spanish real estate hobbyist. When he’s not traveling or studying the Spanish property market, he maintains a telecommunications website out of his hometown of Dallas, Texas.

Former La Linea Mayor denounced

Gemma Araujo
La Linea Mayor Gemma Araujo

The former mayor of La Linea, Alejandro Sanchez, has been accused of covering his tracks just days after losing office.

Gemma Araujo, his replacement and the first female mayor of La Linea, claims Sanchez ordered a police van to take a collection of boxes to be incinerated

It is claimed that many of the documents relate to possible illegal activity which took place during the two years  Sanchez controlled the town.

Araujo claims to have “saved” at least one box of “evidence” containing files, identity documents, receipts and records of drug raids.

“A police van was used to transport a series of boxes containing the documents to another part of the city where they were burned,” Araujo explained.

Sanchez has also been denounced for allegedly moving a children’s playground to the family home of an ex councillor. The playground belonged to the town hall and was worth 4,000 euros.

Meanwhile, Gibraltarians are relieved to see the back of Sanchez. The new mayor seems to be Gibraltar-friendly having declared that she has “no intention whatsoever” of implementing “any toll, either coming in or out of Gibraltar”.

Further to this, she has already begun to remove the bollards built by Sanchez and described his policy of harassment towards Gibraltar as a “serious political error”.

1000 years in prison for Somali pirates

Pirates being arrested
Pirates being arrested

Not long ago I remember laughing as I read how some Somali pirates had mistaken a Spanish naval ship for a private vessel or freighter and attacked it. Now I’m laughing at the sentence handed to them.

The six Somali “pirates” attacked the naval vessel from their 12ft wooden boat, after ignoring warnings from the military ship to “cease and desist”.

Now the alleged pirates are facing prison terms of up to 1,122 years! Yes, you read that correctly… 1,122 years.

The judge in charge of the case has indicted the men on 218 counts of kidnapping – one for each crew member on the naval ship. They are also charged with attempted piracy, disobeying orders from a military ship, causing bodily injury, membership of an illegal organisation and illegal possession of firearms.

The charges allege that the men attacked the Patiño, a combat stores ship which was on patrol in the Indian Ocean, after mistaking it for a private freighter or fishing vessel and ignoring the warnings from on board.

The potential sentences range from 893 to 1,122 years in prison.

Original article: Costa-News


ECB rejects Bankia “backdoor bailout”

Bankia bailout unacceptable
ECB says Bankia bailout is “unacceptable”

European banking officials have called Spain’s €19 billion bailout of struggling Bankia “unacceptable”.

The ECB said the “backdoor bailout” of the bank was not the solution and a proper capital injection was needed for the bank to survive, reported the Financial Times.

The Spanish plan had been to inject 19 billion euros into the banks’ parent firm in bonds which would then be swapped for cash at the ECB’c three-month refinancing window. This money was in addition to a previous 4.5 billion euro package the bank has already received making a total bailout of €23.5 billion, so far.

ECB officials also pointed out that the plan could breach an EU ban on ‘monetary financing’ although policymaker Ewald Nowotny said it is “up to national governments to help banks.”

The comments from the ECB will not help an embattled Spain whose borrowing costs have soared recently and are approaching 7%.

On Monday the risk premium demanded by investors to hold Spain’s 10-year bonds reached its highest since the Euro was launched.

Spanish Foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said Spain would take care of billions of euros of toxic assets left over from the real estate bubble in 2008 without international help.

However, analysts fear the move could damage the country’s liquidity and worsen the country’s public finances which are already under scrutiny from investors and EU officials. It could also damage the ability of the state to finance itself.

Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez, governor of the Bank of Spain, announced yesterday that he intends to step down on June 10, one month earlier than the end of his mandate.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also reiterated his comments that Spain’s government does not need outside financial help, although most economists disagree.

“The point about Spain is it’s going to need some external support of some form,” said David Owen, chief European financial economist at Jefferies.

Can the Euro survive the crisis?

Guest post by Jimmy Kane

There is a crisis of confidence in the Euro

A wide-ranging survey of public opinion found Tuesday that there is a wide dislike of the Euro, but there is little desire to abandon it. The contempt was brought through the debt crisis that has ravaged Europe for the best part of three years.

Pew Research Center, who conducted the survey across eight European Union countries (among them, Spain, Greece, France and Italy), learned that the regions financial woes were the catalyst for full-blown fears about the future of Europe’s economic climate.

Pew said in a statement accompanying its survey, “This crisis of confidence is evident in the economy, in the future, in the benefits of European economic integration, in EU membership, in the euro and in the free market system.”

In spite of these wide-eyed concerns, Pew discovered there was no desire for those countries that use the euro to return to their former currencies, such as the Spanish peseta or the French franc.

Greece, called by many the epicenter of the debt crisis, revealed 71 percent of those polled want to keep the euro around, as against the 23 percent that wish for a return to the Drachma. Most people in Greece, which is now its fifth year and counting of restless, violent recession, believe the euro is doing more good than bad. 46 percent of those surveyed said so, compared to 26 percent who thought the euro was a curse, rather than a blessing.

What makes these finding so important involves Greece’s upcoming polls on June 17, which many see as a referendum on the country’s euro membership.

In contrast, most in France, Italy and Spain think the euro has been more destructive than helpful. In Italy in particular, which has the second highest debt burden in the eurozone after Greece, 44 percent of Italians surveyed think the euro has been a terrible thing, compared to the mere 30 percent convinced it was benevolent. Italy is also filled with the largest anti-euro constituency, with around 40 percent of those polled wishing to resort back to the lira. 52 percent of those surveyed still want to keep the euro around.

Of the five euro countries polled, not a single one had a majority (that is, over 50 percent) that agreed the introduction of the euro has been beneficial.

These surveys were conducted either by telephone in some countries or face-to-face in others between mid-March and mid-April, with at the very least, over 1000 people surveyed in each region. The margin of error varies from country to country, but stays at about 3.3 percent to 4.4 percent.

Jimmy Kane is an avid traveler and Spanish real estate hobbyist. When he’s not traveling or studying the Spanish property market, he maintains the website Time Warner Cable Dallas.

Retail sales in record fall

Retail sales fell 9.8% in April
Empty shopping malls tell a story

Figures released today by the National Statistics Institute (INE) show retail sales in Spain fell by 9.8% in April, compared to the same period in 2011, showing the biggest fall since the figures started being collected in 2003.

Summary of results

  • The General Retail Trade Index at constant prices showed an interannual variation of -11.3% in April, more than seven points below that registered in March.
  • The average rate of retail sector sales stood at –5.9% during the first quarter of the year,as compared with the same period of 2011.
  • All Large chain stores experienced a decrease in sales, as compared with the same month of 2011.
  • Employment in the retail sector decreased 0.9% as compared with April 2011.
  • All Autonomous Communities showed negative interannual variations in their retail sales.
  • Employment decreased in all autonomous communities, except in La Rioja.

Evolution of trade, in general and by type of product

Sales in retail trade at constant prices (that is, after eliminating the prices effect) registered an interannual variation of -11.3% in April, indicating a decrease of 7.3 points, as compared with the rate from March.

Sales, excluding service stations, presented an annual rate of -11.1%. The breakdown of these sales by type of product showed a negative rate in food products (-6.7%) and non-food products (-14.7). Among the latter, Household equipment (–20.2%) registered the greatest decrease.

In turn, sales in service stations, after adjusting the prices effect, decreased 11.3%, as compared with April 2011.

The average rate of the General Retail Trade Index during the first quarter of the year presented a –5.9% variation as compared with the same period last year. By type of product this rate was negative in food products and in non-food products.

Evolution of trade, adjusted for the calendar effect

After adjusting the calendar effect, that is, the difference between the number of working days in a given month in different years, the Retail Trade Index registered an interannual rate of –9.8% in April, six points below that registered in March.

Evolution of employment, by distribution class

The employment index in the Retail Trade sector in April showed an annual rate of –1.2%, two tenths below that registered in March. Employment decreased 0.2% in Service stations.

By distribution class, only Large chain stores registered a positive interannual rate, 0.4%.

In the retail sector as a whole, average employment registered a rate of −1.1% in the first quarter of the year, as compared with the same period the previous year.

Results by Autonomous Community. Variation rates in sales 

Retail sales decreased in the interannual rate in all Autonomous Communities in April. The greatest decrease was registered in Castilla-La Mancha (−14.6%).

Extremadura (−8.3%), Canarias (-8.7) and Illes Balears (−8.8%) showed the lowest decreases.

You can download the complete report here: Retail Trade Indices – April 2012

One bank could bring the country down, warns Rajoy

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy - AFP/Getty Images
Rajoy gave an unexpected press conference

The Spanish government will not allow any bank or regional government to collapse “otherwise the country would fall,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warned on Monday.

The PM made the comments to the press but failed to calm the markets that had reacted to Spain’s biggest bank bailout of 23 billion euros, handed to Bankia last week.

The Bank of Spain estimates the total of potentially loss-making real estate assets left over from the 2008 housing bust to be around 180 billion euros, of which Bankia holds some €32 billion.

“We are not going to let any region or financial entity fall, because otherwise the country would fall,” he said.

Despite the bailout Bankia shares plummeted losing 13% on the Madrid stock market. It has now lost two-thirds of its value since shares were floated in July 2011.

“We took the bull by the horns because the alternative was collapse,” explained Rajoy.

The PM also claimed that most of Spain’s problems stemmed from the crisis in Europe and Greece, more so than Bankia.

“There are major doubts over the eurozone and that makes the risk premium for some countries very high. That’s why it would be a very good idea to deliver a clear message that there’s no going back for the euro,” he said.

However, as voters in Greece seem to be favouring pro-bailout parties in the run up to elections in June, reducing the likelihood of a Greek exit from the euro, the rise in Spain’s borrowing costs shows that investors are still nervous.

Spanish yields have hit their highest level since November and while the London stock market rallied slightly, Spain’s lost two points. The Ibex index is at a nine-year low.

Rajoy once again dismissed comments from French president François Hollande who predicted a mass of Spanish banks will need rescue packages from Europe’s bailout funds.

“There will be no rescue of the Spanish banking sector,” he said.