The El Mundo daily newspaper has been running a series of surveys of its readers to find out what they think of various aspects of national life at the end of the first 30 years of democracy. Some of the results have been very damning, but it’s doubtful that the politicians will take much notice of them. Contrary to popular belief, the Spaniards are not indifferent to corruption in high places and know exactly where to place the blame: Socialist politicians, local builders of all political parties and local councils of all political hues. More than 27% said the current Socialist government was more corrupt than the first one under Felipe Gonzalez (24%). Only 14% said the Partido Popular government headed by José María Aznar was corrupt. More than 62% said the politicians were the most corrupt, followed by the judiciary (14.4%) and the media (9%). As for politicians, the most corrupt were those in local government. On the economic front, nearly 60% thought the construction was the most corrupt, followed by the banks (18%). Nearly 80% want to Constitution changed in order to put limits on the nationalist parties while at a local level, the party that gets the most votes should form the local council, doing away with alliances between minority parties. And two thirds of those question said they did not believe that the whole truth about the 2004 Madrid bombings had been told.
The owners of houses in the Los Monteros urbanisation in Marbella have said they will formally accuse the Town Council of peddling political favours if Antonio Banderas’ house there is legalised. The film star’s beach front house was on the list of those to be demolished for building irregularities but will be regularised under the provisionally approved General Urban Plan (PGOU). Apparently Banderas has agreed to pay an unspecified amount in compensation and to relinquish some thousand square metres of garden. The other residents claim that the star – a known supporter of the Socialist regional and national governments – is being given special treatment because of his political affiliation.
Juan Antonio Roca, the alleged brain behind the Malaya and Saqueo 1 corruption cases in Marbella, denied in court last week denied that he had used his own companies to divert public money from the Marbella Town Hall between the years 1991 and 1995. He suggested that someone in the Town Hall had taken advantage of his accounts. When asked why his companies and other assets were in his mother’s name, the former municipal urban planning adviser Roca said he had always used her name “for tax reasons”. Another man charged in the Saqueo case, former legal adviser Jose Luis Sierra, told the court: “Nobody even breathed in Marbella without the express order of Gil”, referring to the late Mayor Jesus Gil y Gil. He added: “If anyone did anything without his permission, even if it was the logical thing to do, they would be looking for a job the next day.”
Former Marbella Mayor JuliAn Muñoz, who was recently granted an open prison regime after being found guilty of real estate irregularities, thought he was onto a good thing when he did a deal to sell his story to the Tele5 TV channel for €350,000. Presenter Ana Rosa Quintana even came down from Madrid last week to record the exclusive in Marbella only to have it cancelled at the last minute after the judge hearing the cases against Munoz instructed the prosecutor to look into the matter for tax purposes.
British police have launched another Operation Captura to track down criminals on the run on the Costa Blanca. In El Campello on the Costa Blanca, Crimestoppers are already putting up posters and handing out beer mats in a second drive to track down unwanted criminals thought to be hiding in Spain. A Crimestoppers’ spokesperson said: “We were blown away by the response to the first Operation Captura two years ago. The expats here really don’t want to have these people living among them and the beauty with Crimestoppers is that it’s totally anonymous so no one will ever know the tip-off came from them.” Of the 30 criminals featured in the first Operation Captura two years ago, 13 are now back in custody, including convicted killer James Hurley, who had been on the run for over a decade. Among the 10 faces on the new list are convicted paedophile Andrew Alderman, 49; drug dealer suspect Adam Hart, 29, on the run after escaping from police; Dean Rice, 47, wanted for kidnap and false imprisonment, and Anthony Kearney, 43, who is accused of extortion, perverting the course of justice and fraud. The full list can be found on the Crimestoppers website, with photographs of each of the wanted criminals and freephone numbers that can be called from both the UK and Spain. The list is prepared by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and those on it are subject to European Arrest Warrants. Introduced in 2004, these drastically reduce paperwork and make extradition a matter of weeks, not years. Bill Hughes, director of Soca, has a strong message for those on the run abroad: “These criminals seem to gravitate to warmer climes and think they can sit back and relax and enjoy their money. That’s not the case. We are determined to seize their assets and bring them back to face trial, or be returned to prison, in the proper way.” Information received will be forwarded to Spanish police, who will make the actual arrests. But Soca admits that criminals are already getting the message that Spain is no longer the sunshine sanctuary it once was. They are now turning their attention to other destinations, such as Dubai, to try to evade the ever-lengthening long arm of the law.
During a visit to Malaga last week, Irish Ambassador Peter Gunning Ms Audrey Fitzpatrick, the mother of Amy Fitzpatrick, who was last seen near her home in Calahonda on January 1st this year. The Irish Embassy has offered assistance in the case and there has been regular contact and cooperation between the Irish and Spanish authorities since Amy’s disappearance. Representatives of the Guardia Civil briefed the Ambassador, Ms. Audrey Fitzpatrick and her partner Mr Dave Mahon of everything done so far by the Spanish authorities solve the case.
The so-called fast court hearings were introduced for crimes carrying jail sentences of under five years were introduced five years ago to reduce a back log of cases. That was the theory anyway. But in practice, these fast hearings can take up to three months instead of two weeks as was originally intended. One penal judge in Malaga said that more small courts and personnel were needed to make the scheme work. The average number of fast hearings a day is between 12 and 14 which does not keep up with the number of cases, which has doubled in the past year alone.