Sunday, 29 January 2012

Canada has joined Colombia as a leading exporter of synthetic or designer drugs, flooding the global market on an almost unprecedented scale

 

Canada has joined Colombia as a leading exporter of synthetic or designer drugs, flooding the global market on an almost unprecedented scale, police say. The RCMP have seized tonnes of illicit synthetic drugs that include Ecstasy and methamphetamine being shipped abroad after being “cooked” in make-shift labs in apartments, homes and businesses in the GTA. Police are now seizing more chemicals and synthetic drugs, which they say is favoured by young people, at Canadian border checks rather than the traditional cocaine, heroin or hashish that officers call drugs of “a last generation.” Most of the Ecstasy (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), meth or ketamine, a hallucinogenic used in “drug cocktails,” are smuggled from Canada by trucks, air cargo, human couriers or courier services to a network of traffickers. The U.S., Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are the world-wide targets of these highly organised criminal syndicates, the Mounties said. Two Japanese students were arrested at Vancouver International Airport in 2009 after 47,000 Ecstasy pills with the “Chanel” logo were seized from their luggage. And, in November that year 400,000 tablets and 45 kgs of pot were seized in Michigan as it was being transferred from a small Canadian aircraft to a vehicle. The RCMP is working to stamp out the problem and have created a Chemical Diversion Unit (CDU) to target “rogue chemical brokers” who import and sell chemicals to organized crime cells to “bake” synthetic drugs for export. The force also created a Synthetic Drug Operations (SDO) whose members target clandestine drug labs in the GTA that are operated by crime cells and traffickers. “We execute search warrants once we locate a clandestine lab,” said SDO Sgt. Doug Culver. “These labs are dangerous with toxic chemicals and our members are specially trained to handle them.” His officers use hazardous material suits to enter a suspicious lab to ensure it is safe from corrosive chemicals before uniformed officers can enter. Police said an Ecstasy tablet, that usually features a harmless-looking logo, is sold for up to $15 each at Toronto nightclubs and the potency can last for about 10 hours. The tablets used to sell on the street for about $40 each two years ago. Supt. Rick Penney, who is in charge of an RCMP-GTA Drug Squad, said tonnes of chemicals and synthetic drugs are being seized by his officers. “We are talking tonnes and not kilograms,” Penney said. “This is becoming a matter of routine for us and it concerns me.” Penney said Canadian-made Ecstasy and meth are popular in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the U.S. and some European countries. “Canada is a player on the global market,” he said. “We see a lot of synthetic chemicals passing through the Canadian border or going out of province.” He said some of the chemicals are purchased by criminals on the Internet from suppliers in China or India. “The majority of the drugs we seize in Ontario are for export,” Penney said. “This is a global problem and Canada is a big player.” The drug officers said Canada exports as much Ecstasy and chemical drugs as Colombia ships out cocaine. Police said synthetic drugs are the choice of young people because it is cheap, with a pill being made for 50-cents and sold for up to $15; lasts a long time; can be easily hidden and a tablet appears relatively harmless with a “cute” imprinted logo. Sgt. Brent Hill, of the Chemical Diversion Unit, said rogue brokers use fake names, companies or addresses to import the chemicals into Canada. Some use the name of legitimate companies and give fake delivery addresses, he said. He said the imported chemicals are resold by rogue brokers at exorbitant profits to organized crime groups originating from China, Vietnam and India, including criminal bike gangs in Canada. The chemicals are “cooked” into synthetic drugs. The CDU monitors more than 100 chemicals entering the country. Some are for legitimate industrial uses ranging from industrial cleaners to pharmaceutical products. Others are strictly for “baking” drugs. Hill shows a make-shift laboratory that was seized in a 2007 Scarborough bust in which three people were arrested. Officers seized two million units of Ecstasy and bags of chemicals at a residence on Pipers Green Ave., in the Brimley Rd. and Finch Ave. E. area. Jian Yao Quan, 24, and Yan Shi, 46, both of Scarborough, and Wan Shun Ling, 55, of Brooklyn, New York, were convicted of drug-related offences and will be sentenced on Feb. 14. A warrant has been issued for Wei Quan Ma, 43, of Toronto, who’s believed to have fled to China. During that raid, police found a 22-litre round-bottom heating mantle filled with chemicals being baked as vapors flowed through a hose taped at the top of the container to a large can filled with cat litter, that helps to absorb toxic gases to avoid leaving smells behind, police said. Hill said the mixture leaves a cloud of corrosive chemical hanging over the area that is harmful to people and is the reason why officers wear haz-mat suits to enter drug houses. “These labs pose a serious threat to the safety of the public and emergency first responders such as police, fire and ambulance workers,” Hill said. “Most chemicals in a clandestine drug lab are highly toxic, corrosive, explosive or flammable “ He said some unsafe labs can cause a fire or explosion that can lead to environmental pollution. Police said its common to find an Ecstasy pill containing a combination of controlled substances including methamphetamine or other controlled or non-regulated psychoactive substances. Some doses can be lethal and kill users. Officers point to the deaths of five B.C. young people since last August from Ecstasy laced PMMA, the same lethal chemical linked to deaths in the Calgary area. There have been about 18 Ecstasy-related deaths in B.C. in two years. “Some of these drugs are dangerous cocktails,” Hill said. “Crime groups are putting more addictive chemicals in some of the mixtures to get kids coming back for more. “These brokers are aggressively targeting the legitimate chemical industry. They continue to expand in a highly-lucrative market selling legal chemicals, regulated precursors and non-regulated psychoactive substances.” Officers said some unscrupulous brokers establish fake front companies, or claim to be legitimate companies to import chemicals into Canada. They fill out paperwork required by the Canada Border Services Agency but usually provide false information, police said. “The acquisition of chemicals is the choke point,” Hill said. “We are fully engaged with the legitimate Canadian chemical industry and monitor suspicious chemical transactions.” He said its a crime under Bill C-475 to possess, produce, sell or import “anything” if the person involved knows it will be used to produce methamphetamine or Ecstasy. “Crime groups with links to south-east Asia continue to dominate chemical-brokering operations,” the Mounties said. “There are criminal enterprises including individual operators and semi-legitimate companies that are brokering or procuring chemicals for synthetic drug production.” Police said some chemical shipments imported into Canada for industrial use are stolen by crime gangs to produce drugs. “Global demand for Ecstasy remains high,” Hill said. “Ecstasy continues to be the most sought-after and widely available controlled synthetic drug in the Canadian illicit market.”

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The judge will now decide whether Mr MacAnthony and five other defendants should face the charges of "misappropriation of funds and theft by swindle".

SPANISH judge will decide whether football club boss Darragh MacAnthony will face charges after a raft of complaints from disgruntled customers who claim furniture ordered from his firm never arrived. MacAnthony Realty International (MRI) developed resorts in several countries from its Marbella headquarters and sold furniture packs to clients. Hugely popular on the holiday market, MRI had hundreds of Irish customers and boasted an annual turnover greater than €100m before the credit crunch. It made the 35-year-old Dubliner, who now owns Peterborough Football Club, a multi-millionaire. However, a group of 51 Irish and British buyers claim that €492,000 worth of furniture, ordered more than five years ago for apartments in Morocco, Bulgaria and Cape Verde, was never delivered. Antonio Flores, the Spanish lawyer acting for the group, claims "many other" MRI customers are affected. He alleges that missing furniture is just one of the irregularities linked to MRI, or related companies. He said that an additional claim, totalling €15m, is being prepared on behalf of 200 Irish and British MRI customers claiming that they lost large sums in upfront fees. MRI has consistently denied any allegations of wrongdoing. The initial complaint regarding furniture was referred to a Marbella court and is being heard by Judge Beatriz Gomez-Escolar at the Court of Instruction. Under Spanish law, individuals can initiate criminal procedures in some cases. The judge will now decide whether Mr MacAnthony and five other defendants should face the charges of "misappropriation of funds and theft by swindle". Among those wielding placards outside the Marbella court were claimants Brendan O'Dell (52), who works for a pharmaceutical company, and his partner Elizabeth Egan (52), from Corofin, Co Clare. The couple paid €14,000 for a furniture pack for their Moroccan apartment which they claim was never delivered. "It's a joke. This has been dragging on for five years. Like everyone else here we are determined to get our money back," Mr O'Dell said. Claimants John and Muriel Andrews, from Ballycarry, Co Antrim, were also at the court. They paid MRI €29,900 in advance for two furniture packs, for apartments in Cape Verde, which they claim have never been delivered. Efforts to contact Mr MacAnthony were unsuccessful last night. But he has previously said: "There are no foundations behind these allegations. I certainly didn't do anything wrong and neither did anyone with MRI when I was there." He also said: "I operated a company which did thousands of sales around the world with many happy clients, but will forever be haunted by the few hundred for which it didn't work out." In relation to undelivered furniture, the company has said the 2008 property crash forced several of its furniture suppliers out of business and it had to engage new ones -- effectively paying twice for the same furniture order. Also accused in the Spanish case are former MRI CEOs Michael Liggan and Dominic Pickering, Sarah O'Callaghan, and Nicola Shaw, a former director of MRI Ireland. The defendants face up to eight years in jail if convicted of the charges.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Suspect held in Spain in killing of Connecticut jeweler

 

A man wanted in connection with the killing and robbery of a Connecticut jeweler has been arrested in Spain, U.S. authorities said Tuesday. Andrew Robert Levene, also known as Robert Thomas, was arrested Monday, said U.S. Attorney David Fein and local and state law enforcement. The 41-year-old Levene was charged with federal murder, robbery and firearm offenses in the Dec. 8 shooting of Yekutiel Zeevi, the owner of YZ Manufacturers LLC in Westport. Levene contacted Zeevi in early December, asking him for several diamonds that were to two to three karats and valued between $45,000 and $75,000, authorities said. The evening before the shooting, Zeevi met Levene, who examined the diamonds and was noncommittal about buying them, authorities said. Levene met with Zeevi again on Dec. 8 on the ruse that he would buy several large diamonds he had arranged to purchase that month, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Connecticut. Instead, Levene shot and killed Zeevi, authorities said. Levene, who had military training in the use of weapons, stole about $300,000 in diamonds, authorities said. Ronen Konfino, an executive at a New York diamond business, also was shot but survived and helped police with the investigation. It wasn't immediately known if Levene had a lawyer. Levene traveled to Amsterdam from Philadelphia on Dec. 11 after missing a flight to Madrid, law enforcement officials said. Police said in mid-December that Levene had been seen in Philadelphia, possibly casing stores. The Connecticut Post reports that Zeevi was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, and served as a commando in the Israeli navy.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Salsa in Buddha Marbella

 

ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT WE DANCE SALSA IN BUDDHA MARBELLA!   EVERY WEDNESDAY come and move your body to the rhythm of salsa music in Buddha (Marbella)! The whole Nicolas Valiente Dance Academy will be there too… You don’t want to miss it! Buddha Bar, Marbella Avenida del Mar marbella 29600

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Princes William and Harry fly to Spain for secret weekend hunting trip

 

They bagged themselves several brace of pheasant at Sandringham over Christmas. But at the weekend Prince William and Prince Harry set their sights on bigger game. The brothers flew to Spain on Friday for a secret hunting trip to celebrate the end of Harry's advanced helicopter training. The royal pair were staying on an estate in the backwaters of rural Cordoba owned by the Duke of Westminster, Gerald Grosvenor, Britain's third-richest man and one of William's godfathers. Finca La Garganta, near the village of Conquista, on the border of Castilla La Mancha, is one of the largest and most exclusive hunting estates in western Europe. It is teeming with wildlife including wild boar and stag which William and Harry, both crack shots, are said to be keen to bag. Beaters and packs of dogs were brought in to ensure that the princes did not return home without several 'kills' to their name. The brothers have visited the estate before and last time were said to have bagged a staggering 740 partridge on a single day. The second and third in line to the throne arrived in Spain on Friday on separate flights as they are not allowed to travel together in case of an accident. William , 29, who was not believed to be accompanied by his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, flew into Seville while Harry, 27, arrived on a private jet at Cuidad Real Central later in the afternoon.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

3 ETA suspects arrested in France

 

 

 

 

French police acting alongside Spanish counterparts have arrested three men at a railway station in France on suspicion of belonging to Basque separatist group ETA, the Interior Ministry said Sunday. One of those arrested in Joigny, 150 kilometers (93 miles) southeast of Paris, was identified as 33-year-old Jon Echeverria Oyarbide, for whom there is an international arrest warrant. Police said he was in possession of material used in the manufacture of explosives. Echevarria was found in possession of bomb-making materials. The others were identified as Ruben Rivero Campo, who is wanted for "an election offense" and Inigo Sancho Marco, who is not on a wanted list, the ministry said in a statement, adding the arrests took place Saturday afternoon. The statement said officers had spotted Echeverria at Bercy railway station in Paris and tailed him covertly to Joigny, where an apparent rendezvous with the other men took place. The men were armed and police found a car with false license plates in the station car park in Joigny. The arrests occurred a day after Spain's Interior Minister, Jorge Fernandez, insisted that as long as ETA existed its members would be hunted down. Spanish state broadcaster TVE said the three were being held at Auxerre police station awaiting transport to Paris. ETA has killed 829 people since the late 1960s in bombings and shootings aiming to force the creation of a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France. It is classified as a terrorist organization by Spain, the United States and the European Union. Waves of arrests in recent years have repeatedly weakened ETA's structure and diminished its ability to perform acts of terror or collect funds.

Anthony Read was found dead in the sea in the port town of Puerto De La Duquesa

Anthony Read was found dead in the sea in the port town of Puerto De La Duquesa – on the country’s Costa del Sol – the morning after a night out drinking with friends in March last year.

Yesterday, at an inquest, mum and dad Jacqueline Jenkins and Martin Read criticised the investigation into the tragedy carried out by the authorities in Spain.

Anthony, 33,  had visited a number of pubs during the evening and took a taxi back to a pal’s home ten minutes’ drive away in the early hours.

But it is thought he may not have had the correct fare when he arrived and was driven back to the port, between Marbella and Gibraltar. Hours later, his body was found in the water.

Spanish authorities said there had been no signs of violence and that Anthony had drowned, concluding that the death may have been the result of an accident.

But at the inquest in Portsmouth, Anthony’s mother Jacqueline Jenkins hit out at the “vague” report drawn up by local officials as she attempted to piece together what had happened.

Dad Martin Read told the inquest he wanted confirmation from Spanish police that they were satisfied the taxi driver had driven away and was not involved in the tragedy. The inquest also heard how Anthony may simply have fallen in.

However, it remains unclear as to how he came to be in the water.

Coroner David Horsley said it was unlikely Anthony had been robbed as he was still in possession of his wallet and mobile phone when his body was discovered.

But he agreed that he had been faced with a lack of evidence in preparing the inquest.

He told Anthony’s parents: “It is possible that he fell in by accident but I cannot say that that is the most likely scenario because it is possible that he was pushed in – it may have been some kind of simple assault or he may have been trying to evade an assault.”

He added: “If there were any witnesses they did not come forward – or were they asked?”

Mrs Jenkins broke down in tears as she read out tributes to her “kind, thoughtful and wonderful son”, who was working as a financial controller in Gibraltar and was enjoying living in Spain.

In the run-up to his death, Anthony had been studying to become a chartered accountant.

Mr Horsley recorded an open verdict.

Days of the Costa del Crime could soon be over

 

THE days of the Costa del Crime could be seriously numbered. Or at least, so say the Spanish police. Detectives in Malaga have revealed that a year-long crackdown on British and Irish fugitives is paying off and Malaga is no longer an ideal hideout for wanted criminals. The clampdown, which came in a series of on-the-spot raids on pubs, bars and shops on the Costa del Sol, has drawn considerable success. In total, dozens of wanted fugitives have been caught in the raids after six roving teams of national police were set up at the end of 2010. The teams entered establishments closing off exits and demanded identification from all those present. In one day alone, last year, they made a staggering four arrests, while in total 117 Irishmen were arrested last year, using the method. The moves were spurred on by the murder of Irish tourist John O’Neill, 40, who was shot near a pub in Benalmadena by a man wanted by British police. Police insist that due to the crackdown there were fewer gangland shootings and ‘settling of accounts’ last year. “The recession could also have had an influence but things are definitely a lot quieter,” said a spokesman for the UDYCO organised crime unit.

Michael Brown: From £1.6m villa to prison yard, downfall of the Lib Dem fraudster

 

The knock at the door did not unduly disturb the man relaxing on the terrace of the £1.6 million villa overlooking the Caribbean. Even when his wife opened it to discover members of the Dominican Republic’s armed police outside, Darren Patrick Nally was unfazed. He was sure his secret was safe: he was not Nally, a man who said he was an Irish singer and had already been detained in prison on charges of failing to pay his debts. In fact he was Michael Brown, a 45-year-old British fraudster whose web of lies and deceit had made him millions – £2.4 million of which he had donated to the Liberal Democrats for their 2005 election campaign, becoming their biggest single donor. As he was arrested for unpaid rent at a former apartment, Brown was nonchalant. At the police station he told the local assistant prosecutor, Elizabeth Rijo, that he would pay the debt and be back home in time for dinner.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Iberia pilots announce more strike action

 

Pilots from the SEPLA union who work for Iberia have announced three more days of strike action on January 25, 27 and 30. It follows four days of previous action in protest at the plans by Iberia to establish a new low-cost carrier, Iberia Express. SEPLA say that they have picked the dates with care, so as not to affect the Spanish tourism fair, FITUR, which runs in Madrid between the 18th and 22nd of this month. Meanwhile cabin crew and ground staff are also considering taking action, and are reported to be looking at striking on Mondays and Fridays from February 2. A meeting will be held on Tuesday to confirm that action which could affect 21,000 workers on the ground in handling, cargo, maintenance, trade and operational activities.

The Decree to regularize houses in Andalucia

 

According to Hillen “It’s possible that this fireworks display will dazzle some but if you look at the detail of the Decree you will see that it does not help those with ongoing court proceedings, where perhaps the majority could face the chop”. “If what the Junta wants is more cases like the Priors, the decree certainly does nothing to prevent that” she added. “Actually, I sometimes despair at how little the administration is in contact with the real problems of its citizens. They must know that what looks nice on paper is not always workable in practice. It appears that they don’t and all they want to do is inundate us with a byzantine tangle of laws and, whilst they are about it, completely destroy foreign investment in Spain”. Hillen asks “What shall I tell elderly retirees who have demolition orders against their homes? Can I tell them that the Decree will save them? I can’t because it doesn’t”. “What can I say to hundreds of retired couples who live on irregular urbanisations without escritura for their land? Can I tell them that the Decree will give them their escritura? No I can’t, and indeed some of those who currently have escritura are at risk because, according to the Decree, escrituras can be annulled because of the possible illegal segregation of land.” “On the other hand, the regularization of these developments still has to go through an unrealistic, expensive, arduous and painful process which will take a very long time” she added. Regarding the new provision for isolated houses she states that “I regret to say that these houses are relatively blighted, since according to the decree they are not entitled to a licence of occupation or use; are subject to yet to be defined future regulations and some theoretical minimum standard of habitability; Furthermore, the decree states that these houses can only be repaired and preserved; that they should have self sufficient supplies of water, electricity and waste treatment and that only in exceptional circumstances can they be connected to mains services; In other words they are of dubious legality” “That is to say that the Junta, instead of making an important legal change , and by that I mean changing the LOUA, to resolve a major problem has instead only created more confusion in addition to creating a category of second class housing”. She concluded by saying “I hope that not too many people are lured by this bait because I think that it doesn’t fix very much. In fact among our members we think that only 16% of them will benefit in any way from this Decree”.

Government to bring in changes to the 'Ley de Costas'

 

The current and controversial ‘Ley de Costas’ has been in force since 1988 with hardly any modifications. Now the new Minister for Agriculture, Foodstuffs and the Environment, Miguel Arias Cañete, has indicated that ‘very deep reforms’ are on the way to bring value to the coast. El País reoprts that at an event to welcome top civil servants in his department, he gave a speech which indicated that the environment cannot stop economic development, and said that environmental legislation needs to be simplified. Sources at the ministry have noted that there is a problem of judicial insecurity with the current legislation and that they have received pressure from countries such as Britain and Germany, and complaints from EuroMPs as there are foreigners who have been affected by the compulsory purchase aspect of the legislation. The law, which was left untouched by the Aznar government, declares all the beach to be of public use, but does not use a fixed distance, following geographic concepts instead. That extends the area into dunes and marshlands, to where the sea has reached in the worst of storms. Many people have purchased property without the notary or the bank telling them it is located in land for public use, and these people have been granted a 30 year concession of use, but no longer own the property. A legal change now is complicated by the fact that there has already been compulsory purchases and demolition of some properties, so their owners will now be able to claim compensation. The new legislation is expected to extend the concessions, as ‘thousands’ of them were to expire in 2018.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

the secret of the Costa del Sol got out to the world, in a big, big way

 

.The mid-Andalusian coastline began to lure Northern European types, weary of their long, dark winters and eager to bask in the region's ever-present sunshine. First came the super-rich and famous (think Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Laurence Olivier), after Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg opened the aristocratic Marbella Club in 1954. The demi-rich and B celebs followed, and gradually the masses—as is their wont—caught wind of the fun and sun, subsequently descending in droves. Through it all, the gays came too, establishing their beachhead at Torremolinos in the 1960s and 70s. Unfortunately, the switch from sleepy-fishing-village-dotted seashore to frolicksome touristic playground proved too rapid for the area to bear seamlessly. Unsavory types like on-the-lam Brits, the Russian mob, and Arab arms traffickers crept in, earning the region the unwelcome nickname Costa del Crime in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Unsavory Marbella politicians meanwhile took advantage of the instability, pushing through scores of corrupt construction projects before being stopped and ultimately jailed. Now, however, with a clean political slate and hot on the heels of a highly publicized summer 2010 visit to the area by Michelle Obama, the Costa del Sol is back with a vengeance. A new generation of hip tourists, a large faction of them gay, are now discovering the 300-plus days of sun, the warm Mediterranean beaches, the bargain-to-luxury shopping, the excellent spas, the delectable food, the rich history, the effervescent culture, and yes, those scrumptious southern Spanish men of the delightful Costa del Sol. By far, most international visits to the Costa del Sol start in Málaga, and more specifically at its Pablo Ruiz Picasso International Airport. Low-cost carriers like Ryanair and EasyJet have turned this into Spain's fourth busiest airfield, with scores of carriers now serving over 60 countries. The airport's newly opened third terminal is expected to accommodate the growing number of travelers in the coming years. Thanks to an extension of Spain's high-speed AVE train line in 2007, it's now also possible to get from Madrid to Málaga by rail in just about two and a half hours. While many Málaga arrivers scurry off to nearby beachside resort towns, any proper visit to the area requires a healthy dose of the beautiful city itself. With about 570,000 inhabitants, this is Europe's southernmost metropolis, not to mention one of the world's oldest towns, with an historical center dating back more than 3,000 years. In this now fully modern and vibrant city, remnants of previous civilizations are around every bend, with Phoenician, Roman, Moorish, and Reconquista Christian sites especially visible—and more still being found all the time. In 1951, during the construction of a new library, a fantastic first century B.C.E. Roman Theater was unearthed, and it's now one of Málaga's main attractions. More recently, during the construction of the Vincci Selección Posada del Patio Hotel on Pasillo Santa Isabel, remains of both the Roman and Arab walls of the city were found, and can be viewed by all from a specially designed underground walkway. THE INSIDERS GUIDE WHERE TO STAY WHERE TO PLAY WHERE TO EAT WHAT TO DO Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas are two of Málaga's most famous sons, and while you have a slight chance of seeing the latter on one of his frequent visits to town, you certainly won't miss homages to the former, known to his mother and many a modern tour guide as Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. The fabulous Museo Picasso, while just one of three major museums devoted exclusively to the artist's work (the others are in Barcelona and Paris), contains perhaps the most intimate and revealing collection, with more than 220 works donated directly by Picasso's daughter-in-law and grandson. Also worth a visit is the Museo Casa Natal (Birthplace House Museum), which features thousands of works by Picasso, his contemporaries, and those he influenced. Just up the hill from the Roman Theater is the Alcazaba, a Moorish fort started in the eighth century but mostly taking its present form in the mid-11th century. Farther up the hill (but further forward in time) is the Castillo de Gibralfaro, where the Moorish people of Málaga famously waged a three-month battle (albeit ultimately unsuccessfully) against the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1487. Inside the castle is a small but interesting archaeological museum, but most visitors come for what's outdoors: breathtaking views of the city below. For a royal hotel stay, the Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro, part of Spain's exceptional state-owned Paradores system, is actually attached to the castle itself. Continuing onward chronologically, Málaga's post-Reconquista city center Cathedral is known locally as La Manquita, or "one-armed lady," thanks to her clearly missing second tower, a victim of depleted coffers in the 18th century. She's still stunning, and her one beautiful outstretched arm manages to crop up in photos all around the old town. CLICK FOR SLIDESHOW OF COSTA DEL SOL When you're ready for a break and some Málaga tapas, the nearby La Moraga is unparalleled, the local outpost of Michelin-starred chef Dani García's growing gastronomic family. Once sustained, try out Málaga's plentiful shopping options, especially the city center pedestrian street Calle Marqués de Larios, which is lined with chic shops, boutiques, and cafés. Málaga also has a Corte de Inglés (part of the much-beloved, Spanish, one-stop, department store chain), as well as several malls and countless specialty stores spread across the city. One of Málaga's most famed festivals is its vivid Holy Week (or Semana Santa), during which massive ornate tronos (thrones, or floats), made of gold and silver and often weighing more than five tons, are carried through the streets, accompanied by music and song. Things turn especially dramatic on Good Friday, when shops and streetlights go dark to better showcase the solemn procession. Antonio Banderas sometimes still takes part in the festivities, as he did here in his youth. The festival dates back more than 500 years to the Catholic Reconquista, and its long history is commemorated at the Museo de la Semana Santa (Holy Week Museum). Somewhat less holy but even more famous is the Feria de Málaga, a nine-day, mid-August festival that's one of Spain's largest. Shops and offices close so everyone can enjoy the food and drink. Meanwhile, traffic is stopped so the streets can fill with music and dancing. Traditional costumes are everywhere, with many women in colorful flamenco dresses and many men dressed as sexy vaqueros (or cowboys). While it's not nearly as big as Holy Week or Feria, Málaga has its own Pride event as well called Hoy Málaga es Gay (Today Málaga is Gay), taking place annually in late June. LGBT life is thriving in Málaga, which boasts a growing number and variety of gay bars and clubs, many situated around Plaza de la Merced. For a fun dip into the local queer scene, start out with the lively Bohemian loungy-ness of El Carmen, then move on to the throbbing disco action of Reinas (Queen). The refreshingly small (just 50 rooms) and colorful Room Mate Lola Hotel is a great place to lay your head in Málaga, with cool design, a central location, a hip clientele, and a friendly staff. Even more centrally located (right next to the Cathedral) is the AC Málaga Palacio Hotel, which boasts a rooftop pool and restaurant/bar with 360-degree views of the city, making it a consummate setting for that impromptu Spanish same-sex wedding. For venturing beyond Málaga proper and onward to the splendid Costa del Sol, your best bet is to rent a car. This can be ridiculously cheap, as low as $60 a week depending on when you travel, your vehicle preference, and Euro conversion rates. Taxis are plentiful, but distances between towns are fairly large, so fares can be high. Buses are available as well, but they run sporadically. Trains, running about every 30 minutes, also connect Málaga to Torremolinos and Fuengirola, but the latter is only about halfway to Marbella, so you'll still need a cab or car to take you the full distance there. Less than ten miles south of Málaga lies Torremolinos, long the gay capital of the Costa del Sol region. Though it began like many towns in the area as a sleepy fishing village, people were here and queer as early as the late 1950s. By 1962, Toni's Bar, Spain's first-ever gay bar, had opened. Even during the oppressive Franco regime, homosexuals were mostly given wide berth to behave as they liked in Torremolinos—as long as they spent their tourist pesetas while doing so. By the early 1970s, gay life was booming here, centered (as it still is) around La Nogalera in the heart of town. Torremolinos lost much of its cachet in the mid-70s when down-the-coast Marbella came into full bloom, but with the decriminalization of homosexuality in Spain later in the decade, the town began to attract more and more gays from all over the country, and eventually from across Europe. After an upswing in the 1980s and much of the 90s, another downturn followed just before the millennium, as Eurogays bored of a destination that'd become too routine and gone stale. Somewhat surprisingly, Torremolinos has undergone yet another powerful resurgence in the last few years, proving it a gay Spanish phoenix that simply refuses to go quietly. As Spain's magnetism draws in more and more international LGBT travelers, Torremolinos, virtually unknown to Amerigays until recently, is now finally being discovered by those looking beyond the tried and true Madrid-to-Barcelona-and-Sitges route. Interestingly, Torremolinos also draws many heterosexual Nordic and British types, leading to odd amalgams like a Finnish bar atop a gay disco, as in the case of the popular and very fun Home. Other current LGBT hotspots (among some 20 in Torremolinos) include Parthenon and Passion discos, both always packed on weekends. Since Torremolinos isn't yet exactly teeming with upscale lodging options, many visitors choose to stay in Málaga and make the journey by taxi at club time—in fact, it's what many Malagueños themselves do every weekend. For those who'd rather be able to stumble home, Hostal Guadalupe is a solid Torremolinos choice. Beyond the packed nightclubs and visible renovations around town, another clear indication that Torremolinos' star is again on the rise was the 2010 debut of Expo Gays, an international gay business expo that drew some 180 exhibitors and 15,000 visitors to the city's 60,000-square-foot Palace of Congresses and Exhibitions over three days in mid-October. Of course, one of the main reasons people flock to Costa del Sol is to soak up the ever-present local sun. Torremolinos itself has several lovely stretches of sand, including the once gay but now mixed Poseidon Beach. Most locals will assure you, however, that the best gay beach in Costa del Sol is farther down the coast, between Calahonda and Marbella at Cabopin. While this naturist beach isn't exclusively gay, it boasts a large pink stretch (commencing about 200 yards to the west of the parking lot) that includes a very cruisy and action-packed dune area. Whether you lay or play, Cabopin makes for a nice rejuvenating stop on the journey south from Torremolinos or Málaga to Marbella.

Undercover agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, working with their Mexican counterparts, helped transfer millions of dollars in drug cash and even escorted a shipment of cocaine via Dallas to Spain

 

The covert activities were undertaken as part of an operation to infiltrate and prosecute a major Colombian-Mexican narco-trafficking organization moving cocaine from Colombia to Mexico and the United States. The undercover operation, detailed in Mexican government documents obtained by the New York Times, first came to light via a Monday dispatch by Times reporter Ginger Thompson. The documents "describe American counternarcotics agents, Mexican law enforcement officials and a Colombian informant working undercover together over several months in 2007," Thompson reported. "Together, they conducted numerous wire transfers of tens of thousands of dollars at a time, smuggled millions of dollars in bulk cash—and escorted at least one large shipment of cocaine from Ecuador to Dallas to Madrid." The documents "show that in 2007 the authorities infiltrated" the operations of an accused major Colombian cocaine trafficker, named Harold Mauricio Poveda-Ortega, Thompson wrote. Poveda-Ortega, also known as the Rabbit, "was considered the principal cocaine supplier to the Mexican drug cartel leader Arturo Beltran Leyva." Leyva was killed in 2008 in a shootout with Mexican naval forces. Poveda-Ortega was arrested in Mexico City in November 2010. The Mexican government documents include testimony from a DEA special agent "who oversaw a covert money laundering investigation" into Poveda-Ortega, Thompson reported. The documents form part of the file supporting a Mexican Foreign Ministry extradition order for Poveda-Ortega from last May 2011. The United States, however, has declined to indicate whether Poveda-Ortega was extradited to the United States, Thompson writes. A Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney similarly told Yahoo News Monday that the department is "not in a position to comment on the specific matter." The Drug Enforcement Administration defended the undercover operation in a written statement given to Thompson. "Transnational organized groups can be defeated only by transnational law enforcement cooperation," the agency wrote. "Such cooperation requires that law enforcement agencies — often from multiple countries — coordinate their activities, while at the same time always acting within their respective laws and authorities." Former DEA agent Robert Mazur, who posed as a money launderer in a similar undercover DEA investigation targeting the banks supporting the Medellin drug cartel, said such undercover operations are necessary and legitimate. Covert drug stings are critical, he says, in lining up evidence to successfully prosecute the top command and control figures of organized crime cartels. "This is a law enforcement technique that has been used for decades," Mazur told Yahoo News in a telephone interview Monday. "If we were to embrace the concept that these undercover money laundering operations shouldn't be conducted because in a small way, they for a brief period of time create a short term benefit for the criminal, we would be doing criminal organizations around the world the greatest favor they could get. We would be closing door to one of the most effective methods available to attack what law enforcement calls the command and control of these global organizations." The organizations targeted in these intricate DEA stings "are not people selling dime bags of crack on the street, but people trying to create terrorists states around the world," continued Mazur (Mazur, who retired from the DEA in 1998, has recounted his experience infiltrating the BCCI bank accused of money laundering for the Colombian drug cartel, in a book, The Infiltrator.) Mazur also disputed any comparison between the undercover DEA case exposed by the Times Monday and the recent controversy over "Fast and Furious," the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) program that allegedly put guns in the hands of Mexican drug gangs. "I would never agree in any circumstances it's worthwhile to put 2,000 weapons in the hands of criminals," he said. "Each of these operations needs to be professionally managed and individually scrutinized. This one, from what I read, is very common place, and I don't see anything in there that disturbs me in the least." Recent DEA undercover operations have led to the apprehension and successful prosecution of two major global arms traffickers, including the Russian-born, so-called "merchant of death" Viktor Bout, who was convicted in November on four counts of plotting to sell anti-aircraft guns and other weapons to Colombia's FARC rebels; and the Syrian-born "Prince of Marbella," Monzer al-Kassar, who was sentenced by a New York court in 2009 to 30 years in prison.

Trial begins in giant Spanish corruption scandal

 

top Spanish former official went on trial Monday at the start of legal proceedings into a raft of corruption scandals in which King Juan Carlos' son-in-law is also accused. Jaume Matas, the ex-head of the regional government of the Balearic islands who had also served as environment minister, appeared at a court in Palma de Majorca alongside three other suspects. They have been charged with embezzlement, fraud, falsifying documents and influence peddling. Matas was charged in March 2010 and was released after paying a record bail of 3.0 million euros ($3.8 million). Prosecutors are demanding an eight and a half years jail term. Matas served as president of the government of the Balearic Islands between 1996-1999 and then between 2003-2007. He was environment minister between 2000-2003. The so-called "Palma Arena affair" as the Spanish press has dubbed the corruption scandal centres on the suspected embezzlement of public funds during the construction of a velodrome in Palma de Majorca between 2005-2007. An investigation concluded that the cycling track had an unjustified cost overrun of 41 million euros. That led authorities on the archipelago to uncover other cases of suspected embezzlement of public funds, including one allegedly involving royal son-in-law Inaki Urdangarin. The 43-year-old ex-Olympic handball player is scheduled to appear in court on February 25 as part of a probe into corruption at a non-profit organisation, Instituto Noos, which he headed between 2004 and 2006. The probe centres notably on a payment of 2.3 million euros to Instituto Noos for organising a tourism and sports conference in 2005 and 2006. Urdangarin, who has the title Duke of Palma and is married to the king's youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, has denied any wrongdoing. Last month the royal family suspended the the duke from official engagements and the palace's highest official, Rafael Spottorno, gave an unprecedented rebuke, telling Spanish media his behaviour "does not seem exemplary".

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Prison for father and son in connection with Barcelona Senegalese killing

 

Two of the four people arrested in connection with the death of a Senegalese man, Ibrahima Dyey in Barcelona last Tuesday have been sent to prison on remand, while the other two have been granted provisional release by the judge in Instruction Court 12 in Barcelona. The father of a gypsy clan, Antonio F.P., is one of those being held in custody, along with one of his sons, 28 year old Antonio F.G who is believed to have actually carried out the killing. The tragedy has caused serious friction between local gypsy residents and the Africans in the Besòs district of the city. The judge ordered that the other two sons face charges of making threats and causing injury and they have to report every day to the court. Their passports have been removed and they are not allowed to leave Barcelona, or be closer than 500m to any of the witnesses called to the court.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Police say he died as the result of a fight when he resisted their attempts to rob him

A suspect in handcuffs - EFE archiveA suspect in handcuffs - EFE archive
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Two arrests have been made in the case of the German tourist, 67 year old P.A.C. who was found beaten to death in a tourist complex in Playa del Inglés, San Bartolomé de Tirajana, on the south of Gran Canaria, on Sunday.

The suspects are both Spanish and are named as 27 year old Diego P.L., who was arrested on Tuesday, and Cristóbal P.N., an 18 year old who was taken into custody the following day. The latter is reported to have been known to the victim, who let him into the apartment owing to their friendship. The teenager then opened the door to the other man when the tourist’s attention was distracted.

Police indicated to EFE on Thursday that the man died in the fight which ensued when he resisted their attempts to rob him. The suspects fled the scene with a laptop computer, two mobile phones and a small amount of cash. Both are reported to have lengthy criminal records. DISCLAIMER Text may be subject to copyright.This blog does not claim copyright to any such text. Copyright remains with the original copyright holder

Police say he died as the result of a fight when he resisted their attempts to rob him

A suspect in handcuffs - EFE archiveA suspect in handcuffs - EFE archive
enlarge photo


Two arrests have been made in the case of the German tourist, 67 year old P.A.C. who was found beaten to death in a tourist complex in Playa del Inglés, San Bartolomé de Tirajana, on the south of Gran Canaria, on Sunday.

The suspects are both Spanish and are named as 27 year old Diego P.L., who was arrested on Tuesday, and Cristóbal P.N., an 18 year old who was taken into custody the following day. The latter is reported to have been known to the victim, who let him into the apartment owing to their friendship. The teenager then opened the door to the other man when the tourist’s attention was distracted.

Police indicated to EFE on Thursday that the man died in the fight which ensued when he resisted their attempts to rob him. The suspects fled the scene with a laptop computer, two mobile phones and a small amount of cash. Both are reported to have lengthy criminal records. DISCLAIMER Text may be subject to copyright.This blog does not claim copyright to any such text. Copyright remains with the original copyright holder

60 women died in Spain in 2011 at the hands of their partners

The number is however 13 fewer than the number of fatalities in 2010
A protest against domestic violence - Photo EFEA protest against domestic violence - Photo EFE
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A total of 60 women died at the hands of their partners during 2011. The number is 13 fewer than in 2010. Only 30% of them had previously placed a complaint for domestic violence or ill-treatment. Since 2003 when the statistics started to be compiled, 605 women have died in this way.

Nearly all of the killers end up spending an average of 18 years in jail.

The New Year began with another case, as the bodies of a man and a woman were found in Girona. The Mossos d’Esquardra consider that he killed her before killing himself.

A CIS survey showed, in an advanced bulletin of the results, that more than half a million children had been hit this year, and that 840,000 are exposed to the family violence against their mothers.

Another survey carried out last year shows that 1.4% of the general population in Spain still thinks domestic violence is justified in certain circumstances, and perhaps even more worryingly 80% of youngsters think it is reasonable for women to satisfy the desires of their men. Eight out of ten said that there were too many details in the reporting of such cases in Spain.

The PP could change the legislation following requests from the General Council for Judicial Power which thinks that the Penal Code should allow for children who have witnessed the violence to be taken into care. They also demand that no macho killer be allowed to receive a widower’s pension. DISCLAIMER Text may be subject to copyright.This blog does not claim copyright to any such text. Copyright remains with the original copyright holder.

The Cádiz town has no money, and now the power has been cut to the Town Hall because of lack of payment

Photo EFEPhoto EFE
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Barbate Town Hall has found itself with the electricity cut through lack of payment as the cash crisis in the Cádiz town continues to worsen. Municipal workers have been paid 550 € each, from a total debt which now amounts to four months wages, and the phones at the Local Police and the Fire Station are only still working because of a small generator.

The Town Hall admits its debt with the Endesa power company is now 300,000 €, but there is no money to pay. Endesa follow a strict policy of disconnection when there are three months of unpaid bills. Now no computers work, no council business can be done.

Local residents have taken to the streets in demand for a solution to the town’s crisis. CCOO union representative, Roque Vázquez, said ‘although we would like to work, now we just can’t do so’.

The Government Sub Delegation has banned a demonstration on Saturday which intended to block the N-340 road at the crossroads at Vejer.

There was one bright spark for the town on Wednesday, when an ONCE lottery seller sold seven winning tickets worth 245,000 €, but even if all that went directly to the Town Hall it would not be enough to get the lights back on. DISCLAIMER Text may be subject to copyright.This blog does not claim copyright to any such text. Copyright remains with the original copyright holder

Universal cover in the public health service comes into effect in Spain on January 1.

Universal health cover arrives in Spain on January 1
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By h.b. - Dec 31, 2011 - 9:39 AM
Some Spaniards lost out on health care under the old legislation
Archive Photo EFEArchive Photo EFE
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It means that the 200,000 or so people who lack free health cover in Spain will see their situation corrected by the new General Health Law.

Among those who have had no health care has been some 40,000 long term unemployed, and after a health card is cancelled it’s impossible to use the public health services or prescription service.

In some regions of the country foreign residents who were recently registered on the Padrón had to wait for as long as six months to obtain health care. Now foreigners will obtain health care in the same conditions as the Spanish.

The change was approved in cabinet last October, and now gives health cover ‘to all Spaniards residents in national territory’.

Before in the 1986 legislation is was based on whether social security payments had been made, and therefore on the patient’s employment situation. It was an odd situation as the health service is financed by the tax take and not social security in Spain. DISCLAIMER Text may be subject to copyright.This blog does not claim copyright to any such text. Copyright remains with the original copyright holder

Son of missing British woman on Lanzarote asks the public for help

65 year old Margaret Holt has not been seen since December 23
Poster for missing Margaret HoltPoster for missing Margaret Holt
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The son of the 65 year old British woman, Margaret Holt, who went missing on Lanzarote on December 23 has made a public appeal for help from the public. He called for anybody who may think they have any information on the whereabouts of his mother to get in touch with the authorities can call either 112 Emergency, 080 Fire Service or 062 Guardia Civil.

The Canary Island government said in a statement that Ben Riley had appeared before the press at his own request, recalling the circumstances in which his mother disappeared and giving a physical description of her in an attempt to find her.

He also thanked the effort and work carried out already by the Guardia Civil and all the volunteers who had taken part in the search, as many as 70 people at times, and he also thanked some witnesses who had placed his mother in the northern area of the island.

The manager of the Safety and Emergencies Consortium, Enrique Esponisa, and the Firefighting Chief, Andrés Pérez Dorta, joined Riley in the press conference and gave details of what they had done in previous days and the places they had registered.

Some maps which Margaret left in her hotel lead them to think she was walking from the Costa Teguise to the Caleta de Famara to carrying out the walk at the Risco de Famara. One witness claims they spoke to her in the Islands Homes urbanisation in Farmara, and another reported seeing her hours later on December 23. DISCLAIMER Text may be subject to copyright.This blog does not claim copyright to any such text. Copyright remains with the original copyright holder

Alicante is 'an authentic cannabis jungle'

The Valencia region has seen increased marihuana plantations
9,000 plants in the largest plantation found so far in Alicante - Photo Guardia Civil9,000 plants in the largest plantation found so far in Alicante - Photo Guardia Civil
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Spain is now one of the main areas of marihuana cultivation inside the European Union. The number of plantations being discovered by the police has soared, especially in the Valencia region.

The business is controlled by Dutch mafia groups which has organised plantations across Andalucía, Murcia, Cataluña, Aragón and above all in the Valencia region where Alicante has been described as ‘an authentic cannabis jungle’ by Civil Guard antidrug sources.

‘There are plantations in nearly all the municipalities of Alicante province and in many in Valencia, because of their orography and climate’, adding that homemade greenhouses have been set up in flats and villas, and more sophisticated operations had been established in warehouses. Some open air operations were hidden from prying eyes.

The large operations are controlled by the Dutch mafias and they have sent technicians to ‘teach’ the Spanish. More than 17,000 Dutch live in the Valencia region, 15,000 of them in the province of Alicante. Some recent discoveries include 47 plants in Alcoy, 33o in an Alicante flat, 600 in a villa in Elche, 735 in a house in Oliva, 104 in Torrent, 172 in Granja de Rocamora, and 676 in Valencia.

The plants don’t need earth, as they can be fed by a water system with water saturated in oxygen and nutrients. Then there needs to be ozone extractors, humidity control, a drying area, isolated walls and halogen lamps switched on 24 hours a day. One site found in San Vicente de Raspeig, saw 9,000 € being paid a month for light, as 1,800 plants were being cultivated.

The Ak-47 seed has proved particularly popular and productive and at a cost of 800 € for six, they offer good results in a few weeks, an intense odour, and a 15% strength of THC, the main psychoactive substance.

A gram is now priced at 6 €, and a single plant can give half a kilo. The Guardia Civil says that shops which sell marihuana seeds are misleading customs by telling them that you can grow two plants for private use. The Guardia says the cultivation is always a crime against public health, be it one plant of 500. They have recently started judicial action against a couple who had just four plants. DISCLAIMER Text may be subject to copyright.This blog does not claim copyright to any such text. Copyright remains with the original copyright holder.

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