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The prosecution team investigating the bribery case involving the former president of the Partido Popular, José Juan Cardona, have composed a damning report on the high-flying local politician which, if he is found guilty, could see him spend the next 17 years in prison. The case revolves around the Balearic Government’s Consortium for Economic Development from 2003-2007 under the previous PP-run Govern, which the document claims misused up to €1.5 million. The 82 page report goes through each case under suspicion, and there are more than 100, one by one, with the conclusion being that Cardona knew exactly what was happening, and was an integral part in the fraud.
Nine arrests were made back in October 2008, including that of the director general of the Consortium, Kurt Viaene and Antonia Ordinas. Both were working under Cardona, with Ordinas eventually claiming he was involved in all of the fraudulent activity.
Ordinas even led officers to €200,000 she had buried in her luxury chalet in Portol, Mallorca. She remained in prison for the next few months before eventually being released on bail. She is also set to stand trial, but it is Cardona who is likely to be the most high profile casualty.
The scam revolved around the Consortium, which was in charge of marketing and promotion of the four islands. The prosecution team claims it fabricated a total of 130 reports, charging for each, and then ciphering off the money. In some cases the reports were fictitious and did not exist, in others similar information was simply downloaded from the internet, most of which was not relevant and never used by the Govern. In all of the cases, however, according to the report, the invoices were paid, with some of the money going to pay party expenses and the rest going straight to the pockets of the people involved.
The public prosecution team insisted none of these operations would have been possible without Cardona’s full collaboration. They continued by ridiculing his earlier declaration that he had merely signed all of the documents without reading them, instead deciding to trust his department, revealing that on some of the documents he had made notes, which showed he had had to have read their content.
In one such case the Consortium paid a whopping €45,000 for a report about the Mallorcan pearl which was never produced. In another, in a project named Honey Moon, €240,000 was awarded to a company connected to the three, without being put out to tender or without even a contract being drawn up.
Despite the damning facts Cardona continued to receive support on the island, although this time it was slightly cautionary. Virtudes Mari, leader of the opposition party in Ibiza Town, claimed she remained confident he would eventually be found innocent. Similarly, the new president of the PP party on the island, Joan Pantaleoni, claimed the prosecutors report was not valid enough to ask Cardona to leave the party, claiming he was innocent until proven guilty.
At the time the claims came to light the Balearic President, Francesc Antich, said his government had worked long and hard to ensure that all members of his administration were above suspicion, adding that new measures would be put in place to ensure that such cases of corruption could not happen again.
AROUND THE ISLAND
Drop in Numbers
Hotel occupancy was down eleven per cent during May, as figures released by the Hotel Federation confirmed the tough start to the season. Federation President, Juanjo Riera, claimed the results highlighted the complicated year in which the island was currently emerged, as well as Ibiza’s dependency on the clubs.
Overall occupancy in Ibiza reached 46.55%, a fall of 11.3 per cent from last year. Meanwhile, occupancy in Formentera hit just 37.65%, down 7 per cent from 2008, although this was mainly due to the poor results during the first 15 days, with Riera predicting it would suffer far less than its larger neighbour.
Santa Eulalia was the biggest loser, with occupancy down 19.4 per cent from the previous year. The north of the island was next on the list, down 16 per cent, followed by San Antonio and the bay, down twelve per cent, and Ibiza Town down 4.5 per cent. The beach resorts of San Jose were the only area to increase occupancy from last year, up one per cent, although it should be remembered occupancy was considerably down in 2008, and they remain the least popular resort with occupancy levels of just 34.14%.
The Councillor for Tourist Promotion, Pepa Mari, confirmed the poor results in May had been generally expected. She said she hoped levels would improve for the remaining months of the season, and pleaded with businesses to remain open for the full six month period, claiming everyone needed to work together to ensure numbers continued to improve in June, July, August and September.
Despite the obvious falls, the Balearic Government unveiled data which showed 15,000 more tourists had come to the island during the first four months of the year, although the figures for May were likely to be down. In fact over the weekend the Airport Authorities conformed a total of 30,426 fewer passengers had passed through the airport during May compared to last year.
Meanwhile, the Balearic Minister for Tourism, Miquel Nadal, announced his department’s recent marketing blitz across Europe was starting to pay dividends as the late market started to kick-in. Whilst claiming the current results were “satisfactory”, especially considering the current crisis, he said things would get better in the short term, with the British and German markets proving especially responsive.
The European election results continued to dominate the news for much of the week, although most of it concentrated on the record low turnout and the lack of interest with the majority of residents. In Ibiza just 33.9 per cent of those able to vote made it to the polling booth. However, of the 29,256 people who did make it, 47.17% voted for the PP Partido Popular, 41.52% for PSOE (the Socialist party), with the five other parties collecting 8.01% of the vote between them, with the remaining either nulls or abstentions.
It was a similar story in the different municipalities across Ibiza, with the PP cutting the deficit in Ibiza Town and San Jose, whilst increasing their lead in the four remaining municipalities, (including Formentera). The most satisfying victory came in San Jose which the PP’s “won back”, although the PSOE claimed the result merely showed the lack of interest in the European elections shown by the islanders, and that they were still confident they had the support of the general public.
On a national scale it was a similar story, with Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero being punished for his recent lack of leadership during the economic crisis. The Popular Party (PP) gained 42.23% of the votes, their best ever result in a European election, compared to the Socialist's 38.51%. This gave the leader, Mariano Rajoy, 23 of the 50 seats available, compared to 21 for Zapatero's party. This compares unfavourably to the last elections in 2004 where the PSOE won 25 of the 54 seats then at stake, against 24 for the PP.
Yet the PP’s win was significant, as this was the first national vote it had won over Zapatero’s PSOE party in nine years. “A majority have expressed their will for change,” said Rajoy, the PP leader. However, with three more years left of his second term in office the Prime Minister has enough time to turn around the country’s economy, although he may need every second of that to show voters he is up for the job. Currently one in five adults in Spain are unemployed, 30 per cent of children leave school without any sort of qualification, and just five per cent of Spanish exports are high-tech, and with most economists predicting Spain will be one of the last countries to emerge from the recession, he will certainly have his work cut out.
The Balearia ferry company announced, on Tuesday, that it would be naming their new vessel, currently under construction in Vigo, Abel Matutes-Ibiza. The boat will be 191 metres long, 25 metres wide and be able to reach speeds of up to 25 knots. It will have a capacity for 900 passengers and have 2,300 metres of space for vehicles on three different levels. It is set to cost in the region of €100 million and should be finished by the end of the year. Initially it will cover the route between the Balearics and Barcelona.
Abel Matutes is without doubt the island’s most famous resident. After becoming Mayor of Ibiza in 1970 and 1971 and then Senator for Ibiza and Formentera in 1977, he began his slow climb up the political ladder which ended with him serving for Jose Maria Aznar’s Central Government as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1996 to 2000.
The fast ferry will be launched by Stella, his daughter and former Island Councillor for Public Works.
There was concern on the island last week as Arcandor, which owns 53 per cent of the Thomas Cook travel group, filed for bankruptcy after the German government rejected its request for loan guarantees. The company has owned Thomas Cook, the UK’s second largest tour operator behind Tui Group, since 2007. In Germany it owns over 120 Karstadt department stores, a popular chain found on most of the country’s high streets. It also owns Primondo mail-order, and Quelle catalogue business, as well as selling financial products and athletic equipment.
The President of the Hotel Federation, Juanjo Riera, said that at the moment there was nothing to worry about, but added he would be monitoring the situation closely over the next few weeks.
The company, which employs around 70,000 people, asked the Government for help after they were turned down by the banks over a refinancing package to the tune of €650 million to cover existing loans. However, observers were quick to point out the bankruptcy filing only covered the retail side of the business. Meanwhile, Thomas Cook remains the only profitable part of Arcandor, with the firm’s 52.8 per cent stake worth in excess of €1 billion.
A spokesman for Thomas Cook said there was no reason for holidaymakers to be alarmed, and that the company was operationally and financially distinct from its parent company.
"We've been around for 167 years and will be around for many more," claimed the company spokesperson. "This will have no impact on holidays - customers should not be concerned whatsoever."
This was a view shared by the financial sector as shares in Thomas Cook closed up ten per cent at 235.75p, following reports that German firm, Rewe, could buy Arcandor's stake in the travel firm.
However, the collapse of the group, which puts 43,000 jobs on the line, erupted into a bitter political fight on Wednesday as the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) attacked the economy minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, for not helping the company. Both the minister and Prime Minister Angela Merkel justified the refusal to bail out the company saying that it was a different case to Opel, who just weeks earlier received help from the Government. He explained that only companies who had been solid before the recession would be considered for bailout money. He continued that Arcandor had been struggling before the economic downturn.
The consumption of electricity on the island declined in May for the first time this year, recording a drop of one per cent. However, during the first five months of the year consumption is up 2.8 per cent, which bucks the Balearic trend with Gesa-Endesa revealing demand was down in both Menorca by 2.2 per cent, and Mallorca by 0.6 per cent.
Meanwhile, the Balearic Consumers Association condemned the lack of information available to customers with just two weeks before the free market begins. At the moment residential customers will have no other options on the island, although business customers can choose to change users. Few suppliers, however, have so far shown any interest in breaking Gesa-Endesa’s stranglehold in the market.
A recent survey has shown over one third of the island is at high risk from fire. The figures released by the Forest Department claimed the surface area most at risk was up this year due to the heavy rains over the winter, and, in addition to a very dry May, had ensured there was a lot more vegetation.
The areas at most risk in Ibiza remain the forested areas of San Jose, ses Salinas, and es Amunts, whilst in Formentera la Mola and el Cap de Barbaria remain on red alert.
Luis Berbiela, the head of the Forest Service, claimed 95 per cent of fires were related to human activity, and called for people to be careful whilst out in the countryside.
So far this year the island has registered a total of 21 small fires (under a hectare), and one fire. Over the course of last year there were 117 small fires reported and four fires. In total 45 hectares of land were damaged, way down on the average over the last ten years, which reached 413 hectares.
It was also reported last week that the Balearics will be one of the few regions in the area which will rely on the local military for backup in case of fire. An Emergency Military Unit has been set up across Spain with 1,500 members ensuring any incident will be backed up within four hours. However, due to the geographical location of the islands, (as well as the African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla), regular troops stationed on the island will be called in if local fire services are unable to cope.
The route between Santa Eulalia and the airport has been reduced after Island Councillor for Transport, Albert Prats, admitted the number of users did not increase during 2008. Last year Prats increased all of the services from the airport to the different municipalities across the island, and whilst the lines to San Antonio and Ibiza Town saw vast increases in user numbers, the route to Santa Eulalia did not witness any rise. This led to rumours the line would be cancelled, fears which were allayed by Prats on Thursday, when he announced the service would in fact be reduced. He also called on the hotels in the area to publicise the route, and actively advertise the services amongst their clientele.
During the press conference Prats revealed the route between Ibiza Town and the airport had increased its frequency for this summer and would go every 20 minutes, whilst the San Antonio route would remain the same.
In other transport related news the Balearic Government announced it had contacted Civil Aviation to try and ensure the frequency of flights from the island in winter. The Minister for Transport, Joana Amengual, met with the new head of Civil Aviation in Madrid to try and ensure more flights at a reduced cost, especially from Ibiza and Menorca. Manuel Ameijeiras said he would study the Govern’s proposals but immediately ruled out the Ministry of Public Works, (Fomento), paying any excess to ensure the price remains low.
Just a day later Amengual met with ferry companies to try and negotiate a 50 per cent discount on the price of ferries to the island regardless of the number of passengers in the vehicle. The Central Government has expressed an interest in offering heavy discounts for cars packed with four occupants to try and encourage more people to share journeys.
The Balearic University announced this week it would be offering two courses in English – Economics and Business Studies – as part of 27 subjects in its European Education Programme. The courses fall in line with the Bologna Pact which was approved last year in an attempt to unify degree courses across the Continent.
Caritas, the local charity on the island, has claimed it will have to cut a number of services after grants awarded have yet to be paid. At a press conference last week their delegate, Miguel Angel Sanchez, revealed how the charity was still owed €500,000, more than 60 per cent of their budget, by the Balearic Government, Island Council and Town Hall. Sanchez pleaded with the administration “to do their bit”, adding that if services were suspended it would mean people not receiving help which they genuinely needed.
It was a similar story for many charities across the island, many of whom have had to arrange short term loans due to the delay in public money being paid.
Arts and Crafts
Last week saw two separate art and craft markets set up on the island. The first is in San Antonio, in Passieg de la Mar close to ses Coves Blanques. To begin with there will be seven stalls selling locally made products, opening every day from 7:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight.
The second will be installed in Cala de Bou on es Caló road on the bottom bay road close to the pharmacy, and at la Caixa, near to Summum. At the moment it will only be open on Sundays, but will coincide with the launch of “Tapa Bou” which will see restaurants and bars in the area offering a tapa and a drink for €1.50. For more information about setting up a stall contact the Tourist Department at San Jose Town Hall.
On Monday the head of the Balearic Coastal Authority, Celesti Alomar, promised to study, “case by case”, all of the land seizures planned before the ses Figuretes promenade eventually gets underway. The project raised concerns when it was recently released to the public, as it would mean the demolition of three hotel swimming pools which encroach on public land, as well as numerous private terraces.
After the meeting, which had involved Alomar, 15 hoteliers, and the mayors of Ibiza Town and San Jose, the Councillor for Tourism, Pepa Mari, who was also present, revealed how Alomar had shown a willingness to re-evaluate the most conflicting cases and try to find an alternative solution to the problem.
For her part the mayor of Ibiza Town, Lurdes Costa, claimed her administration would support each and every case which it felt was justified.
The walkway, the plans of which are currently on public display, will start at los Molinos Hotel finishing on the border with San Jose in Playa den Bossa, (next to the hotel Algarb). It will have a width of six metres in ses Figueretes and es Viver and four metres in Playa den Bossa, and will currently mean a total of 33 expropriations at a cost of €714,614.
Meanwhile, the mayor of San Jose, Josep Mari Ribas Agustinet, used the meeting with Alomar to ask if there were any more demolitions of beach huts planned within the municipal. Fourteen were demolished at the end of May in es Codolar, and the five currently standing in es Cap d’es Falcó, are next on the list. However, Alomar assured the mayor that, for the time being at least, there would be no more demolitions. Agustinet said he would now order a full report on the remaining huts in sa Caleta, Porroig, es Cubells, Cala d’Hort, Cala Tarida, Cala Vadella and Port des Torrent, some of which were built in the late 1800s before there was any type of building legislation. He also claimed they now represented part of the natural landscape, and that he would do all in his power to protect them.
Time to Act
The Town Hall of Ibiza is to expropriate 44 apartments in the most troublesome area of sa Penya, as the renovation of the zone continues. The Councillor for Town Planning, Vicent Torres, said the area concerned was situated between calles Alt and Retir, and generated around 90 per cent of the social and urban problems in the neighbourhood.
Sa Penya has been degenerating for a number of years, something which sparked the Town Hall into action as they unveiled a project which was to revive the area. However, Torres made it clear that the entire zone had to be changed, something which will force the Town Hall into expropriating properties in this particular area, as most of the homeowners in the area have long since given up hope, and the vast majority of the properties are inhabited by squatters.
Marc Costa, the Councillor for Heritage, said the moves were necessary on both a social and urban level. He said this “hardcore” area remained in the centre of sa Penya which stopped them promoting the neighbourhood as a whole. For this reason, he explained, they had been forced to act in such an unusual way.
Once the entire project is completed, the Town Hall is set to re-launch the area including the installation of an arts and crafts market.
The Ministry for Health will officially be able to start work on the new hospital close to Can Misses, after the final legislation was approved on Tuesday. Until now work would have depended on the passing of Ibiza Town’s new Land Use Plan. However, there are fears this could be delayed until at least the end of the year, fears which prompted Health Minister Vicent Thomas to announce plans to pass legislation which would ensure work could start by November.
With all-party support the legislation has been approved, ensuring Thomas will now be able to put the building contract out to tender almost immediately.
The Island president, Xico Tarres, said he was happy with the agreement and claimed it gave a significant boost to the initiative which was far more than a mere building project, and far more than even a hospital. He said the last two years had been spent working diligently and correctly towards gaining all the necessary permits, patience which was now bearing fruit.
The Town Hall of Ibiza has announced it will allow just one PR/ticket-seller per bar during the summer. During recent years an increase in the number of ticket sellers, especially in the port area, has led to an increase in the constant harassment of passers-by as the lucrative market becomes even more important for bars who are selling less drinks every summer. The statement released by the Town Hall explained each bar would be allowed just one person whose job it was to sell tickets, and that he or she would have to stay within the boundaries of the bar’s terrace. The moves follow a promise made by Mayor Lurdes Costa to clamp down on such activities. This is the first step, although she confirmed that the plan was to completely ban ticket-sellers next year.
This week the Town Hall of San Jose demanded the owners of the apartments close to es Cubells, which collapsed whilst being constructed, remove the debris. The Residencial Vista Alegre, which contained 26 apartments and was just months away from being completed, collapsed into the sea, after heavy rain caused a landslide in the area, in September 2005. Since then a continuing legal battle has ensued, which has also meant the half-collapsed building has remained a blot on the landscape.
The owners of the properties are refusing to clear up the debris until they are granted building permission to erect the apartments in the same area, and until the entire community, (there are three other blocks which were not affected), shoulder some of the costs to demolish and remove what remains of the building.
The Councillor for Planning at the Town Hall, Josep Antoni Prats, for his part, claimed it would be impossible to reconstruct the building in its current location. He has already offered the owners several other options, all of which have been turned down.
The case will now go to the courts, meaning the building is likely to remain in its current state for a good while longer.
CRIME & INCIDENTS
Last week police arrested six Romanians on the island accused of stealing around €17,000 worth of tobacco from a shop in Cala de Bou. The exact details were not disclosed, but officers believe the six involved all participated in similar robberies on the mainland. All had previous convictions dating back over the last four years, and police are not ruling out further arrests over the next few days.
The judge looking into the fire in San Rafael, which damaged 35 trucks, has decided to close the case after no clear evidence emerged from the investigation. The incident occurred on 14th June 2008 at the headquarters of the transport company, R&R SL, on the San Antonio-Ibiza road. Initially it was thought the fire could have been linked to an internal staff problem within the company. However, after just over a year nothing is any clearer, the main reason the case will now be filed away.
Five British men were arrested on Tuesday, all thought to be part of a gang fighting for control of the lucrative drugs market in the West End of San Antonio. The police raids took place in the early hours of the morning at two apartments in Calo des Moro. At the first apartment officers found 200 ecstasy tablets, 48 grams of cocaine, and 2,350 grams of hashish.
Investigating officers had first been alerted to the presence of the gang after April saw a significant increase in the number of violent clashes within the West End, as the gang fought with other groups to gain control of the area.
Four of the men were sent to prison awaiting a trial date, whilst the fifth man was released, although he will also stand trial. It was confirmed police had entered two apartments in which they found the drugs and the four men, who remain in prison. All denied belonging to a gang and selling drugs, with one of the men claiming he found the stash in some thickets and brought them up to the apartment.
The arrests come as the police reported that a number of businesses in the West End had received threats by local gangs in order to allow them to sell drugs within their establishments. The exact number was not known but police were said to be aware of the bullying tactics used to intimidate bar owners.
Towards the end of the week the Central Government’s representative on the island, Sofia Hernanz, announced the island would have the use of a new, state of the art, speed boat to help in the fight against drug smuggling. It will be based in es Botafoc, and patrol the waters around the island.
An accident in the early hours of Monday morning in the Cala Llonga area has left a 39-year-old Italian man seriously injured in hospital. Initial investigations show the accident, which saw the driver collide with a stone wall, was caused by an excess of speed. Officers also confirmed the driver, who was in a Gran Cherokee, was not wearing a seatbelt. He was rushed to Can Misses, where he remained in a critical state over the weekend.
The accident occurred as data was released showing the number of deaths on Balearic roads fell by 16 per cent in 2008 compared to the previous year. However, this was contrasted by a rise in the number of people who were injured in road accidents, from 1,505 to 1,709.
The Barcelo case, which led to two people participating in a hunger strike outside the court building earlier this year, has now been set. The case will be heard in court nine years after the building collapsed, leaving several families homeless. The date set for the trial is January 2010, and it will last seven days, and see close to 100 witnesses take the stand.
The hunger strike, which lasted six days, began on the eighth anniversary of the collapse of the Barceló building in Ca n’Escandell as work was being carried out to reform the inside of the office building, without the necessary permission. During the renovations the structure of the building was severely damaged, which led to irreparable damage to an adjoining building. A total of 18 apartments and several businesses had to be evacuated, with the owners unable to return. Several weeks later the two buildings were classified as ruins.
Three people are set to stand trial, including the project manager, the owner of the building and a representative of the travel group, Viajes Barceló, but due to various different motives the start date has been continually delayed. This has meant no compensation for any of the owners who have continued to pay their mortgages during this time, whilst having to rent or buy other properties.
A 40-year-old man died late on Tuesday after falling off the side of a cliff in an area close to sa Punta. Witnesses reported seeing the man arguing over the telephone just minutes before the accident and at 5:42 p.m. the emergency services were informed that there was a body floating in a stretch of water close to Talamanca beach and the cliffs at Cap Martinet. A vast number of rescue teams were soon on the scene including the Local Police, Guardia Civil and Maritime Rescue.
The rescue of the body was delayed by the complicated terrain in the area, but a boat soon managed to collect and transport it to a piece of beach nearby. Several attempts were made to resuscitate the deceased man, all of which proved in vain.
By modern day standards Ibiza is an extremely safe place to holiday. This is a weeks worth of news and so its effect is magnified. Please do not fret while you are here - you are quite safe!!
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