Local and Inland News

Spanish tall ship used to transport cocaine


It is one of the most impressive tall ships in the world but the Juan Sebastián Elcano has also become an unwitting tool for drug trafficking. The Guardia Civil found 127kg of cocaine on board the training ship last week – stashed in a storeroom where reserve sails are kept - when it docked at a port in Cadiz at the end of a six-month journey. The find came three weeks after three crew members were arrested at a port in Galicia, for allegedly selling up to 20kg of cocaine while the ship called on a port in New York. Authorities suspect the drugs were brought on board after a stop in Colombia. The authorities said the investigation remains open, as it has yet to be determined whether this was the first time the boat was used to traffic drugs and whether other crew members or trainees were involved. The three arrested crew members remain in custody in a military prison, each facing up to six years in jail. The police operation began in May, after US authorities warned Spain that the military status of the ship may have been used as a cover for drug trafficking.

More than 700 migrants cross the Strait


At press time on Tuesday, 700 immigrants had been rescued by the Spanish coastguard while trying to cross the Strait of Gibraltar on 37 inflatable dinghies since Saturday. On Monday alone, 299 immigrants were rescued - the highest number in one day since 2010. There were 47 women and 11 children - one just a few months old - among those rescued. All the immigrants were found to be in apparent good health and taken to Tarifa, in Cádiz province, to be treated. Some of them showed light symptoms of hypothermia, but these were relieved after they received hot food, a Red Cross spokesman said. The good weather in the Strait of Gibraltar in recent days has led to a rise in the number of immigrants trying to enter Spain illegally by sea in small inflatable dinghies.

EU calls for crackdown on smuggling

The EU has urged Spain and Gibraltar to crack down on tobacco smuggling across the border between the two countries, citing concerns about the possible involvement of organised crime. At the end of a one-year investigation, the European Anti-Fraud Office (Olaf) said in a statement that it had "raised a number of concerns" to UK and Spanish officials regarding its investigation into the increase of cigarette smuggling across the frontier. Olaf noted "a significant increase in the size of the Gibraltar market for cigarettes over the past four years" and that "the concerns include indications of the involvement of organised crime". The investigation was sparked by a complaint from Spanish authorities to the EU that between 2006 and 2011, the amount of tobacco brought into Gibraltar had nearly tripled. According to Spanish figures, 117 million packs were brought in in 2013 -  a figure excessive for the 30,000 or so inhabitants of Gibraltar. "Every resident of Gibraltar, including children who are nursing, would have to smoke nine packs of cigarettes each day," one government source told El País newspaper. The Spanish government has claimed that at least a third of the packs are smuggled into Spain. Costing around €26 a carton, tobacco prices in Gibraltar are much cheaper than in Spain, where the cost is between €40 to €44.

Noting that its only role is to carry out administrative investigations, Olaf called on Spain and Gibraltar, via the UK Representation to the EU, to "initiate judicial proceedings" related to the concerns raised in the report. The Spanish authorities have welcomed the Olaf findings. "Spain's only goal is to ensure that international and EU laws are followed," Foreign Minister  José Manuel García-Margallo told reporters on Sunday. The National Court's Prosecutor's Office has announced that it will open an investigation into the matter in the coming weeks.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "The Olaf report raises concerns about cigarette smuggling over the frontier, an illicit market in southern Spain, and the involvement of organised crime. Following its most recent visit to the Gibraltar-Spain border, the European Commission recognised the commitment the Government of Gibraltar has made to tackle tobacco smuggling and the significant steps taken to date, including restricting the number of cigarettes allowed in the area around the land border to 200 per person.

"The Government of Gibraltar remains ready to work directly with their Spanish counterparts to tackle this issue. But at the same time, the Commission raised concern about the lack of progress by the Spanish in addressing its recommendations and said that the Spanish checks giving rise to several hours waiting times at the Gibraltar/Spain border are disproportionate, a point that the UK government has made consistently clear for some time."


Tourists intent on saving


While the number of tourists has gone up considerably this year, businesses along the Costa del Sol report that they are spending less. More hotels are offering all-inclusive packages, which means they rarely leave the hotel grounds and Spanish tourists are bringing their food with them, to save money. Restaurants and bars now hope that the August Fair will encourage tourists to get out and spend more.

British boxer shot in Estepona


The National Police are investigating an incident in which former Broitosh middleweight champion Jamie Moore was seriously wounded in a shooting incident in the early hours of  Sunday morning. He is currently recovering in the Costa del Sol hospital. A police source Moore appeared to have some kind of relationship with the Kinahans, an Irish family living on the Costa del Sol who are currently being investigated by the Spanish authorities for drug and arms trafficking and money laundering. Moore was apparently shot as he left the house of a member of the family. The Kinahans made international headlines during the so-called Shovel operation, when 31 people were arrested in Ireland, the UK and the Costa del Sol.

  • Virtual Newspaper

The News Monthly Review

Issue 276 August 6th 2014


For older issues of the Virtual Paper click here



Featured Links:

Become a fan of The News on Facebook





Living and working in Spain