Local and Inland News

Gib concerned about Spanish incursions

The government is seriously concerned about the latest Spanish incursions, especially the one involving the Spanish warship "Infanta Cristina" which has sailed again into British waters claiming they are Spanish. There were several attempts over last weekend by Guardia Civil to exercise jurisdiction over Gibraltarian pleasure craft inside British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW). The government said these actions by official Spanish vessels are illegal and contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), adding that it understood that the Guardia Civil suspected that the occupants of the pleasure craft had been fishing for tuna in Spanish waters.
The Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP) continues to investigate the events surrounding these illegal interferences with Gibraltarians' right to peacefully and legally enjoy the waters around Gibraltar. An RGP spokesman said allegations of fishing in Spanish waters in no way condone the behaviour of the Spanish agents who should have contacted the RGP for assistance, through the established Mutual Legal Assistance cooperation frameworks, instead of trying to take the law into their own hands in an area of sea where Spain has absolutely no jurisdiction, no right to seek to exercise control and zero sovereignty.

Hip Cádiz beach bar a front for drug-trafficking ring

A trendy beach bar in the Cádiz resort of Zahara de los Atunes was the centre of an alleged drug ring whose associates included three members of the military, a Civil Guard officer and a former Socialist councillor. In all, police arrested 56 people connected with the ring, which specialized in introducing hashish into Cádiz and cocaine through Algeciras. Police seized 716 kilos of cocaine and nearly four tons of hashish in the operation.

“We keep seeing more organizations working at both entry points, but this is the first time we have seen such a big one,” said police sources.

The ringleader was El Longui, the nickname of J. R. M., whose drinks bar in Zahara de los Atunes was the watering hole for celebrities during the summer because of the popular concerts he organized there. El Longui had contacts on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar and controlled drug shipments in the Zahara area.

The hashish was brought in from Morocco in recreational vessels, under the protection of a local Guardia Civil officer and a municipal policeman who were both allegedly paid by the ring. Guardia sources said: “When they saw there was a lot of surveillance, they would divert the shipment to Punta Camarinal, a military barracks where the three army servicemen helped unload the merchandise."

The investigation began 11 months ago, following a drug seizure that led to the arrest of several suspects, who included law enforcement officers. In May, another delivery was attempted at Caños de Meca, where investigators photographed the suspects and began tying up the loose ends.

 

As the investigation progressed, 29 homes were searched in Cádiz, Seville and Valencia, during which €32,000 in cash, over 100 mobile phones, and documents were seized. A former Socialist councillor from Paradas (Seville) was arrested, and the Zahara bar shut down.

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."

 

  • Virtual Newspaper

The News Monthly Review

Issue 276 August 6th 2014

http://issuu.com/thenews-virtualpaper/docs/the_news_monthly_review_-_issue_276/1

For older issues of the Virtual Paper click here

 

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