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Editorial:

Some high-profile court cases have been resolved, while others go – oh so slowly! – through the System. Justice, we are told, is the same for all – but the sentencing can be rather a different story. For example: ‘Palma Court issues provisional liberty without bail for Undangarin’ (who, by the way, is free to return to his home in Geneva). How independent is the Spanish justice system? Some links from various news-sites follow and suggest that it is not independent at all.

The popular judge from Seville previously in charge of the ERE Inquiry, Mercedes Alaya, says in a conference organised by the University of Granada that ‘there is one justice for the powerful and another for the rest’. She blames the politicians. ABC reports here.

El Intermedio interviews legal expert and ex-MEP Carlos Jiménez Villarejo (video), ‘The pressures on prosecutors come directly from the Attorney General's Office’.

The outgoing senior prosecutor for Murcia complains on the Cadena Ser radio of intimidations in his fight against corruption, and says that the majority of senior anticorruption prosecutors suffer from ‘a certain lack of protection’.

Spain is the European leader for finding horses’ heads in the beds of crusading judges’, says El Diario melodramatically here. The article begins with the story of two separate burglaries in a prosecutor’s home in Murcia. The delinquents were not looking for money, or jewellery, but for files on cases of corruption. The Spanish equivalent of leaving a bloodied horse’s head draped on the pillows.

From Wolf Street here (on Miguel Blesa): ‘...He was jailed twice in 2013 and both times was promptly sprung from his cell by Spain’s prosecution service. In fact, the only person upon whom justice was served in the initial case against Blesa was the presiding judge, Elpidio Silva, who was barred from the bench for 17 years for overstepping his limits.

A political attack on the judiciary’, a video from the Plataforma Cívica Independencia posted on YouTube here. ‘Spain’, it says, ‘is 97th out of 144 countries in judicial independence, according to the World Economic Forum’.

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Housing:

We finally have official data showing the real impact of Brexit on British demand for property in Spain. Sales registered to British buyers in the fourth quarter of last year were down 28%, and I think we will see an even steeper decline when figures come out for Q1 this year. That said, the British are still the biggest group of foreign buyers by a wide margin, at least for now’. Mark Stücklin from Spanish Property Insight writes in an editorial, introducing his article ‘Foreign demand increased in 2016, but British demand slumped after Brexit’.

From This is Money comes news of a court victory: 'I've won £200k in my Spanish property fight - now others can too': Landmark shift in law spells hope for thousands caught in crash. ‘...For more than a decade, academic turned entrepreneur Malcolm has battled to retrieve €130,000, the deposit he put down on two apartments in Marbella on the Costa del Sol that were built without correct planning consent...’.

From Typically Spanish: A court is investigating the promoters Rodríguez-Acosta for the defects in Cármenes del Mar. The Instruction Court 1 in Granada has called to testify as under investigation the brothers Rodríguez-Acosta in relation to the real estate development Cármenes del Mar, in Almuñécar (Granada) where defects in construction has left many owners no choice but to leave while dozens of home have been declared in ruins, after landslides have occurred...’. They will have to testify on March 9 and the affected owners, many of whom are foreigners, are invited to testify the following day.

According to a site called The Negotiator, ‘130,000 Brits owed £5,300 million in Spanish bank payouts, says Amanda Lamb, a presenter for the TV show ‘A Place in the Sun’. A Ruling by Spain's highest court clears way for cash for Brits stung when Costa developments went bust during noughties’. The article recommends a particular legal firm to help those who lost money.

Rentals in Andalucía: almost 20,000 privately-owned homes are legally able to take on short holiday lets in Andalucía.

Rentals in Ibiza: now going for as much as 30,000€ for six months. Preferente went shopping here.

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Tourism:

Barcelona, under the mayoralty of Ada Colau, has hung up the "full" sign to tourism and is now trying to limit the arrival of visitors to mitigate the problems that the mass influx of tourists is provoking. So says two European newspapers, the French Liberation and the German Süddeutsche Zeitung. They explain that Barcelona is the city with the highest growth in tourists in the last three decades and the "avalanche" is changing the structure of some neighbourhoods. They focus on the measures decreed by Colau, particularly the moratorium on licenses for new hotels in the city and the fines on tourist apartments, and they point out that these measures are provoking debate, but they are also broadly supported, especially the actions against illegal apartment rentals...’. More at RadioCable.

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Seniors:

An interesting study at Blog Envejecimiento asks ‘What happened to the elderly foreigners during the Spanish crisis?’ We learn that foreigners over the age of 65 (299,546) currently account for 6.5% of all extranjeros (4,618,581) resident in Spain and 72.2 % of these are from the EU.

All change at the helm of Age Concern. Tony Aldous has become the new president at the Estepona and Manilva branch’. From Sur in English here. The webpage for Age Concern can be found here.

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Finance:

Notice from The European Commission: ‘Taxation: Commission calls on SPAIN to ensure that its rules on foreign-held assets are proportionate’ ‘The European Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Spain today requesting to change its rules on assets held in other EU or the European Economic Area (EEA) Member States ("Modelo 720"). While the Commission takes the view that Spain has the right to require taxpayers to provide its authorities with information on certain assets held abroad, the fines charged for failure to comply are disproportionate. As fines are much higher than penalties applied in a purely national situation, the rules may deter businesses and private individuals from investing or moving across borders in the single market. Such provisions are consequently discriminatory and in conflict with the fundamental freedoms in the EU. In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer the Spanish authorities to the Court of Justice of the EU’.

A tax hell in sight? Europe cuts taxes while Spain opts for hikes’. An editorial comes from The Corner here.

Abengoa closed 2016 with losses of 7,629 million euros. The company may have managed to dodge bankruptcy, but it has not been able to avoid blistering losses. Those numbers in red are more than six times the losses recorded in 2015, which were slightly more than 1,213 million euros...’. From Bolsamanía here.

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Politics:

A far-right Catholic group called Hazte Oir, currently upsetting Madrileños with a bus advertising an anti-transsexual message, was behind a recent proposal to José María Aznar to form a new far-right political party. This anti-abortion ‘tea-party’ group was founded by the son-in-law of Rodrigo Rato in 2001, one Ignacio Arsuaga. The Spanish Church has broken off all relations with the group. More at El Diario here. The group has an annual budget of 2.6 million euros, says Público here. The offensive bus has now been impounded by the Madrid police, says ABC here.

Women across Spain are planning to strike on International Women’s Day in protest against gender inequality in the workplace. ... The Feminist Movement of Madrid has called on Spanish women to stop working between 12pm and 12.30pm on March 8, and to take to the streets in protests at 7pm. It comes after a recent report showed that Spanish women earn 23.25% less than their male counterparts’. Story at The Olive Press here.

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Catalonia:

A commercial website called OK Apartment Barcelona has floated a survey asking foreigners about their support for an independent Catalonia. Their results are here.

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Courts:

Magnet explains that Iñaki Undangarín not going straight to jail is the only alternative ‘within the law’. This is due to his right to appeal the sentence (which allows his temporary freedom for judgements under six years). The Defence lawyers will probably manage to lower the final sentence to under the two-year limit for jail, says the article, quoting senior legal opinion.

The former International Monetary Fund chief Rodrigo Rato has been sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for misusing corporate credit cards while in charge of two leading Spanish banks at the height of the country’s financial crisis. Rato, also a former Spanish economy minister and deputy prime minister, was found guilty on Thursday of embezzlement, at the end of a five-month trial at Spain’s national court. Miguel Blesa, former chair of the bank Caja Madrid, received six years...’. From The Guardian here. Once again, neither seems likely to go to jail for the present, says El Mundo here. A humorous clip – ‘Black is Back’ – in an El Huff Post article here.

Wolf Street sums up the situation with ‘...Will Rato, Blesa and the rest of the Bankia 65 also be able to prepare their appeals from the comfort of their own home? Many of them are so intimately connected to the political and business establishment that it’s almost impossible to imagine them warming a bench in a jail cell. If they are given similar treatment, expect public anger to reach new heights...’.

Pablo Crespo, Nº 2 in the Gürtel Inquiry, has told his defence lawyer (according to Público), that ‘he wants the same treatment as Iñaki Undangarín’. The lawyer has duly written an appeal saying that his client is being discriminated against. Last month, Crespo, together with Francisco Correa and Álvaro Pérez went to prison pending their appeal, as they had been given 12 to 13 years each.

The National Audience reopens the case of the 'B Accounts' of the Partido Popular. Judge José de la Mata has ordered the reopening to investigate the illegal payments of 3% commission in exchange for public works as revealed by the leader of the Gürtel, Francisco Correa, and calls on him to declare on this subject, together with a businessman who has already admitted to making payments and also to hear from the so-called go-between, Luis Bárcenas’. The story is at the Cadena Ser here.

The new judge in charge of the ERE inquiry in Seville, María Núñez Bolaños, has thrown out the 3,000 million euro bail called for the main defendants, which include José Antonio Griñan and others. ABC has the details here.

One of the biggest corruption scandals affecting former governing party ‘Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya’ (CDC) which ruled in Catalonia in coalition with Christian Democrat Unió for more than 20 years, was put on trial this Wednesday. The so-called ‘Palau case’ investigates whether CDC received €5.1 million from the construction company Ferrovial through donations made to Barcelona’s Palau de la Música concert hall...’. The story is at Vilaweb in English here.

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Brexit:

The headline from Cambridge News: ‘Cambridge researchers to create new database for UK expats in EU to tackle Brexit “misinformation”. University of Cambridge researchers hope the work 'will mitigate rash Brexit-induced decisions'.

An expat campaigner believes Brits in Spain are ‘out of sight, out of mind’ to British MPs in Brexit negotiations. ‘Brexpats in Spain’ co-founder Anne Hernandez has been lobbying Spanish politicians along the coast as she fights to preserve the rights of Brits living in Spain. The university lecturer, who has lived in Spain for more than 30 years, insists most politicians ‘want us to remain and want to do everything to support us’. “But sadly, we are getting more support from the Spanish than the British,” she told The Olive Press...’. Here.

Are the British residents leaving the Costa Blanca ahead of Brexit? At Typically Spanish.

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Media:

Sales for Spanish dailies are in free-fall, says El Español, quoting OJD figures for January. In the past year, El País has fallen to just 102,188 copies, a fall of 26.4%. El Mundo is just 63,025 copies and the ABC stands at 57,382.

That improper joke from El Jueves last week referring to the Princess meeting her husband for a brief conjugal visit has been re-drawn with an even more improper (NSFW) picture of Undangarin thanking the judge for his current freedom.

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Economics:

The Housing Sector: More on the Stock of New Houses

by Andrew Brociner

In the last issues, we have seen that the stock of new houses accumulated during the boom is still generally present and being rolled back very slowly. We have also seen that there is now a widening divergence between the demand for second-hand houses and that for new houses, with this latter decreasing steadily.

Only three regions account for one half of the national stock of new houses: Valencia, Cataluña and Andalucía. This in itself is remarkable as there are a total of 17 autonomous regions, plus the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla. This, by and large, means that much of the stock, with the exceptions of Madrid and Toledo, is scattered along the coast of Spain.

And, turning to the provinces with the largest stock, they are: Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Castellón, Valencia, Murcia, Toledo and Almería, in that order. Thus, three of these provinces, Alicante, Castellón and Valencia, make up the Comunidad Valenciana, which alone accounts for nearly one fifth of the national total. And while Alicante and Valencia are both populous provinces, with 1,8 and 2,6 million inhabitants, respectively, they have no way near the population of either Madrid or Barcelona provinces, with their 6,4 and 5,5 million population. And yet Alicante contains a stock on par with those two provinces. We can also note that the province of Almería, with a large number of new units, has a population of just 702,000, and, indeed, Murcia, with even more units, has a population of only 441,000.

Some of these provinces with the largest stock are shown on the chart below:

We can look at the phenomenon of dwindling sales of new houses by province, focusing on those provinces which have the largest stock of new houses.

In the case of Madrid and Barcelona, both of which have shown increasing sales recently, we see that sales of new houses have been stagnant for years, and only a fraction of what they were during the boom. Indeed, in the case of Barcelona, sales of new houses plummeted from around 3,000 units a month to something just over 300 recently. Madrid has fared better going from somewhere around 2,500 units to its present 1,000.

In the case of Alicante, Castellón and Valencia, provinces within the Comunidad Valenciana, and with a large amount of the stock of new houses, we can see that here too sales of new houses have dwindled to a fraction of what they were.

And looking at some of the remaining areas with large stocks, Murcia and Almería, we observe the same phenomenon as elsewhere:

Sales of new houses have not only decreased considerably, but they are not showing any signs whatsoever of picking up. For the areas considered, in which most of the stock of new houses exists, this is not encouraging, neither for the reduction of the stock, nor for any increase in price. Once again, the accumulation of this stock during the boom showed such little foresight, that nine years on, it is still there and not really moving.

And while there is some demand in Madrid, there is far less along the coast, where much of the stock of new houses also exists. Since the demand for new houses has been decreasing considerably, whatever demand there is on the coast is leaving it saddled with the stock that is taking a very long time to be reduced. The interplay between the large supply and reduced demand for new houses also explains the lack of price movement.

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Various:

Toro’ is a documentary on the toros, explaining ‘el arte de la tauromaquia’, with all points of view. According to the director, Alberto Esteban, as reported in El Español, no one will see it, since it will be shown on the TVE channel 2 and will only be watched by aficionados.

Nonetheless, the hour long documentary is on YouTube, here.

It’s a fine old job if you can manage to obtain it – a funcionario working for the State – and in a recent offer of 400 places in Madrid and other major cities, an astonishing 38,000 people showed up for the exams. One chance in a hundred. Story at El País here.

César Strawberry, the peculiar looking singer with Def con Dos who has been condemned for various political comments, presents his latest (raucous) single - 'Que tú nos persigas...'.

The rapper who is now in prison for his songs criticising the Royal Family and applauding ETA has said that, in the spirit of visiting political prisoners in Venezuela, he hopes to soon be receiving Felipe Gonzalez, José María Aznar and Albert Rivera. The story at El Diario.

Olive oil is good for lowering cholesterol, says Eye on Spain: ‘...A study, led by researchers at the Institute of Marine Medical Research (IMIM), has shown that following a Mediterranean diet, rich in virgin olive oil, improves the functions of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), the so-called "good cholesterol"...’.

House-squatting in Vilafranca del Penedès. A report from Brett Hetherington here.

Three Catalan architects who have built little outside their home region of north-east Spain have been named as the 2017 winners of the Pritzker prize, the world’s most prestigious architecture award. For a glamorous gong that is usually bestowed on star architects for galleries and opera houses, it is a radical departure to see it awarded to an unknown trio who have spent the last three decades quietly improving their own area, designing beautifully made buildings from a converted foundry near the Pyrenees...’. From The Guardian.

From Quartz: ‘Spain has appointed a special commissioner to convince citizens to have more babies’. The article notes that ‘...Spanish women have 1.3 children on average. In 2015, Spain’s death rate outstripped the birth rate, a situation that had previously only happened during wartime...’.

The connections between Spain and the United States of America. An interesting infographic here.

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See Spain:

Why does this Spanish village rank third for cleanest air in the world? Campisábalos, in Guadalajara province, has little more than 60 residents, a few houses, and lots of wind’. Headline in El País in English.

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Letters

(Editorial last week about ID cards, passports and police papers) HI Lenox,

I was so delighted to read that first paragraph in your BoT this morning. I have many times cursed those two English persons who complained about discrimination for the English having to have an identity card with our photos on it. It was soooooooo useful.

Keep up the good work. Your 'news' is always very interesting and informative.

I always look forward to reading it each week. All the best. Tish

Just prior to receiving your recent Circular LENOX, I had seen in last week’s Free Press about CRUZ ROJA and their New EXPAT ASISTENCIA SCHEME (here and here). Excellent for many who are perhaps not Members to know what Help they can get. To my amazement on Tuesday afternoon I received a lengthy Phone Call from CRUZ ROJA to tell me all about it, in English too! The lovely guy, bless him, was unaware that it had been in the Free Press. He was so thorough in making sure that I really understood, that I was worried afterwards in case they thought we ALL KNEW ALREADY, and might stop Phoning the MEMBERS. If ever there was a good reason to join, this must be it, although the system will Help all! If they know who and where you are I am sure it is a major advantage however.

Saludos, Robin

(Pensions cleared through Citibank)

Richard Harrington MP - GOV.UK https://www.gov.uk/government/people/richard-harrington

Re UK pensions being sent to Spain via Citi in USA. Seems it's been going on for years now. But rather than firing snotty letters off to the poor long-suffering clerks in Newcastle, perhaps this chap would be a better target. [Declaration of interest: I used to be an Inspector in the DHSS]

Saludos, Jake (more on this here)

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Finally:

Madrid on drone video here.

 

Business Over Tapas 2 March 2017 Nº 198

A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners:

With Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner. Consultant: José Antonio Sierra

For subscriptions and other information about this site, go to businessovertapas.com

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