Gibraltars Offshore gambling sites on the Internet have revolutionized the sports betting industry

Gibraltars Offshore gambling sites on the Internet have revolutionized the sports betting industry. The offshore betting sites compete for the bettors’ money, and are constantly improving consumer services

Monday, 28 November 2011

SCOTLAND'S failure to tackle the scandal of sex trafficking is exposed in a damning report today.

Prostitute large pic


The report demands a crackdown on the organised crime gangs behind the vile trade and lifts the lid on how the victims of trafficking and exploitation have been let down.

Leading human rights lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy, who wrote the report for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, is critical of the Scottish government, the police and other law enforcement agencies.

The report looks into all aspects of human trafficking but focuses explicitly on "commercial sexual exploitation".

A source close to the inquiry said last night: "This is Scotland's dirty little secret."

The report criticises the shortfall in public or professional awareness in Scotland of human trafficking and says police have a "significant" intelligence gap on the problem.

It reveals those who are trafficked are being exploited by organised criminals, often held captive in private flats used as brothels and systematically abused.

Other victims are forced into criminal acts such as benefits fraud or cannabis cultivation, exploited on fruit-picking farms or in the hospitality industry or forced into conditions akin to slavery as domestic servants.

The report's 10 recommendations include the establishment of a task force to take on the gangs behind the misery.

And it also calls for laws to be beefed up to punish the criminals heavily when they are caught.

The source said: "The Scottish government and police have not taken the proper steps to combat human trafficking. The problem exists all over Scotland and is not confined to the sex industry.

"People are being shipped in from all over the world to be used as cheap labour and serious gangsters are behind it.

"We've had prostitutes coming from as far away as Brazil, Nigeria and Bolivia to work in Scottish cities and police don't do anything.

"The recommendations made in the report need to be followed up urgently."

The inquiry's findings and mmendations are based recommendations on written evidence and face-to-face interviews and include statements from victims of trafficking.

Glasgow-born Baroness Kennedy described the nature and extent of human trafficking in Scotland as "a human rights abuse of terrible consequences".

She said: "Human trafficking is one of those pressing contemporary issues which speaks to the societies nature of our societies. It tests the value we attach to the humanity of others.

"That is why it is so important to develop effective strategies to combat trafficking. It speaks to who we are as a people. Confronting it involves collaboration."

She added: "I am hoping Scotland will pioneer a zerotolerance approach, leading the way with new strategies, legislation, and the kinds of multi-agency cooperation that enables the punishment of the traffickers and the identification and recovery of the victims."

Last month, in the first case of its kind in Scotland, Stephen Craig, 34, from Clydebank, was jailed for three years and four months for controlling prostitutes.

His co-accused, Sarah Beukan, 22, from Leith in Edinburgh, was jailed for 18 months.

They were the first people to be convicted in Scotland under new laws covering trafficking within the UK.

The pair admitted moving 14 people to addresses in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and Newcastle to work as prostitutes.

Equality and Human Rights Scotland Commissioner Kaliani Lyle said: "Trafficking is one of the most severe human rights abuses in the modern world.

"It operates below the radar and is kept there through fear and deception. Our challenge is to rid Scotland of this modern slavery."

Ann Fehilly, of the Glasgow Community and Safety Services TARA Project, said: "If we are able to ensure that protections are in place, then more prosecutions will follow, ensuring that Scotland sends a message to those who traffic and exploit vulnerable women that such abuses will not be tolerated."

Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "The Scottish government welcome this inquiry and the extensive work Baroness Kennedy has undertaken to expose the unacceptable and atrocious practices which allow human trafficking to persist."

He added: "Trafficking is a particularly horrific and brutal violation of human rights. It has no place in modern Scotland and the consequences it brings for victims and communities are incredibly damaging."

Case Study: Evil deeds exposed in Record

stephen craig taggart Image 2

THE Daily Record has shone a light on Scotland's seedy underbelly, with senior reporter Annie Brown interviewing victims and those working to beat trafficking.

Last month, Annie met former vice girl Susan, 36, who worked out of flats run by Scotland's only convicted sex traffickers Stephen Craig and Sarah Beukan.

The mum-of-three told how one woman worked for Craig when she was six months pregnant and another was traumatised after having sex with 12 men in a row.

And sadistic Craig threatened to pour boiling water down one woman's throat if she moved on.

Annie also met Ann Hamilton, who established the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) in 2005 to help identify and support women in Glasgow who had been sex trafficked.

Ann said: "We saw there were a lot of foreign women in prostitution in Glasgow and the Met Police in London were warning us about trafficking.

"We had never heard the term but very soon we realised we had an issue and we had to establish a service for the women and I think it has worked very well."

Key Points

1 Scotland needs a comprehensive strategy against trafficking.Recommendation: Scottish government should develop strategic plan.

2 There is little public or professional awareness of human trafficking or its indicators. Recommendation: Holyrood should run an anti-trafficking campaign.

3 Human Scotland and in the UK has developed in a piecemeal fashion.Recommendation: Holyrood should consider introducing comprehensive Human Trafficking Bill.

4 Police service has a significant intelligence gap on human trafficking.Recommendation: Set up multi-agency task force.

5 There have been few prosecutions against suspected traffickers.Recommendation: Review legislation to consider tougher sentences where human trafficking is background to crimes.

6 Law enforcement bodies have disrupted organised crime through asset recovery but there have been few operations against traffickers.Recommendation: Develop strategy for using asset recovery powers against trafficking groups.

7 Recommendation: Scottish and UK governments to help various agencies, such as employers, bring awareness of human trafficking into their operations.

8 Recommendation: Holyrood involve private sector in strategic approach in dealing with awareness and monitoring of trafficking.

9 Recommendation: Home Office should lead review of system for identifying trafficking victims.

10 Scotland does not yet have comprehensive, end-to-end services for victims of human trafficking. Recommendation: Holyrood should develop a trafficking care standard.

Marvel character, Erik Lensherr a.k.a. Magneto, has apparently infringed the copyright of the King of Spain

Marvel character, Erik Lensherr a.k.a. Magneto, has apparently infringed the copyright of the King of Spain in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, with the Zarzuela Palace claiming the X-Men villain's alternate costume is identical to the military uniform worn by King Juan Carlos.

Representitives for the Zazuela Palace have contacted the Spanish distributor of the game in the region, Koch Media, to warn them of possible copyright infringement.

This isn't the first time the Spanish Royal's has stamped their feet over the strong resemblences, as Marvel faced a similar dispute when Magneto first donned the uniform in The Pulse: House of M Special X-Men special.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Why has Morocco’s king survived the Arab Spring?


Morocco's ruling elite thinks it has skilfully sidestepped the revolutionary fervour sweeping the Arab world by offering a milder, more peaceful vision of change. Following Friday's elections, King Mohamed VI is for the first time obliged to choose the prime minister from the largest party, rather than naming whoever he pleases. However, many of the protesters who took to the streets in February feel the reforms still fall far short of their demands for a democratic, constitutional monarchy, and have called for a boycott. A low turnout in the parliamentary poll would detract from the legitimacy of King Mohamed VI's reforms and could hint at future problems. Ahead of the poll, the sleepy calm of the capital, Rabat, was occasionally punctuated by the marches of unemployed graduates. But the country's powerful monarchy and the system that supports it appear to have averted any direct, mortal challenge for now.

Moroccans prepare to for parliamentary poll


Moroccans are preparing to vote in a parliamentary election. The poll in the north African kingdom has been brought forward in response to the Arab Spring uprisings. It is the first since the introduction of a new constitution, proposed by King Mohammed VI, was approved by a referendum in July. It is expected to be a close contest between a moderate Islamist opposition party and a new coalition of liberals with close ties to the royal palace. Both parliament and the prime minister will have greater powers under the new constitution. The prime minister must now be appointed by the king from the party which wins the most seats in the assembly. However, the king still has the final say on issues of defence, security and religion. Polling stations are due to open at 0800 (0800 GMT) and close at 1900.

Public sector strike could see Heathrow 'grind to halt'


There are fears Heathrow airport could "grind to a halt" when immigration officers go on strike next week over pensions, sources have told the BBC. Heathrow operator BAA has been holding talks with airlines and the UK Border Agency to try to minimise the impact of Wednesday's public sector strike. A source close to the talks said more government action was needed to prevent huge queues at immigration. The Home Office said it was exploring all options to minimise disruption. Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph quoted a Heathrow airport official as saying travellers arriving at the London airport could be held on aircraft for up to 12 hours while immigration queues cleared. On Wednesday it emerged that civil servants are being asked to act as airport border staff during the strike action, which more than two million workers may join. Strikes are being held over changes to public sector pensions and thousands of border agency workers are expected to be among those walking out. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote If [the unions] can't [strike] over an issue as important as their pensions, then what can they take industrial action over?” Alan Johnson Former home secretary BBC transport correspondent Richard Lister said aviation officials were working on the basis that immigration staffing levels would be at a maximum of 30-50%, and that most of those checking passports would have no experience and little training. During the strike in the summer, border agency managers ran passport control but this time they are expected to strike too, our correspondent said. The Home Office is pulling in border agency staff who are not union members and civil servants from Whitehall to carry out immigration checks. In a statement, the department said it was too early to speculate on how many people would join the strike, and that it was exploring all options to minimise disruption.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Corrosion caused fatal fuel tanks explosion at Gibraltar Port


The roofs of both tanks were scattered with corrosion perforations which allowed flammable vapour to escape An independent report commissioned by the Gibraltar government into the fuel tanks explosion at the port at the end of May gives the direct cause as corrosion perforations in the roofs of the two tanks. A Spanish worker died from the serious burns he suffered in the explosion. The report by Capita Symonds reveals more than 20 perforations in Tank No. 1 and more than 40 in Tank No. 2, ‘all of which had been caused by long term corrosion, wastage of the steel.’ The Gibraltar government said in a press release on Thursday that these holes allowed flammable vapour to escape from the tank and into the atmosphere. The escaping vapour ignited when the welder struck an arc while welding a pipe to the guardrail of the roof of Tank No. 1, and this then caused the vapour in the roof void to also ignite. The flash then spread to Tank No. via pipe work on the top of each tank. The report also notes that the perforations had been identified but had not been repaired. The report’s main conclusion is that, before the explosions, the integrity of both tanks would have been breached by the many corrosion perforations in their roofs and that neither would have been hermetically tight. The sullage plant facility at Gibraltar port is operated by Nature Port Reception Facilities, and it’s understood that their licence is to remain suspended until the government considers its decision on the matter. The operation of the plant in its present location will also be subject to a detailed review.

U.K. tax falls on overseas property investors


Overseas property owners based in the UK are about to be targeted by a new HM Revenue & Customs "affluent unit", which has been set up by the British government to address what it sees as tax avoidance by the rich.Photo What next I wonder?? A new team of 200 taxation investigators and specialists has been established by HMRC to identify wealthy individuals who, amongst other things, own land and property abroad … such as a holiday home. OPP understands that the tax attack unit will concentrate on overseas property assets first, and then switch its attention to UK-based commodity traders (who have been accused of helping to drive up food prices,) before looking into the number of UK residents who hold offshore investment accounts. HMRC says that it will be using sophisticated "data mining" techniques to try and track down people who own overseas properties, but do not pay the right amount of tax. This might include someone who owns a villa in Spain which they are renting out, or an individual who owns a piece of land in France that is being used as business premises, said an HMRC spokesman. The experts will be looking for people who do not seem to be declaring the correct income and gains. The new unit, which has been announced by the UK’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, will focus solely on people paying the 50% top tax rate. David Gauke, the exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said there would be "no hiding place" for tax cheats, adding that the UK government “is committed to tackling tax evasion and avoidance across all areas of the economy. That is why we allocated HMRC £917m to reduce the tax gap over the next four years. This new team is part of that investment." Ronnie Ludwig, tax partner at accountancy group Saffery Champness told OPP that “those who have been letting out their foreign property and declaring the rents received have nothing to fear, but those who own foreign property which has never been let out should be prepared to prove to HMRC that they have received no income from the property.” “This will involve producing UK and foreign bank statements and being able to demonstrate that they could afford to purchase and maintain the property out of normal declared sources."


The council are seeking to claim a total of 2,251,000€

The PP mayor of El Ejido in Almería, Francisco Góngora, has criticized the "negligence" of the former government team and announced that the city council are to begin legal proceedings against the promotions company who were to stage a concert by the Rolling Stones in 2006.

Following the findings of "many irregularities" in the case, the council are now seeking to claim a total of 2,251,000€, which they feel they are owed, in view of the cancellation.

The announcement was made at a press conference in which Francisco Góngora claimed that there was a “contractual obligation” by the promoter to ensure that the concert went ahead and that even if the company were insolvent, then they would seek recompense from the individuals responsible for the incomplete commitment made to the previous government team.

Information indicates that there was a contractual clause that stipulated that insurance must be provided that should the concert be cancelled, then the promoter would be able to repay any money owed, in full, through an insurance claim. It is believed that this insurance was never provided.

Although some money is said to have been returned, it was only about half of the 4.176 million euro that the city had paid for the organisation of the concert.

There also appears to be a lack of information as to where the money actually went and who might be accountable for the cash given to the company by the council. There have also been allegations made that this whole case could be part of a much wider campaign of both political and corporate corruption.

Now, reviewing the clauses of the original contract, it has been found that the rights to claim the money back would expire after 15 years.

Góngora, also stated that there were economic losses of 2.6 million euro recorded after the second concert by the Rolling Stones in El Ejido held in 2007, which were due to "mismanagement" whereas the projected ticket sales were calculated at 60,000 attendees, but only 20,000 tickets were actually sold.

Referring to the award of the second contract by the previous council, Góngora  stated that "despite the failed previous contract they rehired the same company for four million euro of which they did not deduct anything owed," continuing that he considered the failings to be down to the complacency of the previous PSOE government.

The Ministry of Interior for Andalusia had already imposed a 60,150 euro fine on the organisers for breaching the rules on show cancellations in failing to return ticket money within the maximum four days which is set out by the governing body. In actual fact, it took several weeks for the organisers to return the money raised on the 50,500 tickets sold for the cancelled concert.

GANG of British “fuel thieves” are suspected of selling thousands of pounds of diesel stolen from a pipeline in Spain


British Gangsters “fuel thieves” are suspected of selling thousands of pounds of diesel stolen from a pipeline in Spain. Detectives believe they sold more than 120,000 litres door-to-door after allegedly drilling a hole in a pipe near a house on the Costa del Sol. One of the suspects was “caught red-handed”, police in Malaga said. Many of those under arrest are related. Police said: “We haven’t ruled out the existence of a criminal organisation financing the actions.”

Jeffrey Lewis dies after 2008 Gibraltar attack


A man from Hampshire died three years after he was attacked in a robbery in Gibraltar, police said. Security guard Jeffrey Lewis, 59, was left with serious head injuries during the raid on a cigarette container at Gibraltar port in November 2008. Royal Gibraltar Police said three men local to the enclave have been arrested on suspicion of murder and released on bail until January. Mr Lewis died at his home in Waterlooville on 5 October.

Gibraltar's Tax Sovereignty 'Unaffected' By EU Ruling


A recent ruling from the European Court of Justice has been welcomed by the Gibraltar government as confirming the territory's right to have a tax regime different from that of the United Kingdom's. The case relates to proposals notified to the Commission by the United Kingdom in August 2002 for a new corporate tax regime for Gibraltar. Under the plans, the government proposed to implement a new tax system setting a zero rate of corporation tax for all companies. The proposal would have removed corporation tax replacing it with new taxes targeted at company personnel and property occupation - which would have been capped at 15% of profits. The ECJ said in its November 15 ruling that while in most cases the treatment of property and payroll taxes would not be subject to such corporate tax regime scrutiny, “due to the absence of other bases of assessment, combining those two bases of assessment excludes from the outset any taxation of offshore companies, since they have no employees and also do not occupy business premises”. Therefore, the ECJ found that “those criteria discriminate between companies which are in a comparable situation with regard to the objective of the proposed tax reform, namely to introduce a general system of taxation for all companies established in Gibraltar.” Despite receiving Commission approval in 2003, in 2004 the Commission challenged the proposals on the grounds of 'material selectivity' - on whether the regime breached EU state aid rules by providing lower taxation to offshore companies over their onshore counterparts, and secondly - in a challenge led by Spain - over whether the regime was 'regionally selective', in that it provided for lower rates in Gibraltar than the United Kingdom, a line of inquiry which challenged Gibraltar's separateness from the United Kingdom. Responding to the latest ruling, the Gibraltar government said on 'material selectivity' that the European Court of Justice has found the previous judgement from the European Court of First Instance to be erroneous. While the European Court of First Instance, now known as the General Court, ruled that regime did not breach EU State Aid Rules, the ECJ has now ruled that it did. “Consequently, the Court concludes that the fact that offshore companies are not taxed in Gibraltar is not a random consequence of the regime at issue, but the inevitable consequence of the fact that both corporate taxes (in particular their bases of assessment) are specifically designed so that offshore companies avoid taxation. Thus, the fact that offshore companies avoid taxation precisely on account of the specific features characteristic of that group of companies gives reason to conclude that they enjoy selective advantages.” While the ruling outlaws the previously proposed regime, the Gibraltar government said that this would have no adverse impact on the territory, “because the government in any case some time ago abandoned the Payroll Tax Scheme in favour of income tax of 10% for all companies”. The second issue on “regional selectivity”, the government said, relates to the question whether Gibraltar has the right under EU law to have a different, lower tax system than the UK itself. “As the government has also previously said, this issue is huge for Gibraltar, since it goes to the very root of the viability of our socio-economic model”. However, the government added that in its ruling "the ECJ has decided that it is not relevant or necessary for it to even consider this issue because the case before it is disposed of by its ruling on the material selectivity issue”. Chief Minister, Peter Caruana said: “The General Court’s favourable ruling of December 2008, and the opinion of the Advocate General to the ECJ of April 2011 are the only judicial pronouncements on the question of regional selectivity and Gibraltar, and both robustly confirmed in our favour that the principle of regional selectivity does not apply to disentitle us from having a different and more favourable tax regime than the UK, of which we are not a region. This is the crucial issue for Gibraltar.”

Saturday, 19 November 2011

SIX people have been arrested for their involvement with a gang which stole jewellery from elderly people


SIX people have been arrested for their involvement with a gang which stole jewellery from elderly people. They are believed to be responsible for more than 120 robberies in 19 provinces throughout Spain, including Almeria, where some of the members were based. Around 450 pieces of jewellery have been recovered and will be exhibited at the Almeria Guardia Civil station for owners to identify. The way they operated was by one of them asking people over the age of 65 for directions to distract them while taking their belongings, or in other cases, they would offer to sell them cheap jewellery which they put on them while removing the valuable items they were wearing. They travelled in high-range vehicles all over Spain and chose small towns, isolated areas, and locations surrounding homes or centres for the elderly. On some occasions if the victim resisted, they would take the jewellery by force and had knocked down some of the victims.

ONE of Europe’s most powerful hashish smugglers was arrested in Estepona


ONE of Europe’s most powerful hashish smugglers was arrested in Estepona, National Police said. The arrest of the 33-year-old man was part of an operation against drug traffickers based in Huelva in which more than 3,620 kilos of hashish were seized from a pneumatic boat at a shipyard in Isla Christina, Huelva. The two men on board were dressed as Guardia Civil officers so as not to arouse suspicion. They were arrested along with eight others. The criminal organization smuggled drugs to Spain via Malaga and Huelva from Morocco. Two days later, National Police the leader of the organization, who had a prison order against him from 2010 for drug-related crimes, was arrested in Estepona. He is considered by police to be one of Europe’s most powerful drug barons. In the operation, police seized 100 mobile phones, documents, three computers, four vehicles, a jet-ski, a motorbike, two satellite phones, six GPS devices and €27,000 in cash. The documents led to the arrest last month of a Guardia Civil officer who allegedly provided the gang with information on vehicles and their owners.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The World Bank today approved $297 million in loans to Morocco to help finance the Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power Plant Project

The World Bank today approved $297 million in loans to Morocco to help finance the Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power Plant Project, taking a historic step toward realizing one of the first large-scale plants of this kind in North Africa to exploit the region's vast solar energy resources. With this approval from the Bank's Board of Executive Directors, Morocco takes the lead with the first project in the low-carbon development plan under the ambitious Middle East and North Africa Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Scale-up Program. A $200 million loan will be provided by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the part of the Bank that lends to developing country governments, and another $97 million loan will come from the Clean Technology Fund. "The World Bank is proud to provide the financing needed to make this large-scale renewable energy investment possible," said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. "Ouarzazate demonstrates Morocco's commitment to low-carbon growth and could demonstrate the enormous potential of solar power in the Middle East and North Africa. During a time of transformation in North Africa, this solar project could advance the potential of the technology, create many new jobs across the region, assist the European Union to meet its low-carbon energy targets, and deepen economic and energy integration in the Mediterranean. That's a multiple winner." The 500 megawatt (MW) Ouarzazate solar complex, as the first power site, will be among the largest CSP plants in the world and is an important step in Morocco's national plan to deploy 2000 MW of solar power generation capacity by 2020. The World Bank has supported Morocco's national Solar Power Plan since it was launched in 2009 and is now making this significant loan to co-finance the development and construction of the Ouarzazate Project Phase 1 parabolic trough plant through a Public Private Partnership between the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) and a private partner. Ouarzazate Phase 1 will involve the first 160 MW and will help Morocco avoid 240,000 tons of CO2 equivalent a year. The Ouarzazate project will also contribute to Morocco's objectives of energy security, job creation, and energy exports. As a regional frontrunner in clean energy, Morocco is rising to the challenge of its international commitments made in the last two United Nations' climate summits and under the "Union for the Mediterranean." "The Ouarzazate first phase is a key milestone for the success of the Moroccan solar program," said Mustapha Bakkoury, President of MASEN. "While answering both energy and environmental concerns, it provides a strong opportunity for green growth, green job creation, and increased regional market integration. It will pave the way for the positive implementation of the regional initiatives sharing the same vision (Mediterranean Solar Plan, Desertec Industry Initiative, Medgrid, World Bank Arab World Initiative). The support of international financial institutions, like the World Bank, through development financing but also climate change dedicated financing, is essential to help bring the overall scheme to economic viability," added Bakkoury. Relevant Links North Africa Aid and Assistance Morocco International Organisations Energy Environment The Ouarzazate loan is in line with the World Bank's commitment to scaling up funding that helps developing countries cope with climate change and embark on a low-emission development path. The World Bank Group's renewable energy portfolio increased from a total of $3.1 billion between fiscal years 2008-09 to $4.9 billion in 2010-11. Given the simultaneous expansion of the overall energy portfolio during the same period, the renewable energy proportion rose from 20 percent to 23 percent. About the project: The World Bank, the Clean Technology Fund, the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the Agence Française de Développement, European Union Neighborhood Investment Facility, and the Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau are working with MASEN and a competitively selected private partner to implement Ouarzazate I.

FIVE members of a British family have been arrested for stealing 156,700 litres of diesel oil from a Malaga pipeline.


FIVE members of a British family have been arrested for stealing 156,700 litres of diesel oil from a Malaga pipeline. The highly-organised team are alleged to have used their plumbing knowledge to puncture the pipe and set up hidden hoses leading to their rented finca in nearby Campanillas. In early October oil company CLH noticed a drop in pressure in the pipe supplying Malaga airport and filed a complaint with the Guardia Civil, who immediately launched operation ‘Rudolf 2011’ to catch the thieves. Police located the leak and discovered a hut hiding the extracting devices. They traced the pipes to the Campanillas house where they arrested a man who was controlling the device. They also discovered a 500-litre capacity van connected to the supply with a hose. Later they arrested four more members of the family of thieves, who it is thought planned to sell the fuel on illegally. The Guardia Civil have said this is the first case of its kind in Andalucia. Rudolf 2011 will now investigate whether the group is part of a larger criminal organisation. Worryingly, much of the oil had leaked onto the ground through holes in the clandestine system, which was made using a high-pressure tap and household plumbing equipment.

UK will have to adopt the euro 'faster than people think', despite the ongoing crisis in the single currency.

A top German official predicted today that the UK will have to adopt the euro 'faster than people think', despite the ongoing crisis in the single currency.

The extraordinary comments by finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble come on the day that Germany's Chancellor said the eurozone crisis would be resolved without a referendum in Britain.

Angela Merkel called for a 'limited treaty change' for further eurozone integration - exactly as spelled out in a leaked German memo which outlines an attempt to prevent a UK referendum that could lead to powers being clawed back from Brussels.

Germany's attempts to impose EU control on Britain will have increased the tensions between David Cameron and Mrs Merkel as they met in Berlin this morning.

The leaders are have clashed over German plans for a new tax on bank transactions and treaty change to shore up eurozone finances.

But at a press conference this afternoon, the pair ignored their differences and insisted that Britain and Germany will work together in a spirit of 'strong friendship'.

Harmonious: Angela Merkel and David Cameron tried to ignore their differences at a press conference today

Harmonious: Angela Merkel and David Cameron tried to ignore their differences at a press conference today


Clash: The leaders acknowledged their disagreement over a financial transactions tax

Clash: The leaders acknowledged their disagreement over a financial transactions tax

Bond spreads as they stood overnight: The yield for troubled governments has become worryingly high

Bond spreads as they stood overnight: The yield for troubled governments has become worryingly high

The leaders steered clear of most areas of disagreement and insisted they had had 'very good discussions between very good friends', but could not stop some evidence of discord slipping out.

When asked whether the European Central Bank should start printing money to guarantee eurozone debts, Mr Cameron said officials should 'do what is necessary' to defend the euro.


But Mrs Merkel warned that Europe's resources were not infinite as she insisted: 'One should not pretend to be more powerful than one really is.'

And when the pair were asked about the arguments over a European financial transactions tax, the German leader admitted they 'did not make any progress' on the issue.

In a blow to British hopes of a referendum on repatriating powers from Brussels, she also said that any move towards closer economic union in the eurozone would take place through 'a limited treaty change, only for the members of the eurozone'.



The Conservatives have long promised a referendum on repatriating powers from the EU, but have not yet delivered one.

Angela Merkel's comments today make a referendum less likely, as her 'limited treaty change' will not have to be approved by countries outside the euro, including the UK.

The Coalition's 'referendum lock' commits the Government to holding a public vote the next time Britain is supposed to sign up to a new treaty which would hand more power to Brussels.

But the British people will not have a say on the proposal that the eurozone crisis should be solved by further economic integration, as Mrs Merkel has declared that the UK will be excluded from the negotiations.

This would mean that Mr Cameron could avoid fulfilling his pledge to hold a referendum on EU powers the next time Britain is required to sign up to a new treaty, and will outrage Tory backbenchers hoping to claw back sovereignty from Europe.

Markets fell for a second consecutive day amid continued dithering over the future of the euro as the bond yields of troubled governments remain worryingly high.

But despite the danger that the debt crisis could endanger the very existence of the euro, Mr Schäuble insisted that all of Europe would eventually have to adopt the single currency.

He told a German news agency that his government 'respects' Britain's decision not to join the euro, but predicted that when the currency stabilised the whole continent would queue up to join, and added: 'It will perhaps happen faster than some in the British Isles currently believe.'

It was also revealed today that Berlin is hoping to create an intrusive body that could take over the economies of beleaguered eurozone countries.

A leaked memo by German foreign office officials shows that Berlin is bracing itself for other EU nations, which are too large to be bailed out, to default on their debts, effectively going bankrupt.

The six-page document says Germany wants to set up a European Monetary Fund to take over failing economies.

Entitled The Future of the EU, it calls for closer ‘political union’ while examining ways to limit treaty changes in an attempt to prevent countries such as Britain from holding a referendum.

Marbella Property Prices likely To Fall Further


The value of homes in Marbella is expected to drop  further, with one real estate organisation predicting that the market has now reached its lowest point. According to International Property Success, a rising number of overseas buyers based in the UK, Russia and the Middle East are targeting the Spanish destination. The organisation added that Marbella's warm year-round climate and its reputation as one of the top resorts in the country enhance its appeal among those seeking a property in Spain. It stressed that any potential investors in the Spanish real estate market need to choose the location of the house or flat they buy carefully, due to the current volatility in the sector. However, the firm concluded "there are few better places to look in Spain than Marbella". Earlier this month, Michael Corry Reid, who works in the Marbella office of Aylesford estate agency, revealed that the top end of the Spanish property market is "holding up well", noting that prime assets in Marbella in particular are attracting attention from international buyers.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Virgin buys Northern Rock for £747m


Northern Rock has been sold to Virgin Money, for £747m, marking the first return to the private sector of a UK government-backed bank since the financial crisis. Virgin, the retail banking arm of Sir Richard Branson, will pay £747m in cash upfront – roughly half of the £1.4bn of government equity that was injected into Northern Rock following its collapse in 2007. The taxpayer could receive up to an additional £250m if the business is sold or floated in future. The sale of the “good” part of the bank marks a £400m loss for the government. The bulk of the funding for Virgin’s bid was provided by Wilbur Ross, the US billionaire investor, who owns a 20 per cent stake in the group. More ON THIS STORY Q&A How the deal affects you Lombard Branson risks Northern exposure Metro Bank has issued just 100 mortgages Good news for Lloyds as Co-op bids for branches On London UK domestic banks ON THIS TOPIC N Rock expects to make profit in 2012 Northern Rock to set off privatisation wave Hedge fund says Northern Rock call is wrong Virgin’s success follows an unsuccessful first attempt to acquire Northern Rock before its nationalisation almost four years ago. This time Virgin faced very little competition for the business, which includes 75 high-street branches, 1m customers and £14bn of mortgages. The sale signals the end for one of the most notorious brands in British high-street banking.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Hundreds of kilos of cocaine were stolen from Málaga port

The impounded drugs were taken over the weekend from a warehouse in Málaga port.

Cocaine - Archive Photo EFECocaine - Archive Photo EFE
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Hundreds of kilos of cocaine were stolen from Málaga port last weekend, and some reports speak of as much as 600 kilos.

The drug had been impounded by the courts and the thieves took down the security camera system and forced the locks on the door with a thermal lance to obtain access to the warehouse where it was stored. The store contained drugs from several police operations on the Costa del Sol and from elsewhere in Andalucía.

La Opinion de Málaga reports that the warehouse in the port was top secret, and located just 300m from the Guardia Civil barracks. It could well be the largest ever theft of its type in Spain with the drugs having a street value of 30 million Euro. There was also a large amount of hashish and other substances in the warehouse.

The warehouse is reported to often have been full because of the small capacity of the ovens used to destroy the drugs. It’s security is the responsibility of the National Police, although its understood they had

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

EasyJet pays maiden dividend after profit soars


EasyJet said on Tuesday it would pay a special dividend of 34.9 pence on top of an ordinary dividend of 10.5 pence, making a total payout of 195 million pounds. Stelios Haji-Ioannou, easyJet's founder and largest shareholder with 112.55 million shares, according to Reuters data, will get 51 million pounds. The company's shares were down 2.6 percent at 356.5 pence at 1110 GMT. The carrier had said in September it would return around 190 million pounds after "a robust" second half. The payout comes after Haji-Ioannou criticised plans to buy new aircraft. Sources close to Haji-Ioannou said he was still concerned about capital expenditure, which fell 1 percent to 478 million pounds, and may pile more pressure on the airline's board. The Luton, southern England-based company reported an underlying pretax profit of 248 million pounds, at the upper end of forecasts, on revenue 16 percent higher at 3.45 billion in the year to September. The rise was led by an 11.8 percent increase in passenger traffic -- with one million more people using easyJet for business travel -- and a 1.3 percent fall in underlying costs per seat. Looking ahead, industry body IATA expects airlines to suffer over the next year due to waning consumer confidence, sluggish international trade and high fuel prices. EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall echoed that caution. "The macroeconomic environment remains challenging for all airlines as weak consumer confidence across Europe slows the rate at which higher fuel prices and increased taxation can be passed onto passengers," she said. "Against this backdrop easyJet is taking a cautious approach to capacity deployment ... capacity in the first half of the year is planned to be flat, with growth of around 4 percent for the full year." Analysts have been calling for airlines to cut capacity to ease fierce price competition in Europe and improve paper-thin margins. EasyJet had been expected to report a full-year profit of 206-254 million pounds, with the average at 243 million, according to a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll. "The results are just ahead of our and consensus expectations and we would expect the cautiously confident outlook commentary to comfortably sustain 2012 consensus forecasts (213 million pounds)," said RBS analyst Andrew Lobbenberg, who holds a 'buy' rating on the stock. EasyJet's larger European peers have struggled to overcome high oil prices and sluggish demand. German group Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) and Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) have cut profit forecasts this year after results were battered by high fuel costs and slashed plans to expand capacity next year. EasyJet said around 45 percent of its winter seats had already been sold, adding first-half passenger revenue was expected to grow by mid-single digits. The airline's fuel costs rose a quarter to 917 million pounds during its 2010/11 year. At current fuel prices and exchange rates easyJet said it expected its fuel bill to rise around 220 million pounds in its 2011/12 year.

private jets waved through customs and immigration checks

Home Secretary Theresa May (Pic:PA)

Home Secretary Theresa May (Pic:PA)

THERESA May was fighting for her job last night after damning new documents fuelled the scandal of lax security at our borders.

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Leaked emails showed that thousands of private jet passengers were allowed into the UK without going through immigration or customs.

They also revealed the Home Secretary relaxed checks at airports on at least 2,500 occasions this summer.

And the Mirror can reveal passport applications are being secretly subjected to a controversial new “postcode lottery” trial scheme.

The High Risk Applications scheme is based on fraud statistics. Staff were given a list of postcodes to check against every new passport application or renewal. Applicants in areas deemed to be higher risk face several weeks additional delay in getting their passports.

In London, the only areas which get virtually no checks are postcodes that begin with WC and EC – the most central and prosperous areas. Meanwhile applications from women aged 50 and over are often waved through.

A source said: “It’s a classic Tory policy, and it discriminates against those they deem to be living in ‘poor’ areas.

“The whole thing smacks of elitism and snobbery. A lot of people are very unhappy with the process.”

These revelations come on the day ousted Border Agency official Brodie Clark gives evidence to MPs on how he was pushed out by Mrs May.

Brodie Clark (Pic: DM)

Borders boss Brodie Clark

Labour yesterday released the leaked emails showing UK Border Agency staff were told NOT to check passengers arriving in the UK by private jets – at the instruction of the Home Office.

From March 2, 2011, anyone on a private charter did not have to show their passports and could avoid customs. Figures show there are between 80,000 to 90,000 private flights each year, carrying two to three passengers.

The emails show an unnamed official at Durham Tees Valley Airport warned the UK Border Agency that the policy was putting the UK’s security at risk.

He said that staff “continue to feel uneasy about an instruction that is at odds with national policy and is creating an unnecessary gap in border security which, if exploited by the unscrupulous, could bring the Agency into disrepute”.

He also warned there was no way of checking if the number of people arriving in the country was the same as they had been advised.

His manager at the UK Border Agency’s Border Force said the “no checks policy” was part of a “new national strategy”.

In a further blow to Mrs May, other leaked documents showed how Britain’s borders were abandoned on hundreds of occasions over summer.

The Home Secretary ordered a pilot scheme, which ran from July to October this year, under which Border Agency staff could relax checks on passengers. It meant people arriving from the European Economic Area did not have the biometric chip in their passport checked, while children under 18 could be waved through.

These “level 2 checks” were used on at least 2,600 occasions. The relaxed regime was used to speed up queues at immigration control.

According to an email from a Border Agency Border Force official, the checks were relaxed 100 times in the first week of the trial and more than 260 times in the sixth week.

We revealed last week that officials warned Mrs May the easing of border checks could lead to a rise in child trafficking.

Mrs May admits to bringing in the pilot scheme without informing MPs. But she claims that Mr Clark went further by extending it to include passengers from outside Europe.

Mr Clark, who resigned last week, denies he acted without ministerial authority. His testimony to the Commons select committee could prove very damaging to Mrs May.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said last night: “This is startling new information about the scale of the borders fiasco.

“Ten days on there are even more questions than answers about what on earth was going on at our borders.

“Last week the Home Secretary told us no one had been waived through without checks. But these documents show passengers on private flights weren’t even seen.

"Last week the Home Office wouldn’t admit to having figures about how often checks were downgraded. Now we know those figures exist and that checks were downgraded 260 times in one week alone.

“The Home Secretary needs to show she is capable of sorting this fiasco out rather than making it worse.”

Last night, the Home Office refused to comment on the trial.

The UKBA said: “It is not true that we don’t carry out ­passport and warnings checks on private flight passengers and will deploy officers to airfields where we have concerns.”

Monday, 14 November 2011

THE mother of missing Madeleine McCann said yesterday she still wished she could “stop time”.

03:44 | 


Kate McCann (pic: Jeremy Durkin)

Poignant: Kate McCann


Kate McCann, who marked the fourth anniversary of Maddy’s disappearance in May, said she and husband Gerry would not give up on finding their little girl.

In a poignant message on the Maddy search website, she wrote: “My grandparents always said the years pass more quickly the older you get. It certainly feels that way. I still dream of being able to stop time.

“Our only alternative however is to continue doing as much as we can to the best of our ability to enhance the search for Madeleine. So that is what we’ll do.”

She added: “It is a big relief that our Government finally agreed to a review. It will be lengthy and difficult but definitely a major step.”

Maddy was nearly four when she vanished from her family’s holiday flat in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in 2007.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Foreign Office is urging Britons to remember that its services are reserved for people in real difficultly


Foreign Office is urging Britons to remember that its services are reserved for people in real difficultly, and not for finding out Prince Charles' shoe size The Foreign Office has issued a reminder to Britons travelling and living abroad that embassies, high commissions and consulates exist to offer assistance to those in real difficultly, and are not 'concierge services'. To demonstrate their point the Foreign Office decided to reveal some of the odd requests they have received over the last six months. One man in Sofia asked if the Consulate would sell his house for him, whilst another rang the Consulate in Sydney to find out what he should pack for his holiday. A lady in Moscow called the embassy complaining about a buzzing noise in her apartment, a caller in Spain wondered the shoe size of Prince Charles, and a man stranded in an airport asked the Foreign Office to contact his dominatrix. With around two million consular inquires every year, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) needs to dedicate its time to helping British citizens abroad in the case of hospitalisation, death, arrest, forced marriage and child abduction. Jeremy Browne, Minister for Consular Affairs, said: “It is important that people understand the level of help we can offer. Our priority is to help people in real difficulty abroad and we cannot do this if our time is diverted by people trying to use us as a concierge service. We need to be able to focus primarily on helping victims of serious crimes, supporting people who have been detained or assisting people who have lost a loved one abroad.”  The Foreign Office has recently set up a call centre in Malaga to filter out some of the non-consular inquires from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Andorra, allowing embassy and consulate staff to focus their time on more important issues at hand. So just remember, there are simply some things the Foreign Office cannot help with, and where to get a Christmas lunch in Malaga, the location of the best fishing spots in Greece and meeting pets in customs in Dubai are some of them.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The King of Spain’s son-in-law was at the centre of a corruption storm today as he came under investigation for siphoning off public money.

Inaki Urdangarin - the husband of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia's youngest daughter Infanta Cristina - is suspected of misappropriating cash paid into an NGO.

The former handball player now faces a possible interrogation by investigating judge Jose Castro  and risks causing huge embarrassment for the royals.

It is claimed that his non-profit company, Instituto Noos, was given an enormous 2.3million euros (just under £2million) by the Balearic Islands’ regional government to organise two conferences on tourism and sport in 2005 and 2006. 

The judicial investigation is looking into whether the bills for the events were inflated and if the money ended up in private companies run by Urdangarin, who is Duke of Palma, the capital of Majorca.

Urdangarin, 43, left Instituto Noos in 2006, months after the exorbitant sums paid by the Balearic government were revealed by the Socialist Party.



He said today: 'I cannot comment about on-going judicial proceedings.'

The prosecution claims Urdangarin and his associate Diego Torres created a network of societies with which they diverted public and private funds received by Instituto Noos.

 Inaki Urdangarin
Inaki Urdangarin

Under suspicion: The former handball star is charged with creating a network of societies into which he diverted private and public funds

Regal scandal: Princess Cristina and Urdangarin (far right) pose with Spain's royal family King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia, Crown Prince Felipe and wife Princess Letizia and Princess Elena

Regal scandal: Princess Cristina and Urdangarin (far right) pose with Spain's royal family King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia, Crown Prince Felipe and wife Princess Letizia and Princess Elena

They are under investigation for document falsification, corruption, fraud and embezzlement, and Torres’s home has been searched.

The Royal Household expressed its 'absolute respect' for the legal decisions and added that it has 'nothing to say at this moment' as this is 'an investigation which must follow its course'.

The Duke and Duchess, who married in 1997, now live in Washington, DC. The couple have four children. 

Urdangarin played in Spain’s national handball team at three Olympic Games, captaining the side for Sydney 2000.


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