Category: National

New Ambassador to Spain

The new British ambassador to Spain is a former Brexit chief who will replaces Simon Manley next year. Mr Manley CMG will step down from his role as the British Ambassador to Spain next summer and be replaced by a Brexit communications director.
Manley, 51, has held the post since 2013, but in 2019 will make way for Hugh Elliott, who is the current Director of Communication and Stakeholders at the Department for Exiting the European Union.
Father-of-three and Oxford graduate Manley wished his successor a ‘heartfelt welcome’ to his new job.
Elliott, who has held several high-level posts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) since 1989, said: “It will be a pride and a pleasure to represent the United Kingdom in Spain and take over next summer.”
Despite his Brexit credentials, the FCO claimed the reason for Elliott’s takeover of the role from Manley is that ‘appointments change every 3 to 4 years.’ Elliott will hope to emulate the illustrious career of his predecessor, who had many highlights as a British envoy, including receiving a cooking lesson from the three-Michelin star-winning Spanish chef David Muñoz.
Another key moment of Manley’s diplomatic tenure was the recent Tertulias event, where Harriet Harman, Boris Johnson and Ed Miliband were accompanied by the ambassador in the 30th annual Anglo-Spanish celebration of bilateral and cultural links.
Manley said: “It has been the best charge of my diplomatic career, a great honour, and a pleasure to work to reinforce the bonds between our two great countries – and I’m not leaving, I have nine more months!”

Supreme Court rules client must pay mortgage tax

The Spanish Supreme Court has done a U-turn again and decided that it is the clients who must pay for a controversial mortgage tax, and not the banks. The Impuesto sobre Actos Jurídicos Documentados (AJD) is a stamp tax paid in Spain by the homebuyer at the time of purchase, when a notary officially documents both the sale and the bank loan.
The decision was reached recently in the Administrative Division of the Supreme Court after two days of intense debate, and with just two votes of difference: 15 justices were in favour of making the client pay the levy, and 13 voted to confirm a groundbreaking decision reached by this same court in mid-October that it should be the banks who pick up the tab.
The vote comes after three weeks of legal chaos that have evidenced a fracture within the Supreme Court and damaged its public image. While bank shares started to gain value on the trading floor following news of the court’s decision, Spanish political parties, consumer groups and unions immediately issued highly critical statements.
Leaders of the anti-austerity Podemos party have already announced protests over a decision that “calls into question” the court’s independence and undermines democracy, in the words of party leader Pablo Iglesias. “Shame and anger should turn into a great civic mobilisation to defend the rights of the majority from the privileges of a minority,” he said.
Alberto Garzón, head of the United Left coalition, went even further: “Private banks are thieves, they are the main enemy of democracy and they are responsible for gutting our economies. A majority of the Supreme Court sides with them, ratifying that justice has a price and that the system is rotten and spent,” he tweeted.
Both leftist leaders called a street protest outside the Supreme Court.
“One cannot subject millions of families to such uncertainty and make such a spectacle of oneself,” said Albert Rivera, the head of centre-right group Ciudadanos.
The government of Pedro Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), has not yet taken a public stand on the issue, but said it will “analyse and study the impact of the ruling.” Reforms to existing mortgage legislation are already underway in parliament in order to adapt to EU norms, and the executive could introduce new measures to make the banks pay some of the costs now borne by clients. The secretary general of the conservative Popular Party (PP), Teodoro García Egea, confirmed his group will work toward legislative reform.
Earlier, Finance Minister María Jesús Montero had said that if the court ruled in favour of clients and made the measure retroactive for four years, the claims could have an impact on regional coffers of up to €5 billion. She warned that this could affect the national public deficit and compromise EU deficit targets.
“The impact on regional coffers in a four-year retroactivity scenario would be of €5 billion, but the claims would be directed at the lenders,” said Montero at an economic forum in Madrid. “It is not the state who would have to put up the money.”
A reversal
On 19th October, the president of the administrative division of the court, Luis Díez-Picazo, opted to revise the new criteria that the court had established days before, when a panel decided that it should be the bank, and not the client, who pays the AJD tax on the basis that it is the lender who needs a public document registering the loan, and not the homebuyer. This ruling in itself constituted a reversal of 20 years of jurisprudence confirming that clients are responsible for paying this tax.
A total of 28 justices from the Administrative Division of one of Spain’s top courts gathered to debate the new criteria, which ruled that the bank was the only party with an interest in getting the loan certified by a notary, because this is what allows the lender to initiate foreclosure proceedings if the borrower defaults on payments. Because the lender is awarded this privilege through the public document, the lender should pay the fee, said the judges on 13th October.
Had the judges decided in favour of homeowners this week, they would have also had to decide whether to make the measure retroactive – and how many years back – opening the door to claims from thousands of clients.
“Many of the decisions made by this division have consequences representing millions of euros,” said one judge. “We have to be aware of this to be able to make a very strict decision. But we cannot help that this fact has an influence on our decision. We are used to this.”
What is the ajd?
The Actos Jurídicos Documentados (AJD) is paid on certain documents that are signed before a notary, such as a mortgage. The amount is a percentage of the loan, and this figure depends on the region of Spain where the home purchase is taking place. This tax is collected by the regional governments, and last year it represented a collective €8 billion in revenues. Some regions apply a 0.5 percent fee, such as the Basque Country. Others, like Andalusia or Aragón, have set this fee at 1.5 percent.+6+
However, the tax is not calculated on the amount of the loan itself, but on the mortgage guarantee, which is the sum of the loan amount, interest, late fees and legal expenses in the event of default – a fact that could significantly raise the final figure. The consumer group OCU figures that for a mortgage of €150,000, with a mortgage guarantee of €270,000 and an AJD rate of 1.5 percent, the fee would mean €4,050. This is on top of other transaction expenses involving the notary, property registrar, property valuation and gestoría.

Drug traffickers distributed a thousand kilos of cocaine

Ten people have been arrested following discovery of a drug trafficking network linking South America to Torrevieja via Portugal. The undercover operation was a joint one between the Guardia Civil and the National Police and it is believed that it was responsible for the distribution of a large amount of cocaine from Alicante to different provinces such as Madrid and the Canary Islands.
The ten people arrested have been detained in prison and will be up in court number 2 in Torrevieja accused of crimes against public health, money laundering, possession of illegal weapons and being members of a criminal organisation. Three more people are being investigated for the same crimes but have been released on bail.
In total, 14.4 kilos of cocaine was seized, 10.4 kilos of marijuana, 1.6 kilos of hashish and 50 grams of amphetamines. Police have also taken €610,380 in cash, nine high-end vehicles, a 9-mm gun with ammunition and different types of computer equipment. Altogether the haul is valued at €1,763,000.
The operation to uncover the ring began in September 2017 when a load of cocaine arrived in Portugal from South America in a catamaran. On investigation it was discovered that its destination wasn’t Portugal but Torrevieja from where a gang was operating transporting drugs along the coast to Andalucía, Madrid and the Canary Islands.
Because the gang were spread across a number of provinces, catching them required a consistent effort across different police forces. It was also discovered that the gang had a workshop in Almería where they were preparing vehicles to transport drugs and money. The gang had also created a number of businesses to launder the money created by drug sales. They had twenty-six million euros to bring back into the economy without looking suspicious.
The first detention took place in June when 11 kilos of cocaine was being transported in a car between Alicante and Andalucia. The car was driven by a 65 year old man from Orihuela and the cocaine was hidden in the false floor of the car. A few days afterwards another vehicle was intercepted in Huelva after returning from Las Palmas on Gran Canaria. A total of €528,000 in cash was hidden in carefully concealed pockets in the car.
These discoveries led to more arrests in Alicante, Almería and Córdoba. One of those detained is believed to be the leader of the ring who comes from Crevillent and is the owner of the workshop in Almeria where the vehicle modifications were taking place. Five searches were made including in Guardamar del Segura and more drugs, vehicles and even a machine for counting money were discovered.
A second phase of the operation began more recently and concluded with six detentions and investigations in Madrid and Cádiz. In total another 10 kilos of marijuana, 1.6 kilos of hashish, 200 grams of cocaine and 50 grams of methamphetamine were seized. Police also found a 9mm gun with ammunition, three fake guns and five high-end vehicles as well as a variety of computer equipment and mobile phones.

Drugs mafia uncovered

The Guardia Civil has broken up an organisation who have been cultivating marijuana in Alicante province. The organisation was a large and well-established group who were responsible for growing up to 80,000 plants a year in different locations across the area.
In order to provide electricity to their plantations they connected into the supply beneath pavements in what was a sophisticated operation. The Guardia Civil has arrested five men, four of whom are Dutch, a Dutch woman and a Moroccan. All those arrested are between 39 and 46 years old.
The operation began in August when the Guardia Civil raided one source of the plants and began to realise that this was a network on a grand scale. Many of the plantations were located inside houses and altogether it is believed that around 20 houses have been used to cultivate the plants.
Not only did the organisation grow the plants, they also cultivated their own seeds. The small plants that resulted were then distributed amongst the farms across the province. It is believed that the majority of the drugs were in fact exported to the Netherlands, with some also being distributed in Germany and Belgium.
The farms used systems to control the temperature and humidity and also had sophisticated alarms to alert the men to any intruder. In one of the raided houses they found a semi automatic pistol with silencer, more than 7,500 euros, jewellery, watches and two luxury vehicles.
Six people have now been arrested and charged with the illegal possession of firearms, drug trafficking, belonging to a criminal organisation and three crimes of using electricity power illegally.

British man shot dead by police in Estepona

Officers from Spain’s National Police force shot a British man dead in Estepona, Málaga, last Monday evening. The man, who had a criminal record for drug trafficking and weapons possession, reportedly fired shots at the authorities as he was being detained.
The incident began on Monday morning, when a number of witnesses called the emergency services to report that an individual had been in a traffic accident near Puerto Banús, in Marbella. According to witnesses, the man involved was carrying a firearm when he emerged from the crashed vehicle. Rather than waiting for help, he fled the scene of the accident.
The local police managed to determine the identity of the suspect, leading them to a hotel in Estepona. When officers tried to detain the individual, he fired his weapon at them, prompting them to respond in kind. Emergency crews were called to the scene, but were unable to save the life of the British man.
The man was subsequently found to be in possession of two firearms and four magazines of bullets. Police sources did not confirm whether any officers had been injured in the shooting.
This incident marks the second shooting death in Estepona in less than a month. On 20th August, a 34-year-old Spanish man was killed by a hooded assailant, who later fled the scene on a bicycle. The shooting happened in the early hours of the morning, in a residential estate in the east of the municipality. The victim was about to enter his home when he was killed.

Spanish health minister quits over ‘degree-gate’

Spanish Health Minister Carmen Montón was forced to quit recently after mounting irregularities emerged regarding a master’s degree she had studied for at Madrid’s King Juan Carlos University (URJC) in 2011. The institution has been at the centre of a series of scandals, which have involved current Popular Party (PP) leader Pablo Casado, and former Madrid regional premier Cristina Cifuentes, also of the PP. The latter was also forced to step down over her master’s degree, among other matters.
A story published earlier last week by Spanish online newspaper eldiario.es revealed that Montón’s grades had been altered in the university’s online system. Montón did not pass all parts of the masters’ course in June 2011, which is when she should have finished her studies. According to her student records, at least one part of the coursework was marked as “not submitted.”
On 25th November, 2011, “someone entered the IT system” of the URJC and changed “not submitted” to a “pass,” despite the fact that the administrative procedures for the course had been closed, according to eldiario.es. This alleged modification of the grades outside of the deadline would explain why Montón’s official certificate states that she completed the course in 2012.
The minister had stated that she handed over her final thesis on gender studies in June 2011, something that would have been irregular since at the time she had not completed all of the coursework – an essential requisite.
As the story broke Montón insisted that she had not done anything wrong, voicing the same arguments used by Cifuentes and Casado over their suspect master’s degrees – i.e. that they had done everything they had been told to by the university.
PSOE Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had, until last night, backed the minister. But the revelation that her final thesis contained sections that had been plagiarized was the final straw.
The work is entitled “Assisted reproduction. A liberation or a setback in equality,” and is 55 pages long. And it is alleged that whole pages and paragraphs are copied from other theses and articles that are freely available on the internet – even containing texts lifted from Wikipedia.
For example, practically the entire first chapter is the same as an article entitled “New identity,” written by Mexican Mónica Pérez, in an article dated 26th July, 2004.
The episode is an embarrassing one for Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who came to power earlier this year after ousting PP Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in a vote of no confidence, precisely due to the corruption scandals that were plaguing the party.
“I have been transparent and honest,” Montón told the press last night after announcing her resignation. “I have not committed any irregularity.” She went on to praise Sánchez, and stated that she was quitting so as not to cause him damage.
She also highlighted the work that she had done as health minister in the first 100 days of the Sánchez government. “We have brought back universal healthcare. We have laid the foundation for the approval of a law for protection against childhood violence. This is a good result for the first 100 days,” she stated.
Montón will be replaced by María Luisa Carcedo, who was until now the high commissioner against child poverty.
Montón is the second minister to have to quit in the first 100 days of the Sánchez administration. Culture and Sports Minister Màxim Huerta resigned in June after just a week on the job, after the media reported that he withheld taxes in the early 2000s and was recently forced to pay €365,000 in back taxes, late fees and fines.
More degree-gate
In late April, Cristina Cifuentes of the Popular Party (PP) was forced to step down due to irregularities in connection with a master’s degree that she obtained in 2012 from King Juan Carlos University. That case has led to a criminal investigation into forgery of public documents by officials at the public university.
And the current leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, is under fire for a similar degree obtained from the same institution in 2009. So far he has refused to hand over his final dissertation, and has stated that he will not resign even if the Supreme Court, which is investigating the case, decides to charge him.

Spanish women live the longest

Spanish women have the highest life expectancy in Europe at birth. According to an analysis by Public Health England, the women in Spain come out top at 86.3 years followed by France and Italy. The UK is ranked in 17th place out of the 28 EU countries that are featured in the table. At the bottom are Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia.
The results are based on informationpublicised by Public Health England as part of its Health Profile. This brings together a variety of reports, data and research to provide a picture of the health of people in England in 2018. One of the reports it draws on is that of Eurostat data from 2016.
Obesity is one of the reasons being given for the difference between the two countries. The Mediterranean diet has long been referred to as a major reason for longevity, both for the nutrients it provides and also as a combatant to obesity.
Men in Spain do not do quite as well. Their life expectancy at birth is down to 80.1 years. However, this is still relatively high in comparison to many other countries and again beats the UK whose men have a life expectancy of 79.4. Top of the charts are the men in Italy who can expect to live until they are 81 years old.
Life expectancy at birth is an indicator of the number of years a baby could expect to live if mortality patterns when it is born stay the same throughout its life.

International tourist arrivals slowing down in Spain

Fewer foreign tourists have come to Spain this summer season than in 2017, which was a record year for the sector. International arrivals numbered 9.98 million in the month of July, a 4.9 percent drop from the same period last year.
Spain’s biggest markets have been sending fewer visitors: the number of British tourists fell by 5.6 percent in July, while there was a 11.4 percent drop in visitors from France and 6.2 percent from Germany.
Barring natural events – such as the emissions from the Iceland volcano that paralyzed air traffic for several days in April 2010, slowing down visits to Spain by 13 percent – the figure for July 2018 represents the biggest decline in international tourist arrivals since 2009, when the economic crisis led to monthly drops of between 10 percent and 15 percent.
However, the July figure of 9.98 million international visitors is only “low” compared to last year’s all-time high of 10.5 million. The 10-million threshold has been crossed three times in recent history, twice in the month of August and once in July.
Industry leaders are also pointing to a recovery of alternative sun-and-sand destinations such as Tunisia and Turkey, whose tourism sector had suffered in recent years from terrorist attacks and regional instability. In the case of Turkey, the recent depreciation of the lira has made the country even more attractive to foreign tourists.
Also, exceptionally warm weather in northern Europe has made it unnecessary to fly to Spain to enjoy the beach. France, Britain and even Finland and Norway have experienced a hot summer, while in Russia, the temperature in June was eight degrees higher than usual.
Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto has played down the year-on-year drop from July 2017, saying that the government wants “a strategy based on quality” and “diversification” in order to avoid overcrowding.
“We are going to get behind a strategy based on quality, aware that there is going to be a slowdown in tourism flows. It is already happening,” said Maroto at a news conference in Santander recently.
But the minister also underscored that the accumulated figure for the last seven months shows 47.1 million tourist arrivals, a 0.3 percent rise from the same period last year. She also said that tourist spending has grown 3 percent so far this year.
Maroto added that her department wants to diversify the options for tourists because there are currently “very overcrowded destinations” and this is creating “problems with local residents.” The minister did not directly allude to the anti-tourist sentiment that has cropped up in parts of Spain due to the mass tourism in some city centres.
The Balearic Islands continued to top the list of favourite tourist destinations in July 2018, receiving 24.4 percent of all foreign tourists in Spain. Catalonia ranked second with 23.9 percent, followed by Andalusia with 13.3 percent. In spite of this, arrivals declined in all three regions. The Madrid region experienced the opposite trend, with a 6.7 percent rise in foreign tourists in July. The tourists who did come spent fewer days in Spain compared with other years. The average stay in July was four to seven nights.

Mallorca property scam victims “unprotected”

Around 60 people who have been affected by an alleged scam in Mallorca, in which properties that didn’t exist were put on sale, say that they feel “unprotected” under current Spanish law, and are calling for new regulations so that episodes like this one cannot happen again.
The real estate company ‘Mallorca Investment’ was offering off-plan properties in a number of areas on the Balearic island, at below-market prices. Clients handed over 10 percent of the sale price as a deposit, and when the future owners had seen that the plans were filed with the local council, the alleged scammers would take advantage of the situation and ask for more money. However, time would then pass and construction would never began. When the clients demanded explanations, no information was forthcoming.
The Civil Guard has so far arrested six people from developer Lujo Casa and the real estate agency Mallorca Investment, who are accused of keeping the deposits handed over by clients. The amount of money swindled from the victims totals more than €4 million, according to sources from the investigation, which could make this the biggest scam ever perpetrated in the history of the Balearic Islands.
The owner of Mallorca Investment, a businessman identified by his initials M. P., and who is of Italian origin, is currently being held in police custody before being brought before a judge. He is suspected of offenses of fraud and money laundering. The Italian businessman posted numerous photos of his luxury lifestyle on Facebook, including trips with his family all over the world, business-class flights to Thailand, holiday in Japan, hotel stays in Dubai and car trips in Cuba.
The owner of the developer Lujo Casa, identified by his initials C. G. R., fled Spain more than four months ago, when the first complaints from fraud victims put him in the spotlight.
Claims began to arrive in the month of March, and in May some of the affected families filed a lawsuit at a court in Palma de Mallorca, demanding all bank accounts be frozen and for an international arrest warrant to be issued for the promoter, who, sources from the investigation report, is currently in a South American country.
“We suspected that we were looking at a case of fraud,” a victims’ statement reads, “after determining that construction had not begun, that a number of the plots of land were not theirs, and that any changes we wanted to the plans were possible and free. We met with a lawyer who confirmed what we already suspected: that this had the look of a pyramid scheme.”
More victims joined the initial dozen or so original claimants, with the total thought to number around 200, many of whom are from outside Spain.
The victims report that the developer first moved to Barcelona, and then to Valencia, which is where they lost all trace of him. The victims also slammed the owner of the real estate firm, who claimed that he had also been conned. “From the first moment Mallorca Investment introduced itself as a partner,” the victims said in their statement.
The average amount that each person has lost is around €30,000, although there are more extreme cases, such as a foreign man who handed over more than €200,000 on the promise of a luxury apartment close to the sea. Among the victims are young couples who were seeking their first home, retirees, and families with young children.
All of the victims say that they feel “unprotected” due to changes made to the law in 2006, ending the right for anyone who had lost money in the purchase of an off-plan property to reclaim the funds from their insurance company or bank.
“We all trusted that, by making a bank transfer to a real estate company account, our money was protected; we thought that this kind of account was controlled by the banks and that it wasn’t so easy to take money out,” the victims’ statement reads. “Although this man was moving it around as he pleased.”
The victims have called on the authorities to take measures to ensure that episodes like this one are not repeated. They argue that “the only law that protected us” was abolished to the benefit of the banks.

Brit MP fights alleged wrongful arrest

A British MP has stepped into a drug case after an British businessman was imprisoned two months ago for 1.5 tonnes of hashish found in airbnb he was renting.
Chichester MP Gillian Keegan has been in touch over the arrest of Robert Anthony Mansfield-Hewitt, who has yet to be charged since being arrested over drug-dealing claims in June. Mr Mansfield-Hewitt is seriously ill and has been locked up with terrorists for more than two months in Spain.
The consultant engineer, who insists he is innocent, has yet to be charged over the 1.5 tonnes of hashish police found in the garage of the villa, he rented through Airbnb. He insists he has absolutely ‘no connection’ to the drugs that were being stored at the lodging in Campamento, in San Roque.
On the other hand, according to reports in local newspapers, the owner of the villa was charged for importing cocaine into Gibraltar last year.
Mr Mansfield-Hewitt’s local MP is said to be ‘very concerned’ about the situation and was speaking to his secretary in Gibraltar, where his company has a base.
In a case that also has strange parallels to the plight of Scottish student Robbie McMiller who was arrested in October last year after six marijuana plants were found in his rental property, Mansfield-Hewitt was woken up and ‘dragged out of bed practically naked at gunpoint’ by police officers at 8.30pm on 27th June.
Colleagues and friends believe that Mansfield-Hewitt, who has a PhD and no criminal record, is an ‘innocent man’ and has been wrongfully imprisoned. They added that the Chichester-based engineer is currently in a critical condition and is being held in the medical wing at Botafuegos prison in Algeciras – a dangerous jail, which notoriously houses a number of Basque ETA terrorists.
Robert’s PA Pilar Ford told local newspapers that she had not had any contact with Robert since18th August. “We have not had any telephone calls – it’s very worrying,” she said, “Usually he calls two to three times a week.”
Robert’s lawyer, Jose Maria Castro Escudero, said that a judge was due to visit the prisoner and make a decision on whether to grant bail or not but there has been no further developments. “He is desperate,” added Castro Escudero

Stolen babies case continues

Spain’s first trial linked to thousands of suspected cases of babies stolen from their mothers during the Franco dictatorship wrapped up last week with prosecutors seeking 11 years jail for the elderly former gynaecologist in the dock.
Eduardo Vela, 85, a former gynaecologist at the now-defunct San Ramon clinic in Madrid, is accused of having in 1969 taken Ines Madrigal, now aged 49, from her biological mother and given her to another woman who then raised her and was falsely certified as her birth mother.
“In this country, a person who played God — changing people’s parentage, faking birth certificates like in my case and negating the right to know one’s origins — cannot remain unpunished,” Madrigal told reporters at the end of the hearing in Madrid.
She said she hoped the trial, whose verdict could come within a month, would help open “thousands of cases that are closed” even if she would never know who her real mother was.
Activists say around 2,000 similar cases dating back to General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship of 1939 to 1975 have failed to make it to court in Spain because of a lack of evidence or because the time limit to file charges has passed.
In a dark and often overlooked chapter of the right-wing dictatorship, the newborns of some left-wing opponents of the regime, as well as of unmarried or poor couples, were removed from their mothers and adopted.
New mothers were frequently told their babies had died suddenly within hours of birth and the hospital had taken care of their burials, but in fact they were given or sold to another family.
Baby stealing began after Franco came to power following the 1936-39 civil war pitting left-wing Republicans against conservative Nationalists loyal to the general. It was part of an effort to purge Spain of Marxist influence.
It was expanded to take newborns from poor families as well as illegitimate babies, and went on as an illegal trafficking network during democracy until at least 1987 when a new law was introduced to better regulate adoption.
Enrique Vila, a lawyer who has written extensively about the “stolen babies” scandal, said Vela’s trial could provide “moral” encouragement for other victims to bring forward lawsuits.
“There are dozens of doctors and nuns across Spain who are guilty” and who are still alive, he told Spanish news agency AFP.
During questioning in the opening session of the trial on 26th June, Vela said he could not remember details of how the clinic, which he ran for 20 years up to 1982 and is believed to have been a centre for baby trafficking, operated. He added that the signature on Madrigal’s birth certificate was not his.
Vela — the first person prosecuted over the “stolen babies” scandal which broke in the media in the 1980s — was due to return to the witness stand the following day but instead he went to hospital after falling ill. He is accused of falsifying official documents, illegal adoption, unlawful detention and certifying a non-existent birth.
The probe into the case was not without its difficulties, with a policeman declaring in court that Vela burnt his clinic’s archives.
But the agent insisted that “there was a plot to which Mr. Vela probably belonged” that consisted in taking babies from single mothers who were in shelters that were often run by religious orders.
Confession
Emilie Helmbacher, a French journalist, also testified by videoconference. In an investigation in Madrid in December 2013, she used a hidden camera to record Vela as he appeared to confess to having given Madrigal away as a “gift” in June 1969.
In the recording, he said “Ines Madrigal’s mother did not pay” for her.
Vela’s lawyer Rafael Casas criticised the hidden camera recording and said his client had “nothing to do” with what he is accused of.
Another witness, Paz Gordon, who stepped in as godmother for Madrigal’s baptism, told the court that the actual mediator in her case was a Jesuit priest.
The cases echo events that took place during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship. Courts there have since handed down lengthy jail terms for the systematic theft of babies from political prisoners.

El Chicle to take part in reconstruction

Reconstruction of the murder of Madrid sixth-former and model Diana Quer took place Friday, for which the killer will be taken from his prison cell in order to participate.
Juan Carlos Quer and Diana Cristina López-Pinel, parents of the 18-year-old who went missing on August 22, 2016, and her sister Valeria – who was 16 the last time Diana was seen alive – have successfully applied to the court for a reconstruction as part of their private prosecution against José Enrique Abuín Gey, 42, alias ‘El Chicle’.
The accused initially claimed he accidentally ran Diana Quer over when the teen was walking the two kilometres back to her family’s holiday villa in A Pobra do Caramiñal (A Coruña province, Galicia) a house the Quer sisters had spent every summer in since they were aged one and three respectively.
Police found no evidence of Diana’s being knocked down, accidentally or otherwise.
After this, ‘El Chicle’ changed his story, claiming he strangled her ‘accidentally’.
He at first refused to testify, but his varying versions when interrogated included his having tied Diana by the neck to the passenger seat headrest with the reins from a bridle, and then in another account, had tied her up and put her in the boot.
Abuín Gey now denies raping Diana, but earlier had admitted he ‘tried’ and that she had fought him off by ‘kicking constantly’.
A high-profile search for the student from Pozuelo de Alarcón went on for 16 months, with the family and even some investigators believing she was still alive and either kidnapped or had run away from home.
But her naked body was found down an eight-metre well, submerged in water, in the port town of Rianxo some 20 kilometres from her holiday home, on New Year’s Eve.
Initially, Abuín Gey’s wife Rosario, now 30, claimed she had been with him all evening on August 22 and that they had ‘gone out to steal petrol’ because they were ‘broke’.
More recently, however, she confessed she had stayed at home all night and her husband had ‘returned, changed his clothing and left again’.
Abuín Gey was reported to have raped Rosario’s twin sister when the women were 17, but been talked out of reporting him.
The court has recently decided to reopen the case as they believe it mirrors Diana’s fate.
Abuín Gey was caught after attempting a near-identical kidnap of a 33-year-old Ecuadorian woman in the Rianxo area, who was rescued in the nick of time by passers-by when she was about to be locked in the boot.
 
 

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