Court slams ‘crude Junta ploy’

LAST UPDATED: 26 Sep, 2008 @ 11:33
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Algarrobico

Corruption and document falsification led to the construction of illegal hotel

A BLATANT illegality to which the regional government was complicit for 20 years.

That is the damning verdict of Spain’s judiciary after a judge in Almeria reconfirmed the illigitimacy of the Algarrobico hotel.

In accusing council officials in Carboneras of corruption, the court stated that documents that had allowed for the 411-bed complex to be built on protected land within the Cabo de Gata nature reserve had been “blatantly” falsified.

And not only was the Junta de Andalucía aware of the illegality of the project from day one, it co-funded its construction with multi-million-euro subsidies to the development company.

Now, both the Junta and Carboneras town hall are facing a legal probe after Judge Jesus Rivera claimed both administrations knowingly broke legislation that seeks to protect Spain’s coastline.

The Algarrobico hotel is built upon once-virgin sands, contravening the Coast Law of 1988 which prohibits any new construction within 100 metres of the shore.

The court claims that the Junta passed plans for the hotel on land just 28 metres from the Mediterranean Sea after the introduction of the national law.

An economic recession delayed the 20-storey complex until the mid-1990s. By this time, however, the land earmarked for Algarrobico was classified as C1 – incompatible for urban use.

But Judge Rivera was told how Junta documentation for the project was anonymously altered by pen. The C1 became D2 – land eligible for development.

The Junta believed, the court heard, that the initial C classification was “an error.”

“This alteration gave the impression of legality, but it is manifestly illegal. I have asked the state prosecutor to investigate if this crude ploy should be considered a crime,” Judge Rivera said.

This latest ruling, which also nullifies the municipal licences that allowed for the construction of the hotel, is seen as a victory for residents’ groups fighting to protect the Cabo de Gata Natural Park from development companies.

“This is a triumph for the legal system and reaffirms the belief that this hotel is 100 per cent illegal.

“The ruling confirms that council officials in Carboneras knew perfectly that the construction was invading protected land and that the Junta de Andalucía wittingly allowed Algarrobico to go ahead,” said Jaime Val from Salvemos Mojacar, a pressure group which forced an investigation into the hotel three years ago.

This probe resulted in an injunction stopping work on the complex.

Since then, the hotel has been living under the threat of demolition, with development company Azata del Sol demanding up to 300 million euros in compensation.

In another serious blow to the constructors, however, the court decided that no money should be handed over to the developers.

In a statement, the development company announced it would appeal the court’s decision. “Azata del Sol wants to express its respect towards the judiciary, which is an important cornerstone within the Spanish State.

“However, we refuse to give any credence to Judge Jesus Rivera’s ruling… We will continue fighting against the politics of conservation that is denying this natural park of much-needed employment.

The regional government dismissed as “mere conjecture” the accusations of corruption that were directed at the Junta while council officials in Carboneras said the town hall “does not share the opinions of the court.”

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