By James Bryce
IT has been described as another nail in the coffin for one of Andalucia’s most controversial developments.
And in the words of Ronda’s mayor Mari Paz Fernandez, it could also be ‘the ruin’ of her town.
But the days are certainly numbered for the illegal Los Merinos macro-project that would have seen nearly 800 houses, three luxury hotels and a double golf course scheme built inside a UNESCO-protected zone near the town.
It comes after Andalucia’s TSJA High Court ruled that the passing of the development was illegal and cancelled its licence.
In the landmark ruling, the judge said the project had failed to get permission for water and could harm the supply to nearby towns, including Arriate and Cuevas del Becerro.
The licence was originally granted by Ronda Town Hall in February 2006, despite the Andalucian water board refusing to allow developers to use local acquifers.
Now the town hall may be forced to return a total of €14.2 million that the developers, Catalan firm Copisa, has so far paid in license fees.
Meanwhile, a gagging order has been lifted on 1,075 files used as evidence in a corruption case against former Ronda mayor Antonio Marin Lara.
A number relate to the Los Merinos development.
Lara, who is still awaiting trial, is said to have taken backhanders and destroyed a number of documents relating to the case.
Malaga University’s criminology department followed the money trail that began way back in 1995 when plans for the development were first published.
It described the situation as a classic case of developers and politicians working in collusion.
Juan Terroba, spokesman for Ecologistas en Accion told the Olive Press: “It confirms what we have been saying all along, that developments like Los Merinos were illegal.
“We have been fighting for years and no one was listening and now finally we are seeing justice. It is better late than never.”
“Now the town hall may be forced to return a total of €14.2 million that the developers, Catalan firm Copisa, has so far paid in license fees.”
I suspect that this is a political ploy. Its aim would be that the Ronda town hall would not have to repay the fees. On what grounds? I have no idea – I am not a lawyer.
That, at any rate, is my hope. No matter what Marín did or did not do, I just hope that the new regime will not be made the scapegoat.
I hope that this 14.2 million euros can be accounted for within the Town Hall, down to the last euro. If some has ‘gone missing’ the homes and other assets of staff should be held as insurance until the money is recovered.
Which staff do you have in mind, antonio2? And what, in your opinion, would be the process of selection? A court of law, for example?
Holding a home as insurance is a serious matter. So if I were employed by the town hall, I would need the assurance that everything was above board and transparent. After all, I could be innocent.
Could be difficult to select those guilty, whichever body of the law is involved, as many files relating to the case have been destroyed.
Holding such assets as insurance is not a new development and would only obviously apply to those considered guilty.
There were plenty of staff at the Ayuntamiento, most of whom were totally unaware of the crooked dealings relating to the golf course.
But presumably the 14.2 million euros has gone – but where?
“But presumably the 14.2 million euros has gone – but where?”
antonio2. What makes you assume that the money has gone? I see nothing in the press to suggest that has happened. Maybe you are right, but I have seen nothing to support that.
It seems to me that you are accusing someone of having stolen that money. Where else could it have gone?
oh my! This is actually a good news story. Finally one of these never ending developments has been stopped. Well done and Thanks. I had accepted that the whole of spain would end up like costa del sol! Maybe it can be saved.
As for the money, of course its missing. Do the above commenters actually live here? It would be wonderful if it is demanded back and people are held accountable. But lets not get carried away. If the government can swindle a billion euros, what chance of finding a few million in the sticks?
Ronda is a very corrupt place.
Fred do you visit anywhere that you’d say is prospering in Spain?