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Cadizcasa Newsletter 15
Sunday, 01 March 2015


Newsletter  Issue 15

The buds of spring are starting to come through and the green shoots of recovery are sprouting. All very horticultural but none the less descriptive of our current situation. One surprising things is, that the current pound to euro high has not, as yet, brought in a wave of UK buyers. But across the European markets, we are seeing an upturn in clients looking to view properties. Prices are still not moving up a lot except in some small areas but we are certainly seeing more interest.

Congratulations to Corinna Buerky the non resident tax advisor who is now a Member of the Official Association of Business Graduates. Corinna featured in one of our previous issues and provides a highly professional service on all non resident tax matters.

In the Newsletter this quarter we have an article about the arrival of the Mary Celeste in Gibralatar and the centuries of speculation that followed about what happened to her crew. A nice article on the new Indian Restaurant, the Taj Mahal just opened in Chiclana and an article on the use of Spain as a gateway to the west for drugs, human and animal trafficking and what the Spanish are doing to stem the tide of illegal activity by the gangs who operate these trades.

Our old friend James Baxter of Foremost Currency has kindly given us the low down on the money markets with some good news for sterling and not so good news for the euro.

Also, some new information about the Spanish equivalent of an EEC has come to hand just before we went to press. You now need this document if you own an apartment of 50M2 usable space or less and wish to rent it for more than 4 months of the year or sell it. Only detached properties of 50M2 or less will now be exempt. This information was brought to us by David, the Architect we use for all the EEC´s we do for clients. You may remember David featured in one of our previous editions.

I hope you enjoy the Newsletter

Lesley McEwan, MD, Cadizcasa

STOP PRESS…STOP PRESS…STOP PRESS

The IMF have stated that Spain´s property price skydive is over and home values are likely to start going up.

The report presided over by Christine Lagrade says the same is true for house prices in the UK; Ireland , Netherlands and Denmark all of which have experienced a property “boom and bust” since the year 2000. The fall these countries have seen averages around 25%. Recent research suggests that property prices in these countries has reached rock bottom, so the only way is up.

The report does differentiate between the markets in each country saying that the economic crisis combined with over building caused the market to crash more violently in Spain and the Republic of Ireland than elsewhere bringing along a decline in employment and stopping the construction industry. Spain and Ireland also suffered a higher level of debt defaults including bank loans to construction companies and private mortgages resulting in a private sector debt which is hampering recovery.

The FMI recognises that Spain in particular has changed its mortgage laws to allow for re-negotiation of debts and to stop those who have had their houses repossessed still owing the bank money.

Currently, Spain´s laws only offer mortgage defaulters a partial release – from 20% to 35% - after having paid off a considerable part of the outstanding mortgage, between 65% and 80% in just 5 or 10 years and the report calls for Spain to take steps recommended by the EU in March of 2014 which involved so called “fresh starts” after three years of repayment. While this system was set up to help new companies, the FMI believes it could also work for individuals.

THE MARIE CELESTE SAILED IN TO GIBRALTAR AND THE TALE STARTED TO UNRAVEL It was the Bay of Gibraltar that the ship now, cloaked in mystery, sailed in to at 9am on the morning of Friday, December 13th 1872 and the greatest maritime tale ever told started to unravel.

The Mary Celeste was a Canadian built brigantine weighting 282 tons. It was registered in New York in the names James H Winchester, Sylvester Goodwin and Benjamin Spooner Briggs. The ship´s master Benjamin Spooner Briggs was known in Gibraltar as a staunch abstainer from drink and a devout Christian. He was married to Sarah and had a two year old daughter called Sophia Matilda and had it not been for a book written by Dr Arthur Conan Doyle, then a struggling and unknown writer, and no doubt very grateful for the 30pound his editor paid him, the tale of the Mary Celeste may just have slipped in to maritime history as yet another sad loss of life at sea.

The facts are that Captain Briggs was a highly respected Captain. Indeed the main owner of the ship, James Henry Winchester when giving evidence at the inquiry stated that Briggs would never dessert his ship except to save his life but still, Briggs, his wife Sarah, their child and 7 crew have never been found nor has any trace of their disappearance been uncovered. There has been great speculation about sea monsters, pirates and the like but not one piece of clothing, not one hair nor one bone has ever been found to give a clue to what actually happened to them.

What is known, thanks to the avid record keeping of both the court inquiry and the shipping companies, is that the ship hailed from New York and on 7 November it was bound for Genoa with a cargo of American industrial alcohol, some 1701 barrels, being shipped for Meissner Ackermann & Co. The value of this shipment was approximately 35,000 dollars and its purpose was to fortify wine. In addition, there was assorted freight with a value of 3,400 dollars and the ship itself was insured for 14,000 dollars. The cargo was insured in Europe and the hull insurance was carried by American companies. The assorted freight was insured by the Atlantic Mutual Insurance of New York.

On the 15 November the Mary Celeste was followed out of port by another ship called the Dei Gratia carrying a cargo of 1735 barrels of petroleum. This ship took an almost parallel course across the Atlantic and on the afternoon of 5 December, half way between the Azores and Portugal the Dei Gratia spotted a Brigantine which Captain Morehouse, the captain of the Dei Gratia, recognised to be the Mary Celeste. Knowing Captain Briggs and having dined with him before sailing, he was puzzled as to why the ship was yawing, coming in to the wind then falling off, it was clear to the experienced Captain that the Mary Celeste was not under control. He knew that not only Captain Briggs should be on board but also his second in command, Albert Richardson, who was considered to be capable of captaincy himself. So the sight of the ship in this condition bewildered Morehouse not to mention that it should by now have reached Genoa and docked.

No distress signal had been sighted by the Dei Gratia so they kept watch on the Mary Celeste for two hours, repeatedly hailing her to no avail. Becoming very concerned about the ship and its crew, Morehouse took the decision to send a small boat over to board her.

On boarding, the ship was found to be in good condition. It was certainly seaworthy and the impression was that the crew had left in a great hurry confirmed by the presence of their oil skin boots and pipes, still on board. Captain Morehouse thought that they had perhaps abandoned ship thinking that it was about to sink for some reason. One reason for this thought was that the chronometer and sextant were not found on board nor the lifeboat which was also missing. The chronometer and sextant were items that any competent Captain would take with him, when abandoning ship. The last entry in the ships log was for 25 November when the ship passed St Mary Island in the Azores. Still stranger, one of the ships two pumps had been disassembled and three and half feet of water was sloshing around in the bottom of the vessel. However, 1701 barrels of industrial alcohol were still present and there was a substantial supply of fresh water and food, enough for some months, still on board.

What had been the fate of the ship? Well, if you put aside sea monsters, killer waterspouts, pirates and the possibility of a homicidal sailor taking over the ship, as played by Bela Lugosi in the 1935 film The Mystery of The Mary Celeste, then there has to be a more realistic explanation.

The men from the Dei Gratia sailed the abandoned ship some 800 miles to Gibraltar where the British vice admiralty court convened under Sir James Cochrane with the Gibraltar Attorney General Frederick Solly-Flood as principal officer of the court. The court convened a salvage hearing which usually was set up to determine whether the salvagers, in this case the crew of the Dei Gratia were entitled to any payment from the ship´s insurers. However, Solly Flood suspected foul play may have been the cause of the mystery and the inquiry trailed on for some 3 months before it was decided that there was no evidence of foul play and the salvagers received their payment, but only one sixth of the 46,000 dollars for which the ship and cargo had been insured. It is thought that this underpayment suggested that the authorities were not totally satisfied that the Dei Gratia crew were innocent. Whether they were or were not, there was still no decisive explanation as to what happened to Captain Briggs, his family and the crew.

Frederick Solly-Flood was obsessed with the Mary Celeste and for years after the inquiry he revisited the case, writing summaries of his interviews and notes, but still, the mystery remained – nobody knew what really happened.

In 2002, Anne MacGregor a documentarian who uses modern forensic techniques to unravel past mysteries such as what happened to the Hindenburg, took an interest in the Mary Celeste and with funding from Smithsonian Networks, she directed and produced “The True Story of The Mary Celeste”. Anne said “there is so much nonsense written about this legend, that I felt compelled to find the truth. There are obvious limitations for historic cases but using the latest technology, you can come to a conclusion”.

Anne started by eliminating the obvious, as they say, “if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth”. Sea monsters were easy to dismiss and the fact that the cargo was intact, seems to rule out pirates. There was also a theory in the 1800´s that the crew drank the alcohol on board and mutinied in a drink crazed haze. But after interviewing decendants of the crew, Anne was relatively happy that was not an option. Another theory suggested that vapours had escaped from the barrels of alcohol as it expanded in the Azores heat and blown off the hatch to the hold, causing fear and alarm that the whole ship was about to blow up and resulting in the crew abandoning the ship, but this theory was dashed as the Dei Gratia crew noted the ship hatch as being secured when they boarded the ship and there were no reports of fumes being smelled. Anne says “it is true that 9 of the 1701 barrels were empty but they were made form red oak which is considerably more porous than white oak so it is likely that they leaked causing the loss of those barrels. As for the homicidal sailor in the 1935 film, it is thought he may have been modelled on two German brothers, Volkert and Boye Lorenzen. They came under some suspicion as their possessions were not found on board by Morehouse´s men, but they had lost their property in an earlier shipwreck and had no motive so they were discounted.

Anne now turned to possible explanations and enlisted Phil Richardson a physical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts and an expert on derelict vessels. He makes the point that the ship was in good condition because the crew from the Dei Gratia sailed her 800 miles back to Gibraltar with no problems. Anne had also visited Captain Briggs home town of Marion, Massachusetts and interviewed decendants of Arthur Briggs, the Captain´s 7 year old son. Arthur was left behind to attend school when the Mary Celeste set off. The outcome of that meeting was that Captain Briggs was an intelligent, experience Captain who would never have done anything irrational.

Anne thought if she could work backwards and identify where Briggs and the crew actually abandoned the ship, that might offer some clues. She went to the ships slate where notations are made before they are entered in the ship´s log. She discovered that on 25 November, the ship was six miles from, and within sight of Santa Maria, an island in the Azores. Furthermore, from the testimony of the crew who boarded the vessel, she knew that some 10 days later, the ship was 400 miles off to the east of the island, so she asked Phil Richardson to work out a path between these two points. Drawing on water temperatures, wind speeds and the International Comprehensive Ocean Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS), a database that stores global marine information from 1784 to 2007, she, her yachtsman husband and Richardson managed to work out that indeed, the Mary Celeste could have drifted from its recorded position on 25 November to where it was finally found without a crew to sail it. Basically, it sailed itself to its final location.

Anne then considered where a competent captain would abandon ship. The most likely place would be within sight of land. Since Santa Maria Island was the last land for hundreds of miles, it seemed safe to assume that the Mary Celeste was abandoned on the morning of 25 November. All that now remained was to work out why they left the safety of the ship. Here Frederick Solly Flood´s notes became invaluable because the ships log is believed to have been lost in 1885 so his transcripts provided the only means for Anne and Phil Richardson to obtain the data to plot the course logged for the ship. Once they had that they compared it to the ICOADS data and other information on sea conditions at the time. The conclusion, Captain Briggs was 120 miles west of where he thought he was, this was probably due to a faulty chronometer. This meant that Captain Briggs should have sighted land three days before he did. Solly-Flood´s notes also state that the day before he reached the Azores, Briggs changed course and headed north of Santa Maria Island perhaps seeking a haven. But, bad weather and a faulty chronometer would not be enough for a good captain like Briggs to abandon ship alone, there had to be another reason.

Further research threw up a very plausible reason….. on its previous voyage the Mary Celeste had carried coal and it had recently been refitted so it is possible that there was debris still on board from the refit and dust from the coal transport. This could have clogged the pump causing it to be disassembled. Without the pump, Captain Briggs could not have known how much seawater was in the ship´s hull, it was impossible to see due to the tightly packed cargo and perhaps sighting land and with the threat of more stormy weather ahead, a faulty chronometer and possibly a hull filling up with water, he decided to abandon ship. The lifeboat never made it to dry land and we can only speculate that it was swamped by a wave or overturned and the 10 people on board drowned.

After what happened to the Mary Celeste, not many traders fancied putting their cargo on a cursed ship so when she was released by the court in Gibraltar, she was sailed back to Boston without a cargo. She remained in service for another 13 years. Nobody wanted to hire her and when she was put up for sale, there were no offers. Eventually the remaining two owners of the ship put her back in to service but another captain died on board, adding to her unpopularity. She was finally sold and continued to change hands until 3 January, 1885 when Captain Gilman Parker purposefully ran the ship aground on Rochelais Coral Reef off Haiti. She was totally lost, with the damage being irreparable. Being the Mary Celeste, the story did not die there though. Her owners became embroiled in an insurance fraud investigation over the loss of her cargo. The cargo contained - boots and cat food.

STOP PRESS…STOP PRESS…STOP PRESS

The President of the Junta de Andalucia, Susana Diaz has come under considerable fire after calling for a radical loosening of the law, which would allow for 367 new quarries and mines to be dug in Andalucia.

Most of the works would be in Huelva but some are also planned for the Sierra de Mijas despite the area being considered a green area for the province of Malaga. The mines would exploit aggregates in the areas.

The Junta sees mining as way of bringing money back in to the area and creating jobs but they are finding the going tough with opposition from people such as Joaquin Vilanova the Mayor of Alhaurin de la Torre who is strongly against the plan. He said “Those responsible at the Junta could commit serious crimes if they authorize new quarries. It is scandalous”.

EXCHANGE RATE OUTLOOK

Well, it’s been a fairly eventful start to 2015, with GBP/EUR reaching levels not seen in the last 7 years. The currency pair has risen to trade in the 1.35’s at the time of writing, having been as low as 1.26 only two and a half months ago. Similarly, EUR/USD has also dropped fairly significantly, hitting a ten year low in January.

So, why have we seen so much movement? The euro has suffered huge losses over the first two months of 2015. The single currency had been steadily losing ground as speculation mounted over the implementation of an aggressive quantitative easing programme from the European Central Bank. The Swiss National Bank then unexpectedly removed the cap, or minimum euro level, they had in place which had previously kept the Franc trading at 1.2 against the euro. The Franc then gained 20% against both the euro and the pound in a matter of minutes, an almost unprecedented movement in any currency pair. The Swiss had been manipulating the strength of their currency by keeping it loosely pegged to the euro in an effort to keep the franc weak enough to encourage trade with the Eurozone, Switzerland’s largest trading partner. Many saw the removal of the peg as a precursor to an announcement of Quantitative Easing from the ECB and this sent the euro tumbling. Within two days GBP/EUR had risen from 1.28 to 1.32.

Indeed, two weeks later it came as no surprise when Mario Draghi, the president of the ECB, announced that the central bank would begin aggressively buying bonds in an attempt to stimulate economic activity and push inflation up towards the bank’s 2% target.

Inflation in the Eurozone has recently slipped into negative territory and the increase in the money supply through the QE programme should, theoretically, push prices back up. Slowing inflation is becoming a problem for most of the developed Western economies, with 14 central banks cutting interest rates already this year, most notably the Danish, Swedish, Australians and Canadians.

The move by the ECB weakened the euro further, with the single currency’s problems compounded by the political situation in Greece. The Greek debt problem is a dark cloud looming over the Eurozone. But every cloud has a silver lining and it looks as though we may be close to a resolution, as negotiations between the ECB and the Syriza party continue. The Greek uncertainty and potential ‘Grexit’ has pushed the exchange rate up towards 1.36.

On the sterling side, the pound remains fairly strong, despite the UK heading down the same deflationary path. Figures published in mid-February showed UK inflation had dropped to the lowest level on record. The slowdown in inflation has pushed back expectations of an interest rate rise by the Bank of England, with most analysts now expecting the hike in late 2016. Mark Carney has attributed the falling prices to the drop in the price of oil and has said that once oil prices rise again inflation should return to the Bank’s target level of 2%. At that stage we should expect interest rates to also rise.

The recent movements in GBP/EUR would have been welcomed by those Brits living in Spain, drawing a British pension or sterling-denominated income. Likewise, Brits looking to buy in Spain have effectively seen the price of Spanish properties drop by 5% in two months thanks to the movement in the exchange rate. On the other hand, those looking to sell and move back to the UK may not be so pleased, with the euro at its weakest level in 7 years, the sterling return for a euro property sale has been dramatically reduced.

If you have a currency exchange requirement, and are concerned over the recent movements, contact Contact James Baxter at the Foremost Currency Group on +44 1442 892 062 or email him at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it for a free, no obligation consultation.

STOP PRESS…STOP PRESS…STOP PRESS

A Nigerian paper hankie seller is being hailed as a good Samaritan after he turned in 16,000 euros in a briefcase he found which had fallen from the roof of a car.

Mr Peter Angelina, a 35 year old immigrant, was selling paper hankies at a set of traffic lights in Seville when he noticed a briefcase on the roof of a parked car. Before he could do anything, the driver drove away and the briefcase fell off the roof. He ran after the car, trying to alert the driver but without success.

Mr Angelina has made news headlines all over Spain for his incredible honesty in taking the briefcase immediately to the local police. The contents of the case were 3,150 euros in cash and 6 cheques with a combined value of 13,000 euros plus some documents and a mobile phone.

The police managed to trace the driver, a 42 year old businessman from Seville and reunited him with his belongings.

Since his good deed, Mr Angelina says that the driver has stopped at his traffic lights and given him a reward of 100 euros.

Mr Angelina trained as a doctor in his native country but sadly, his qualifications are not recognised in Europe so he cannot practise here. He said “it never crossed my mind to keep the contents of the briefcase. People say I could have kept the money and then thrown the briefcase away but I am not like that and god would not have liked that”, Mr Angelina was keen to say that he was not crazy, just a good man.

SPAIN - THE GATEWAY TO EUROPE

Spain has long been a gateway to the west from Africa via Morocco. In the past spices and all manner of exotic fruits and plants made their way up through Spain to satisfy the rich palate and endless curiosity of the rest of Europe. Lately, the cargos have not been so awe inspiring. The traffic flowing through Spain currently consists of drugs, rare animals and slaves.

An alarming number of stories are appearing in the Spanish press linked to these three main forms of trafficking and the Spanish coastal authorities have warned that jihad terrorist groups are now financing their operations with massive shipments of cannabis from North Africa. This may not come as any surprise as the first cannabis plantations in Morocco appeared in the 15th century and some historians such as Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy say it could have been as early as the 7th century. Certainly, it is clearly documented that in the 19th century Sultan Moulay Hassan authorized the cultivation of hashish in limited areas and for local consumption but as the years went by, the growing of this cash rich crop developed particularly in the northern mountains of the Riff. By the 1960’s, under the rule of King Hassan II, international exclusion of the Rif region from any economic development, following an uprising, caused the hashish market to accelerate, to the point where now it is one of the largest producers in the world.

Spanish customs officers are working closely with their counterparts in France, Portugal, Italy and the USA to combat the organised smuggling rings. Their latest intercept being on the 24th January this year when a fishing boat bearing an Italian flag was captured 138 nautical miles south east of Cartagena in Murica, carrying 8.9 tonnes of hash with a street value of 14 million euros. Arrests were made of seven Italian nationals and one Egyptian. An earlier operation involving the National Police broke a smuggling ring and captured 55 individuals. The police confiscated 22 tonnes of hash plus firearms obtained in Libya and over 2 million euros in cash all of which has been shipped to Spain from North Africa. Police believe the money, drugs and weapons were destined to finance jihad cells.

Transportation by boat is the preferred option for the smugglers, since France commenced its military operations in Mali. This military action meant the Sahel route, which runs through the middle of the triangle between the north of Malia and Niger, the south of Libya and Algeria and the east of Mauritania, running through the desert was no longer viable. The old Sahel route is now largely controlled by Islamic terrorists. Such as Ansar Dine, Al-Qhaeda´s outpost in the Islamic Maghrib and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in Western Africa. This trade is big money to the terrorist. In the past year the European “coastal coalition” has intercepted 19 vessels carrying hash and cocaine. The hash alone had a street value of 381 million euros. Although two of the ships carried European flags, the remainder carried standards from African countries.

In the midst of this mass trade and on the reasonable assumption that the money is going to fund terrorist attacks, you may think that the law would allow anyone, thought to be smuggling drugs, to be arrested and dealt with harshly. Spain has never been scared to “get wired in” as we say and in 1998 they raised an indictment for human rights violations, using the Law of Universal Justice, this led to the arrest of General Augusto Pinochet the Chilean dictator while on a visit to London. He was held for a year and half by the UK, then returned to Chile where he died before he stood trial but the furore caused by the Spanish indictment, certainly pressured Chile to strip him of his immunity and make court action possible in his homeland.

The Law of Universal Justice allows a state to claim criminal jurisdiction over an accused person regardless of where the alleged crime was committed, and regardless of the accused's nationality, country of residence, or any other relation with the prosecuting entity. But Spain voted last year to limit the power of Spanish judges to pursue criminal cases outside of Spain. This little twist lead to 50 smugglers caught red handed at sea with large quantities of drugs on board to be released. The Spanish Coastguard did an excellent job, tracking the smugglers, boarding the ships and arresting the accused but due to some confusion about the new legal implications, all were set free from the Court when they came to trial. The decision was quickly over turned by the Supreme Court of Spain, who ordered all 50 to be re-arrested, but most had legged it by the time the order was given. A case of butter fingers I would say.

While the transport of large quantities of drugs is worry enough, the transport of human beings, held against their will and sold in to modern day slavery is a crime beyond any other. Spain has recently made a public appeal to the people of Spain to reduce the demand for sexual services, an industry which generates five million euros per day in Spain and sells thousands of women from all over the world into sexual slavery. But Spain is not the only guilty party, the country is used as a transit country for thousands of people being trafficked to Northern Europe. Jorge Fernandez Diaz, Minister for the Interior, said that the fight against human trafficking was “one of the state´s priorities” and that the National Police would be redoubling its efforts to dismantle the networks responsible. The head of the National Police Force, Ignacio Cosido, announced that there will be increasing pressure on clients of prostitutes “to the point of making life really uncomfortable for them”. The Minister for the Interior went on to say that the government wants to make Spain an international model in the fight against human trafficking, as it is in terms of safety, being placed third, as one of the safest counties in Europe when it comes to crime.

Where are these men women and children trafficked from? Many come from Nigeria and other parts of Africa, some from South America, China and also from Romania and Bulgaria. Not only are they trafficked in to the sex trade, but also to be used as forced labour. Many are lured with the promise of well-paid work in Europe and leave their homelands willingly in the belief that they are going to a better life in Europe. The majority are required to “pay their way” being charged large sums for transport, relocation etc. Those who cannot pay are told that they can repay the “loan” when they start work but in many cases, the sum due gets larger and larger, preventing them ever being free from the gang who smuggled them in the first place.

The figures are very worrying, the first European Commission report on human trafficking in Europe published in 2013 states that between 2008 and 2010 23,632 known victims were trafficked. Of that figure, 61%, mostly women, were trafficked for sexual exploitation, 25% were trafficked for manual labour and the remaining 14% were trafficked for other uses such as organ removal. This is not a purely Spanish problem, although Spain´s geographical location provides the gateway, this is a European problem. It is a growing and highly lucrative trade for organised crime syndicates. Many crime syndicates have taken to trafficking people rather than drugs because the financial gain is higher and the risks lower. The police recently rescued a 19-year-old Romanian woman from traffickers who had tattooed on her wrist a bar code showing the amount she still owed them, it was more than $2,500.

While some victims are controlled by financial burden, others such as some of the Nigerian women trafficked are controlled by threats. Deputy Inspector Xavier Cortés Camacho, the head of the regional anti- trafficking unit, said the Nigerian groups moved women through north Africa to Spain, and then controlled them by threatening to rape or kill their family members back home. Another Columbian girl was sold in to slavery with a Columbian gang by her parents. The gang paid 650 dollars per month to the family for their daughter. When she escaped, she contacted her patents for help but was told that if she did not go back to the gang, they would send her sister in her place.

The Spanish police work tirelessly to combat the gangs and to rescue the men, women and children from them but the tide gets higher and higher. When the first phase of the anti-trafficking programme was launched, 1450 people were arrested in 462 separate operations with 11,751 potential victims and a total of nearly 23 million euros confiscated. Spain is not alone in this fight, Europe woke up to the problem of trafficked women in the 1990s, as young women from the former Soviet Union began to arrive in large numbers, and it has spent much of the last decade developing legal frameworks to address the issue. But, some advocates say, this decade will test Europe’s commitment to enforcing its new laws. “The structures, by and large, are in place,” said Luis CdeBaca, the ambassador who leads the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. “Now it’s time to take them out for a drive.”

Not only people are trafficked through Spain to Northern Europe, also exotic species have their price tag on the black market. One woman stopped and searched at a Spanish airport was found to be carrying in her shoulder bag, a tiny monkey bound in plastic and gagged with its arms and legs strapped to its body to prevent it moving. In another case, two chimpanzees were saved from a dingy basement in Spain where it is thought they had been kept for up to 10 years. Probably originally trafficked for a customer in Europe who did not go ahead with the deal. These are the victims of the illegal animal trade which is plaguing Europe. Sadly, many of the animals are brought up through Africa, Morocco and Spain especially through the port of Algeciras. Trafficking of animals is the fourth largest global illegal trade after narcotics, humans and counterfeit products. The sums changing hands for the rareist of animals are massive.

Berta Alzaga the communication and education spokeswoman of Primadomus Rescue Centre Spain says, “There are two types of animal trafficking. The first is where people visit the animal markets of Morocco and see animals kept in small cages, sometimes in poor conditions. They feel sorry for the animal so they buy it and bring it back with them on the Ferry to Spain”. The second group are the Mafia types who have realized that smuggling animals is easier and less risky than drugs and even preferably to people trafficking. The illegal wildlife trade is booming globally. A two year old World Wildlife Fund report estimates its value to between 7.8 billion dollars and 10 billion dollars per year”.

Some illegal cargoes are intercepted before they reach Spain, for instance when Argentinian police were called to an airport when a passenger headed to Spain was found to be carrying a moving suitcase. The case contained 250 animals including 10 boa constrictors. The species included spiders, lizards, snakes and snails all native to Argentina or its neighbouring countries. Due to the variety and quantity of animals found, it was decided that the man must be a courier as he had only arrived in the country two days previously and could not have collected the haul in that time. His journey to Spain was only the first leg of his intended trip. Evidence was found that he was in fact headed to Prague, using Spain as a gateway in to Europe.

The trade generates profits of around 500 million and demand outstrips supply, with collectors paying anywhere from 500 to a million dollars for a large macaw. Miguel Angel Vallardes, spokesperson for the World Wildlife Fund in Spain said “The illegal trafficking of animals coming from throughout Latin America uses Spain as its main entry point. From there they are re-exported to the remainder of Europe”. More than 38 million wild animals are captured annually in Brazil, but a staggering 90% die in the process of being caught or during transportation. Of the survivors, 40% of them come from the most rare and endangered species”. The people making the money are not the hunters, who earn very little for capturing the animals. A melro bird can be purchased for 27 dollars on the street markets of Brazil but they are sold in Europe for 2,500 dollars. Likewise, a pink macaw can be obtained for 15 dollars in the jungles of Brazil but would fetch around 2,000 dollars in Italy.

Spain has its work cut out to tackle these very organized forms of trafficking. Like it or not, Spain is the place where all these illegal trades come together, it is truly the “Gateway to Europe” and the place where the front line against these horrendous crimes must make a stand.

STOP PRESS…STOP PRESS…STOP PRESS

The Junta de Andalucia are vigorously objecting to what it deems to be the deliberate modern day concealing of the past, in particular the Islamic past of the Cordoba mosque cathedral by the Catholic Church.

The Bishopric of Cordoba recently registered as the owners of the monument have removed the word mosque from the monument´s title on posters, tickets and its official website. It is now referred to simply as The Cathedral of Cordoba.

This is not the first time the UNESCO World Heritage site has seen religious strife. In 2013 8 muslims, members of a 118 strong group visiting from Austria were arrested when they rolled out their prayer mats in the Cathedral and started praying loudly. When ordered to stop by security guards, the Muslim worshipers replied by attacking them. Further reinforcements were brought in and the fighting continued in what police describe as a disturbance planned in advance.

Many believe that the negativity in calling it a cathedral will impact on tourism due to the confusion it creates among tourist who plan their visiting thinking that they are coming to see an ancient mosque only to be told on arrival that it is a cathedral. Jose Juan Jimenez Gueto, a spokesman for the Cathedral of Cordoba says that like the history of the monument, its name is constantly evolving and what counts is the welcome the visitors receive not the name of the monument.

A RICH TASTE AND A RICH HISTORY

Indian food has always been one of my favourites, when made well from fresh ingredients. The complexity of the spices, the uniqueness of the flavours. It all combines to produce a cuisine with such a rich taste and a rich history. Exactly when us westerners encountered curry for the first time is the subject of much speculation. Some say it goes back to the East India Trading Company and their days trading with the Tamils who used the word Kari for a spiced sauce. Others, say that Richard II´s cookbook which appeared in the 1390´s entitled The Forme of Cury is a clue that the secrets of this delight were known long before the restaurants started to spring up all over Europe, but personally, I think that is a rather tentative connection.

What is undeniable is the fact that Indian food is now highly popular all over Europe, we see it as homely food, comforting and reliable and that is exactly how I felt when our car broke down at 4am in the smallest village known to man in the South of France. Husband did the man thing of opening the bonnet and staring in to the chasm intently, while I did the woman thing and called the vehicle recovery. As I stood there on the phone, something behind me made me turn around and right there, in the middle of a village that the Wermacht were delighted to be chased out of in 1945, was an Indian Restaurant. There was something rather reassuring and comforting to see it sitting there with its velvet curtains and image of the Taj Mahal on the windows. How the only restaurant, as we then discovered, happens to be Indian in a French village in the middle of nowhere, I have no idea, but we were blasted grateful for it over the following two days while we waited for a new part to repair the car.

Carrying on that tradition of excellent food, a warm welcome and a lifeline for spice lovers abroad, is the Taj Mahal in Chiclana.

The wide fronted restaurant with extensive indoor and outdoor seating sits just opposite McDonalds in the area of Urbisur just off the A48.

The restaurant only opened last year and in that short time, the team of Rakesh, the boss, Mohinder and Simran, front of house, Mangal, the chef and Rajesh the second chef, they have made an enormous impact.

All the boys knew each other from their home city of Delhi with the exception of Mangal who originates from the beautiful rich agricultural area of Punjab. That said, Mangal has been a chef for over 25 years and worked at the Raddison Hotel group in Delhi for many years so he is an adopted Delhi ´ite. Mangal´s experience is easy to spot in the delicately balanced and spiced dishes he produces such as King Prawn Jalfrezi with just the right amount of spice so as not to over power the succulent and melt in the mouth king prawns. Likewise, while younger, Rajesh, who happens to be Rakesh´s brother, has a masterful control of the tandoori. That wonderful, red hot oven that produces some of the most succulent and delicious meat, fish and vegetable dishes and of course the "to die for" nan bread. Every dish is cooked to order from the freshest local ingredients and being made to order, spicing can be adjusted to suit the palate.

I asked Rakesh where the equipment such as the Tandoori and the spices used in the dishes came from, he said ”they come originally from India but are imported through Birmingham, England, which is one of the largest suppliers of Indian products in the world outside of India. All the meat, fish and vegetables used in the restaurant are sourced locally and bought in fresh daily. Rakesh said “it is important to us to bring Indian food to our customers the way we eat it at home, freshly prepared from the best quality ingredients. We also like to give our customers a taste of our favourite foods so we will shortly be introducing Garlic Chilli Chicken on our menu which is one of my family´s favourite dishes”.

Business is going incredibly well for the boys. On Valentines Day, they were fully booked and still had to turn another 60 customers away. Rakesh says “it was incredible, we were unable to keep serving all the customers who wanted tables because we literally ran out of food. While we felt sorry to turn people away, it is better for our customers to know that they are getting the best quality food prepared to order in our kitchen”.

While delivering high quality, authentic Indian food, the boys are also keen to offer something a bit different in the area, so for New Year´s Eve, they put on a special party with Bhangra dancers and traditional Indian music. The performers travelled down specially from the Bollywood Institute in Madrid, and if you don’t believe me that Bollywood is alive and well in Madrid then google it! The Institute teaches Bollywood dance and Indian music and it is catching on fast with the Spanish. Over 100 guests attended the Bollywood evening so it looks like that might be an annual fixture. However, the boys will not be giving up their only day off each year. Mohinder said “we close on 1 January for several reasons, to restock and prepare the restaurant but also to get over our hangovers”. I imagine they were not alone there.

Prior to working in Chiclana all the boys worked for a restaurant in Alicante. Those days were easier on their wives and children because they worked 7 months and then went back to India for 5 months each year but the time came when they felt the need to make their own way in the world and set up their own business. Why choose Chiclana well, the boys visited various locations and found that there was certainly a gap in the market for quality Indian food on the Costa de la Luz. Being their own masters has its price, they cannot travel home now for 5 months of the year so they are in the process of relocating their wives and children to Chiclana. Rakesh will bring his wife, Gita and his little boy Prince, over in July of this year and Mohinder will have his wife Gita, and daughter Angel here by May.

Life in Chiclana looks good for them, they say that they have had an incredibe welcome from the local people and their customer basis is a good mix of Spanish, English, German and French. All the boys speak fluent English and Spanish and Mohinder also speaks German. Menus are available in English and German on request.

What can you expect at the Taj Mahal? Well, Mohinder and Simran who do most of the serving are friendly, welcoming and highly efficient. Little time passes between the welcome and the poppadums being placed on the table. Mangal and Rajesh do their bit providing some excellent food such as Murgh Mango, a delicate dish of chicken breast cooked with fresh mango and a lightly spiced sauce. Then there is the Lamb Tikka Shaslik, tender lamb marinated with spring onions, tomatoes and peppers served on a sizzling hot platter and Rakesh does the planning and keeps things on course. All meals start with the traditional complimentary poppadums and chutney and the nan breads from Rajesh´s tandoori are thin, light and crisp.

Parking is no problem as there is a large free parking area to the front and rear of the restaurant with direct access from both areas and free on street parking in the streets behind Urbisur. Drop in and visit the boys, they are good people doing a great job and it is certainly the best Indian Restaurant I have visited in Spain and that includes Madrid.

To contact the Taj Mahal, make a reservation or order a take away, please call 956532772 or 602107827

10% discount on all take away food.

Opening times

Open every day 12 noon – 4pm and 7pm – 12pm

Mondays open 7pm – 12pm

STOP PRESS…STOP PRESS…STOP PRESS

King Felipe VI, is the first Monarch to have featured on the cover of a gay magazine. The magazine, RAGAP is for gay, bisexual and transsexual readers and the photo was in recognition of the new King´s special award due to be granted at the LGBT wing of the international FITUR tourism fair held in Madrid at the start of every year. The King and Queen Letizia arranged a national conference for representatives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual communities in June of 2014 and spoke to leaders of nationwide associations working to support those of minority sexual orientations and people who have undergone, or wish to undergo, gender reassignment surgery.

This is the first time ever that such a meeting has been called by reigning Monarchs – not only in Spain, but anywhere in the world – and King Felipe and Queen Letizia pledged to help in any way they could to promote equal rights and visibility for these communities. The King has now receive a rainbow coloured award at the FITUR LGBT fair held in late January. Prizes also go to the US Ambassador James Costos, President Barack Obama for his drive to make same sex marriage legal in all 50 states and to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, for tis positive image of and regular coverage of real life stories affecting the homosexual and bisexual community.

Spain is one of the world´s most tolerant and safest countries for sexual minorities. It is also one of the most advanced when it comes to same sex marriage and adoption, it having been legal in Spain for a decade.

Catalunya for instance, has recently passed a regional anti-violence law referring explicitly to hate crimes, including homophobia, to provide those who suffer physical or verbal aggression on the grounds of their sexuality with the specific type of support and legal redress needed to deal with attacks of this nature

Thank you for reading our Newsletter, the next edition will be out on 1 June 2015. Please remember it is free to join our mailing list for the Newsletter and all you need do is register under Newsletter in the right hand column of our Home Page.

 
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