There are no doubts that a number of property scandals in Spain have contributed two additional local problems to be added to the already difficult worldwide economic climate that is affecting everyone.
In the first instance any property investors or second home buyers with purchasing potential have been discouraged and made to be overcautious with their money. Secondly, greed on the part of officials and developers has contributed to a large over-stocking of properties being available on the market, with the result that any purchaser available is now looking for a bargain before parting with money.
It is therefore in the interest of the Spanish nation to clean up the act and regain the confidence of worldwide investors. And, this is exactly what they are doing! We have already seen many sweeping operations taking place all over Spain, particularly in Marbella and Manilva, two of the three locations that present the worst scenario. Al last and not before long, cleaning finally started in Estepona. We all knew it was going to happen; it was just a question of when.
Operation Ballena Blanca, Operation Maya and now Operation Astapa started with the detention of the Mayor of Estepona and another 24 other local officials and business men. Some 200 officers searched 38 individual homes, businesses and all of the Estepona Council offices.
News reports state that, among those detained by the Police, was the president of Prasa, the property development company, who was then released on bail for 300.000 euros.
The charges made against the detainees are pretty similar to those made a couple of years earlier against the Mayor of Marbella, Juan Antonio Roca and also the Mayor of Manilva, Pedro Tirado, consisting of bribery, money laundering, fraud, illegal re-classification of land after sale and so on.
An official statement reports that the enquiry resulted in the Court requesting seizure of the assets belonging to 55 people and an embargo on 64 properties belonging to 36 other people to prevent their sale. Apparently the assets of 91 entities have been frozen.
Our consolation is that at last this most recent notable event has taken place before the economy started to improve. Can you imagine the damage it might have caused at a time when the economy might start its recovery?
I hope that the expulsion of Sr. Barrientos from the PSOE and the fact that the authorities seem determined to show their intolerance for property fraud and corruption is a demonstration of intentions that might restore some confidence in the Spanish property market.
It is a shame that the legal process seems to take so long. I think that such matters should actually be taken out of the hands of the local courts all together and dealt by the higher courts such as Malaga or even Madrid. I believe that such measures might result in faster and more evident sentences that would restore confidence more convincingly than just the process of arresting and accusing publicly people on suspicion of their doings, while waiting almost indefinitely to see what the final verdict might be.
Now perhaps we can all dedicate more attention at the true earning potential on this Costa and realise that the foreign influx of tourists and especially foreign residents is a basic need to the recovery and development of the economy.
We know that there are thousands upon thousands of British nationals as well as Germans, Swedes and other nationalities who are not quite content to reside in their home land, particularly us British. So, where else can you go that is not too far from families left behind? Where else would you go where there is no fear to go out at night?
Where else would you find all these advantages that are available right here on the Costa, including a better level of education for our kids? And, where else would you find the views, the climate and the quality of life that is only possible on these shores? In most cases you do not even need to learn Spanish (though you should)!
The sooner we realise this, the sooner the local authorities fully (truly) realize the value of foreign residents, the sooner we shall get back on track for a healthier economy.