Prosecutor demands prison for Ex-Costas chief who authorised Tauro Beach

The court case against the former head of the Costas (Coastal Authority) opened to hear evidence on whether or not crimes were committed in the granting of permissions to start work on the concession to improve and expand Tauro beach, on the south of Gran Canaria, on the Costa Mogán.

Spanish language daily, La Provincia, report that the Court of Instruction number 3 of San Bartolomé de Tirajana have been investigating the former head of the Costas, (Coastal Demarcation Authority) in the Canary Islands, and has given the public prosecutor the casefile indicting José María Hernández de León, who was fired as head of Costas last summer by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, after they detected irregularities in the permissions given to the Anfi Group to occupy that strip of the coast of Mogán.

Judge Noemi Lázare is now considering evidence against the civil servant for the crime of prevarication, that is to say lying, and another count of falsifications in official documents, according to an order issued last February 20, that instructs the progression of proceedings leading up to the trial, as requested by the Office of the Environment and Urbanism in Las Palmas, who are the official complainants having received certification from the Guardia Civil’s Nature Protection Service, Seprona.

Image: La Opinion

The judicial decision concludes that José Hernández “rudely” departed from the legal framework established for the administrative concession to rehabilitate the beach. The original permit, which was granted by ministerial order on October 1, 2015, established a series of conditions prior to the beginning of the works, such as the incorporation into the public domain of land, for which Anfi Group pledged to show ownership or administrative rights of usage, which would then be added to the demarcated Terrestrial Public Domain.  Anfi could not be allowed to start work before showing that they had the right to use this extra land.

All coasts in Spain are demarcated as Public Domain, which is why it is not legal to fence off coastal territory, except in unusual circumstances, as it is meant for the enjoyment of all.  It would be fair to ask, when will the fences be removed?- Ed

The work along this 3,811 square meters of land behind the shoreline, described in the selected project, intended to widen the existing beach, was an improvement that allowed Anfi to win the tender, to the detriment of Miguel Cazorla, the primary concession operator at the nearby Amadores Beach. It was therefore very important that the Costas verify compliance with this contractual provision before allowing work to start, as it was this provision that would directly allow the company to occupy the remaining 11,200 square meters of land, behind Tauro beach, in exchange for the newly widened beach, and only in this way could Anfi gain the rights included, to operate the concession for seasonal services, hammocks, kiosks etc. for the duration of the 50-year contract.

Image Ayuntamiento de Mogán

Problems arose on February 4 of last year, 2016, when technician Ignacio López-San Vicente, an engineer at the Costas, refused to sign the document allowing the works area to be fenced and staked out, because he detected several “serious breaches” that “made it impossible to start the works”, according to the judicial order. These breaches included several failures to meet the conditions set out for the concession, in particular: the contractor had not delivered proper certification of ownership for the land that would be compromised and those plans that had been provided were “insufficient”, among various other reasons, because the space set out for the new strip of beach was interrupted by already inhabited dwellings.

Cabildo de Gran Canaria

“Despite knowing the impediments exposed” by the technician and his “not having signed” the act for redesign of the works, Hernández “verbally” authorised the beginning of the works, namely the placement of 70,000 tons of sand brought from the Morocco-controlled and disputed territory of Western Sahara, by The Anfi Group, which at that time was made up of Santana Cazorla Group and the heirs to Anfi’s Norwegian founders, the Lyng family (The Lyng’s subsequently sold their share of the business last September to Gran Canaria native hoteliers Lopesan).

In this verbal authorisation, given despite the prior obligations still required to verify legal and physical realities of land promised to the Public Domain, the judge sees indications of administrative prevarication.

In short the ex-head of the Canary Islands Costas is accused of lying, by dishonestly authorising works to begin.

The other offence, of falsification, is related to a document signed by Hernandez, where he states that the “objections” made by the technician Lopez-San Vicente had been “solved immediately”.

Several subsequent reports, however, point to the opposite conclusion.

The work, in fact, had to be stopped and the beach was closed to the public, while Spanish State legal services analysed whether or not they needed to revoke the administrative concession for breaches by the promoter, who still had not produced registered documentation proving their ownership of the land directly behind the beach, with which they had been able to win the bid. The prosecution is now preparing its case according to the facts established by the investigating judge.

Cabildo de Gran Canaria

In his letter to the Court of Instruction Number 3 of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, the Prosecutor’s Office noted that the accused, José María Hernández, ignored a Ministerial Order and reports contrary to the criteria set out for the granting of permission to start works on the beach at Tauro and then “did not hesitate to falsify that reality in two Documents, the Stakeholder Act and the plan attached to the Act of Delivery and Reception for the lands to be contributed” by the promoter, Anfi.

The promised contribution of 3,811 square meters of land, adjacent to  Tauro beach, by the company Anfi Tauro, was the determining factor for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment back in 2015 when they decided to award the concession for occupation of the coastal enclave and its beach to the developer.

However, the specifications that accompany this Ministerial Order determined the obligation to “delimit prior to the start of works” the reception of private land incorporated by the promoter in their project plans.

According to the Office of the Prosecutor, the accused “departed rudely” from the legal framework and “disregarded the impediments exposed” by both the demarcation engineer and his superiors in Madrid with the “sole will to authorise the beginning of works” on the coast.

After an inspection of Tauro Beach, now covered with 70,000 cubic meters of Saharan sand controversially purchased without the permission of the exiled Polisari government of Western Sahara, the engineer Ignacio López-San Vicente, refused to sign the act to replan the works because there were certain repairs and changes required in the project. Despite the warnings of the technician, Hernandez “verbally authorised” the works and “departed from the legal framework,” according to the official indictment.

In addition, and “in order to establish that his action was covered by an apparent legal formality”, the former head of the Costas “did not hesitate to falsify” the content of the Statute of Record and the attached plan in the Record of Delivery and Reception of land to be contributed by Anfi Tauro.

These documents “differ” from the reality reflected in the file for the ministerial concession, says the prosecutor, “since the concessionaire does not figure as the sole owner” of the lands and some of these lands are partially “occupied” by real estate.

For this alleged crime, of documentary misrepresentation, the Office of the Prosecutor has requested a sentence of three and a half years in prison for the accused. In addition, he has requested his special disqualification from the exercise of employment and public office for 10 years for allegedly having committed an administrative malfeasance.

The case continues.

Sources: La Provincia, La Opinion & various others