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Friday, 2 February 2007

Theft, fraud and deceit in Marbella

If you expected that a tale involving fraud and deceit on the Costa del Sol would feature luxury cars and corrupt politicians, you will certainly wonder what a dirty old Opel Corsa car abandoned on the Marbella streets is doing in the story. But first I must introduce you to a prominent player in our story.

This is the lucrative municipal tow truck business in Marbella. Park illegally for half an hour, the local police will phone the tow truck and bingo, your car is gone. You won’t get it back without a trip to the local Costa del Sol police station, close examination of the car’s documents, your documents and then a €95 payment to the tow truck company at the municipal car pound. The €150 fine from the Town Hall hits you later. It’s a great business to be in. To get the franchise for towing away vehicles in Marbella, all you have to do is keep the Mayor sweet. You will see how it is done later.

The story opens in France where an upmarket BMW X5 is stolen. The owner reports it missing to his insurance company and receives compensation. From France the scene shifts to the golden spires of Seville in Spain where the BMW X5 magically reappears and is sold to a Sevillano for an agreed price of €30 000. The new owner hands over a €12 000 deposit, takes possession of the vehicle and agrees to pay the balance when he receives the car’s papers.

Did you really think that the car’s papers would ever appear? Of course not! You wouldn’t fall for this age old scam would you? When the new owner realizes he is in possession of a car with no papers, he naturally reports the facts to the Guardia Civil only to be told he has bought a stolen car with false plates. Curiously enough he is allowed to use the vehicle but not sell it.

Let’s move on again to the jet set resorts on the Costa del Sol where the bargain price €12 000 BMW X5 pops up with a friend of the new owner at the wheel. The hardworking local police stop the vehicle and book the friend for drink driving. The tow truck takes the car to the municipal car pound under the Marbella football stadium. Did I mention that the tow truck company operates the municipal car pound?

Behind the scenes, the French insurance company which has paid compensation to the first owner is now the technical owner of the luxury vehicle and their representative arrives in Marbella to claim the vehicle. He finds not only the unconfirmed second owner of the car but his drink driving friend also desperately trying to recover the BMW X5.

Faced with three claimants for the car, what does the car pound do? They auction the BMW X5. Nobody in Marbella hears about the auction and so with no offers for the car, instead of returning it to one of its rightful owners, they give the stolen car which still has no papers, to the Mayoress of Marbella, Marisol Yagüe for her personal use. (This is the Costa del Sol, remember.)

Unfortunately for Marisol, the Operation Malaya corruption scandal investigators have had the Marbella tow truck company under scrutiny for similar four wheeled favours given to the previous Mayor of Marbella Jesus Gil and other Marbella Town Hall town counsellors. The car is seized by the investigators and Marisol Yagüe who is already in prison, faces further questioning as to how the stolen luxury car, impounded by the local Marbella police ends up her possession.

Our serpentine tale of theft, fraud, bribery and greed has almost reached an end. So where does the sad Opel Corsa pictured above fit in?

In short, the Marbella tow truck company is not interested in moving an abandoned vehicle for which they are unlikely to receiving towing costs. The Marbella Town Hall itself has no money following the sustained theft of municipal money by corrupt politicians. And it is also highly unlikely that any of the present counsellors in the squeaky clean team judicially managing the Marbella Town Hall until the elections later this year would now accept a bribe of a well used Opel car.

But check back here in a couple of weeks and I’ll tell you if the Town Hall, or the municipal police or the Marbella tow truck company can get their act together and move the car along.

Update: 8/11/2008 The new mayoress Maria Angeles Muñoz has thrown out the tow truck company and clamped down on the fraud and theft that was taking place at the highest levels in the Marbella Town Hall.

The car in the picture got towed away a couple of months after the blog was published. Be careful about where you park in Marbella though. Read the comment from an unhappy reader below.

If you have any questions about visiting Marbella, don't hesitate to contact me using the comments box below.

Update 8/10/10, Everything is done very much above board now in Marbella. I would say things are squeaky clean in fact. The Mayoress Maria Angeles will be voted back in comfortably at the end of her first four year term.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Can you give me information on the bus timetable La Linea - Malaga Airport on 2 May 08 - my flight departs at 23:45



Mike Drury said...

Hello Pat, thanks for writing in. Your flight from Malaga airport leaves at 23.45 on Friday 2 May so it would be good to check in two hours before.

I would travel from La Linea to Marbella and then take the special airport bus to Malaga airport. If you catch the last bus to Marbella out of La Linea at 17:45, it will take you 1:30 hours to get to Marbella. (Cost 5.86 Euros) so you will be at the Marbella bus station by 19.15.

The next bus to Malaga airport leaves exactly an hour later at 20.15. The Marbella bus station is OK to spend an hour in but that is about the most time you would want to stay there. There is a cafeteria and a shop. Watch out for your possessions as always.

This last leg of the journey takes 45 minutes so you will pull into the airport at 21.00. (Cost just over 4 Euros) This gives you comfortable time to to take a lift up from the arrivals level to the departure level on the 1st floor and get to your check in queue.

Pat I hope this helps you and that you have a good trip back. You can get all these timetables at from the address below.

Best wishes from Marbella


northway said...


I wish I had read your article about parking before going to Spain. On a journey from Malaga to Gibraltar we decided to stop in Marbella for lunch. It proved to be an expensive lunch. I parked the car in what appeared to be a vacant parking bay amongst a long line of parked cars.

When we returned the car was gone. It had been towed away we were told. Closer inspection revealed a no parking sign on a wall across the pavement from the bay and out of the line of vision of anyone driving a car.

Unknown, to us we were only about 200 metres away from the car compound. It cost us 137 euors to get the car back. The only other people we saw at the compound were foreigners. The locals obviously know the system and don't get caught.

I don't normally park in illegal places and am quite cautious when visiting countries such as Spain. This was a scam.

Most towns try to help tourists, but the official at the pound was rude and aggressive in manner to my wife who waited alone while I went to get cash from a cash machine.

I won't be visiting Marbella again, but I don'tsuppose that the authorities will care. With an attractive Mediterranean coast line, Marbella will always attract tourists, some of whom will be stung in the same way.


Mike Drury said...

Hello Jay

I am sorry you had such an unhappy experience on your visit to Marbella.

Was this some time ago or was it recently? You were probably driving a rented car I would guess.

Can you remember where it was that you parked the car Jay? The municipal car pound is under the Marbella football stadium so it may have been in that area.

I would like to follow this up for you and see if it is still happening so please let me know!

Sorry about that and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes from Marbella


northway said...

Hi Mike

Thanks for your interest.

Thanks for your interest. I've tried to retrace my route using Google Earth. I think we turned off the motorway along Avenida Duque de Lerma and parked the car near the junction with Callee Magallanes. We were heading for the centre of Marbella and decided to walk from this point Cars were parked at right angles to the kerb in marked bays.

Yes the car was hired, It was the end of May 2008


Mike Drury said...

Hello Jay,

You won't believe it but Calle Magallanes is just one block up from where I live! So it's my barrio as they say here and I will be pleased to make enquiries and especially to look at the offending wall.

I am off early tomorrow to the airport but after the weekend I will get back on the case and write to you. Not sure what will happen but it will be good to look more closely at what happened if only for the good of future visitors.

Thanks for looking it up in google earth Jay and best wishes from just down the road from where it all happened....


Mike Drury said...

Hello Jay

I'm back. I went off this afternoon to buy stamps and walked all the way along Calle Magallanes but couldn't see any "No Parking" signs.

Did you actually turn left into Calle Magallanes after coming down Avda Duque de Lerma? If not, you would have parked the car probably facing down hill next to the football stadium, just around the corner from where the car pound is.

Use this link and select Marbella, Malaga, Type of road; Avda, Name of street; Duque de Lerma and for a street number just put in say 4 and it will bring you a more detailed map than Google earth.

If you didn't round the corner into Calle Magallanes, I will go back and check out the street which follows on from Duque de Lerma. You will see the football stadium anyway.

Best wishes from Marbella


Mike Drury said...

Hello Jay

Perhaps you want to put the whole parking episode behind you but I have been back twice to check out the area. I walked all the way round the football stadium and saw no No Parking signs other than a few drive in entrances to the stadium where one wouldn't park anyway.

just to say I still happy to follow up for you. I just need a starting point, maybe even the date and number of the fine, if you still have it.

If you want to forget all about it, I quite understand.

Best wishes from Spain Jay


Philip said...

Hi Jay,
I cam across your article as I'm doing research on Bulgarian car-thieves on the Costa del probably must have heard quite a few stories...It would be interesting to share if you know anything more about stolen vehicles or fraud around Marbella / Malaga.