San José’s controversial plans to auction the borough’s beach concessions have resulted in accusations of money laundering, muscle man intimidation, drug smuggling, tax fraud, and just being a right bastard.
The auction raised a quite staggering 4.6m€ for licences to operate sunbeds and parasols on beaches extending from Playa den Bossa, round the south coast of Ibiza, through to San Antonio Bay.
Dozens of business people attended the auction on Tuesday with bidding accepted by a show of hands. The top price raised for a single lot amongst the 153 on offer was 735,400€. This record price was for a concession of 260 beds and 180 parasols in Cala Bassa.
This being the first such auction, families who had earned a living on the beaches for many decades soon realised they would not be able to compete with the deep pockets of entrepreneurs from outside Ibiza.
Particularly prominent in the buy up was Mahy Marrero Sosa who currently faces a 16 year prison sentence for the discovery of 452kilos of cocaine on his private yacht. In that trial, for which he is awaiting sentence, he also admitted a charge of fraud to the treasury. Marrero used 8 companies in the auction process, 6 of them to gain 11 lots including 3 premium positions in Playa den Bossa, 2 in Cala Compte and 2 in Cala Carbo. Of his drug trial Marrero has claimed that the yacht was not his but cousin’s, and that he had voluntarily declared the irregularities in taxation to the Hacienda. Downplaying the trial he said he had come to Ibiza to do business because it offered the same opportunities as the Canary Islands, but greater rewards for less effort.
Winning bids have been seen as way beyond the required break-even level of the concession. One reason businesses are willing to pay such inflated sums is that they are not really interested in sunbed and parasol rental, indeed many are now not even charged. The business attraction is the ability to charge premium beverage prices on beaches directly in front of premium hotels and beach clubs.
Even businessman and former foreign minister Abel Matutes ultimately paid 355,100€ for 180 beds and 90 umbrellas in front of his own hotel in Playa den Bossa, after a fierce bidding war with Marrero that started at just 66,000€.
His daughter Carmen Matutes paid 153,000€ for another stretch of sunbeds, stating that “we do not do this as a business; we need to keep this service available to customers”.
Many of those bidding against Marrero who could not meet his price, resorted to public and vocal insults, creating quite a scene in the town hall. “You’re a Bastard” was shouted by one frustrated bidder. Similar reactions were made when he took what was described by Spanish press El Mundo as “a seemingly absurd lot”. Comprising nothing more than a single table and chair in the navigation channel of Cala Compte, the concession had until now been held by a father and son simply to afford them some shade. It sold for 16 times its previous fixed price of 500€, when Marrero made his ultimate winning bid of 8,000€
Existing concession holder Oscar Carbonell repeated his no holds barred accusations made to the Diario de Ibiza earlier in the year. Carbonell is in no doubt that Marrero’s sole objection was that of money laundering. Assessing the mathematics he said that every sunbed and parasol would need to be rented every day for the entire 4.5 month duration of the concession, simply to cover the fees paid, without any allowance for wages and other operating costs.
The auction session even devolved into pushing and shoving. El Mundo reported that representatives of Nassau, one of the Island’s most prestigious venues, lost one of its previously held beach concessions of some 162 beds and 81 umbrellas due to an oversight that left Marrero holding the contract in exchange for a fee of 90,300€. When Marrero went to leave the room several people, with what the Spanish daily described as a “security baring” and wearing Nassau shirts, surrounded him. This prompted Marrero to turn and shout to everyone: “If tonight I am found floating in the sea you will already know who it was.” An agent of the Local Police of San José then escorted Marrero to a taxi.
The auction will quadruplicate income compared to the previous fixed asking price system. In total an extra 3.45 million euros will go into public coffers.
Despite the controversy Mayor Mari Ribas Agustinet was unrepentant. “For the first time we took advantage of our strength as a premium and most desired destination. Do I have to apologise for this? I think not”, said the PSOE Socialist Mayor, who leads the San Josep Government with the support of Guanyem.
There are no plans in Ibiza’s other municipalities to follow suit in auctioning beach concessions.
- Nick Gibbs
I will be pleased and relieved to get these last few days prior to the start of the summer season out of the way. This, and every year, it seems that the months before the tourist season necessitate the greatest level of wading through news that is never likely to be held up as an example of man’s finest hour. Financial scandals, business brutality, corruption, rafts of often ill considered regulations, it all goes to make an Ibiza sleaze soup the foul taste of which can only be washed away with the positivity and activity of the main tourist season.
With that in mind I sincerely hope the story of the San Jose beach concessions auction will mark the last week where the negative outweighs the positive for some months to come. Fitting then that we should go out on what feels to me possibly the most incomprehensible story, from a winter where there has been no shortage of contenders.
Mayor Marí Ribas Agustinet said the following; “For the first time we took advantage of our strength as a premium and most desired destination. Do I have to apologise for this?“
Frankly yes, of course you bloody do. Didn’t you go on the new Mayor’s induction course? One of the most important responsibilities of your role is to act as San Jose’s moral compass, to keep those that would do us harm away. Your job is to ‘be’ Sant Josep in our stead. That does not mean flogging off our assets to any dodgy character with cash on the hip.
To argue that the income justifies the means is not a luxury somebody holding senior public office can enjoy.
I do not blame Marrero for his actions. From everything that has been said, I think he is simply pursuing life as he sees it should be pursued. Remember also that for every bid he won, somebody else was prepared to pay a few euros less. Anybody capable of simply shrugging off charges of the magnitude he faces, and confidently presenting himself in the manner he did, would probably make a Tarrentino character we would find ourselves rooting for. For exactly the same reasons, it makes him an individual with whom the government cannot do business.
The Spanish Institute of National Statistics issued a report in February this year stating that, after unemployment, corruption amongst public officials was still by far the biggest concern to Spanish citizens. This alone would surely make any politician working to the will of the people, unwilling to do business with Marrero? But if that public concern is not registering, there are a whole host of backup reasons that the Mayor seems to have so casually overlooked in focusing entirely on the financial return.
- Money laundering prevention.
All of us have to jump through money laundering prevention hoops. Many hoops. Even for something as relatively simple as opening a bank account into which an employer can direct deposit wages, we jump hoops.
Yet here, in a context where calculations demonstrate that if the concessions achieved previously unheard of occupancy levels – 100% full for the entire season – the income would no more than cover the licence fee, no such hoops are required. Why? Why does a business want to invest in such an unattractive proposition? Let us be generous and say they have a valid commercial reason. Fine. But you’ve got to ask the bloody question! Are you really so arrogant as to say that the entire Western world now works to Money Laundering controls, but the the mayor of San Jose is exempt?
- Fit Person Checks
Then we have the appropriateness of the concession licences for a man with drug supply connections. I may not have experience in international bulk drug supply, but if it was my trade, and if I was asked what would be the ideal conduit to distribute those drugs, I think it might go something like this. A network of locations spread around the entire island, plus a business which by its very nature is mainly cash – increasingly rare in our plastic-payment society – and better still has the unusual feature of there being no expectation even of a cash register, just bank notes being stuffed into the bum bags of unvetted and unknown casual workers. Perfect set-up? Well it gets a whole lot better. Add to this gloriously unaccountable island wide network a business with a clientele comprising my ideal target market, who conveniently use my business in the hours prior to their time of drug consumption.
And that of course is exactly what the beach concessions offer. It is a ready made dream ticket that global Mafia bosses would likely look upon as reason to question why they are working too hard.
But of course this drug dealing dream set-up is only relevant if that is the intent of the new owners. There is nothing to say that is their intent, but that is not the point. The point is that surely, surely, somebody should be asking the bloody question as a matter of course, to any buyer. But to me at least, that the question is not asked in a context where the new owner is facing major drug charges, and who has bought a business that on paper makes no financial sense, well, it is difficult to see where negligent ends and incompetent starts.
- Ribas, Man of the People
Our mayor adopts something of a swagger in his “should I apologise” stance. His approach is one of ‘my people needed the money and I got it’. OK tough guy, so we still need money, how about auctioning off a few taxi licences? They are needed for exactly the same reasons of being a premium location. There would definitely be buyers queuing up. So when will we see the San José taxi licence auction? A cold day in Es Cubells is when. He wouldn’t dare. ISIS would think twice about taking on Ibiza’s taxi lobby. The Taxi drivers would fight back, but the existing holders of the beach concessions offer no such threat. The beach bed businesses have typically been operated by local families, San José families, often for several generations. They have been thrown out of their businesses with little more consideration or ceremony than that of a drunk tourist using the san an fountains as a toilet. The mayor has shafted the existing owners, and shafting those you can, but not those who will shaft you back is, well, it’s a bit yuk really isn’t it?
And if it is all about raising funds we must question why San José seems to have ignored some quite legitimate means of raising money. We reported only 3 weeks ago, that San Jose has been failing to collect one million euros per year in Cadastral. Legitimate, clean, and ongoing. Yet we ignore that in favour of an auction/circus.
But perhaps it is me out of step. Perhaps the people of San Josep are content to work with people based purely on their financial standing, and with total disregard to their character? I think not.
The mayor says that we the people, and I can include myself as a tax paying resident of San Jose, will be pleased that this additional income will improve our environment, our water supply etc. Well I for one, am not.
It should be about more than money. In our private lives we all choose our own direction on the moral compass, and so in public life it is all the more important that we have leaders that demonstrate a clear and strong focus on the right direction – simply put that being ‘doing the right thing’.
If our leaders do not recognise that basic premise we may as well get ready for a great San Jose flog off.
Let us rent giant advertising space in the Ses Salines Nature Reserve, complete with corporate sponsored wildlife. Why not? It is just about the money.
And perhaps for a true piece of Alan B’Stard, in future why not revise the allocation of appointments at the health centre? Forget appointments being allocated in order of requests – where is the money in that? Forget urgent appointments being given on something as entirely unprofitable as the medical need. Instead why not auction off appointment slots to the highest bidder? If you can’t pay get to the back of the queue. Don’t be moaning that you can’t compete on your state pension. Stop whining about irrelevancies such as your ever declining health. We don’t care. We need the money. That is all that matters.
Should I apologise for that?
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