NEWS FROM AROUND THE REGION

with Madeleine McMullin

Perpignan’s “Disappeared”

The alleged killer of Perpignan Station is to be sent to the Assize Court for trial, according to a judgement handed down on 9th Jan. The trial will take place within one year and the accused faces life in prison.

Fiona’s mother to remain in jail

Fiona was a 5 year old girl who disappeared near Clermont Ferrand whose body was never found. Her mother had been acquitted of having caused the death of her daughter by voluntary violence but was sentenced to 5 years in prison for not helping a person in danger and faking a crime scene as she claimed that the girl disappeared in a park on 12 May 2013. Her ex-partner was sentenced to 20 years for the death. An appeal was lodged and came to trial on 10th January, but the sentences were upheld, preventing the mother from returning to Perpignan which was her stated intention.

La Vuelta coming to Prades

La Vuelta, the Spanish equivalent of the Tour de France will visit both the Aude and the P-O. On 20th August there will be a stage from Nimes to Gruissan, followed the next day by one from Prades to Andorra. This is good news for both the town and the countryside along the route as it will bring a large number of competitors, staff and spectators who will all spend money.

Céret’s mimosa shining across the country

Mimosa from Céret is being sent to florists and supermarkets round France. The season this year started slightly later than last, which is a good thing according to Etienne Arnaudiès, in charge at the Céret co-op. “People don’t want mimosa on the table at Christmas”.  She added that the season is very short as they are not interested for Valentine’s Day either. 3 producers in Céret bring around 3-4 tonnes per year to the co-op and around 100 tonnes is harvested altogether in the departement. Mimosa was brought into France from Australia in the 19th century by overwintering Britons. It likes the acidic soil in the Vallespir where it flowers from December to March. The Co-op started selling it in 2015 with one producer, now grown to 3. It sells by the kilo rather than the piece and fetches around €3 per kilo.

Freestyle skiing world cup in Font Romeu

The slope style stage of the freestyle skiing world cup is being held now in Font Romeu. Training is already underway at the resort where artificial snow was originally used to sculpt the obstacles. It has since snowed so conditions are perfect for the competition which should see at least 126 athletes compete with 36 taking part in the finals on Saturday 14th January. Find out more on the FIS website.

Flood simulation exercises in schools

12 collèges in the P-O took part in “Opération Aïguat”, which took place simultaneously in coastal schools across the Occitanie Region on 12th July.  This year participation was voluntary but it may be made obligatory from next year.   “Aïguat” is the name used by Catalans for floods.  Schools carried out their own flood reaction plans once the alert had been sounded.  In some cases the town halls and emergency services of the communes were also involved.

Suspected corruption link to Carré d’or shopping centre

The Spanish press have reported that the police are investigating Jordi Pujol Ferrusola, a Catalan businessman from south of the border, for corruption and money laundering perpetrated in Perpignan.  He is the eldest son of Jordi Pujol, the President of the Generalitat of Catalogna from 1980 – 2003, who has himself been under investigation for a political scandal linked to tax evasion for 2 and a half years.

El Confidencial reported on a €900,000 loan by Jordi Pujol Ferrusola via Marketing i Inversions SA to Parc Saint-Julien SARL who were represented by the Perpignan estate agent, Francis Gendre, a Perpignan councillor from 1995 – 2001.  In exchange for the loan which was to build a shopping centre at the Carré d’or, the Perpignan promoter guaranteed 5 buildings with a surface area of 3980m² and a plot of land of 2ha.  Mr Pujol Ferrusola also took on 22.5% of the shares of the company.  The Spanish police feel that this hints at “criminal acts” as the money was not paid directly to the company but into a notarial office’s account.  In Spain this would point to money laundering as the notary would have to trace the funds.

The land was bought for €750,00 in October 2006 with a subsequent value of €4 million.  Another company, Active Translation, also loaned €500,000 in April 2014.  The police suspect that this was part of a larger operation by Mr Pujol Ferrusola to expatriate his money from Spain to avoid any court ruling against him.

Mr Gendre pronounced himself “calm” but would not comment further.  Jean-Paul Alduy, the mayor of Perpignan from 1993 – 2009 expressed surprise about the fuss, saying that “Francis Gendre is a friend and someone that I hold in high esteem.  He left the council in 2001 when he was in charge of the municipal police files and I let him go because there was a possible conflict of interest given his activities as a real estate promoter.  I gave planning permission for the Carré d’Or but at that point it was to be dedicated to kitting out houses, with an eco bent with positive energy and geothermic buildings as well as rainwater catchment.  I had already left in 2010 when there was a new construction permit with a complete change of direction”.

The shopping centre has been inauspicious since the start: it only opened its doors in 2015 without any fanfare, and has struggled to survive since.

Fire on tuna boat

A 35m long x 8m wide tuna boat that was being built by Martinez in Port Vendres went up in flames on 6th January.  The fire was eventually brought under control by the emergency services but the boat is irreparable and the damage caused to the shipyard means that it will be shut till April.  The contract to build the boat was worth €35 million and was due to be finished in 4 months’ time.  The Prefect went to the scene to assure the shipyard, its employees and the company that ordered the boat that the State would help.  A plan is being put in place to provide compensation for temporary layoffs and possible training to help give the employees extra skills that they can use when back at work,   The boat was ordered by local ship owners Christophe and Frédéric Fontanet.  It represents a big investment for a very short fishing period with EU quotas in place.  The boat was supposed to be fishing by the spring.

Rammed door of the gendarmerie

A man in his 40s drove a large van into the gendarmerie doors at 1am on 6th January.  He was caught 2m into the entrance.  He wanted to prevent the arrest of someone close to him, but has ended up in court himself.

Perpignan mayor’s plans for 2017

The notable projects covered in this interview with the mayor are as follow: 1) changing the town theatre into an amphitheatre has started with the first phase progressing normally. 2) The mayor wants to see the Palais de Justice stay in the town centre and to extend the tribunal along la Basse to the “palais consulaire”.  3) The new Rigaud Museum should be open on 25th June with a Picasso exhibition.  4) Further events will be put in place on Saturdays to try to support town centre shops, as the ones at Christmas were such as success.  5) A sheltered housing project for the elderly with 210 beds and a further 110 care beds will go ahead at a cost of €40 million. 6) Work on the Roussillon health centre (pôle de santé de Roussillon) (€70 million) should start.  7) The shopping centre “El centre del Mon” has been taking on by a local investor and premises will be up for sale rather than rent.  The investors got it for a good price and can make a margin, and with other investment in the district it should come back to life.  8) There will also be a new industrial estate of 40,000m² which will allow St Charles to be extended.

Madeleine McMullin lives in Palalda from where she runs her marketing business Marketing66.  She has worked both in the UK and abroad, with big brand names in the interiors and design industries such as Wedgwood, Denby, Sebastian Conran, Laura Ashley, Hemingway Design……..

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