Valencian Government 'sinks' yet more Expat lives
In a move which has provoked outrage amongst the British Expatriate yachting and boating community, the Government of Valencia has hit out at foreign boat owners who are moored in its Costa Blanca marinas and harbours.
With no warning, the Autonomous Government, already criticised as being amongst Spain’s least transparent, has started to enforce a twenty year old law which had lain forgotten on the statute books.
Without warning, an ‘import’ tax has been imposed on boat owners by the Government and failure to pay this substantial sum has resulted in seizure of privately owned vessels.
Up to 12% of the vessel’s value is demanded in payment and this obscure tax appears unique to Valencia and is not to be found anywhere else in Spain or indeed, the European Union.
This is the latest twist in the Valencian Government’s apparent ‘hate’ campaign directed against Expats who choose to live in the region, already overshadowed by the controversial ‘LRAU land grab laws’ which has seen many foreign owned homes and properties seized back and developed resulting in a massive bills being incurred by the property owner, many of whom have been forced to sell their homes to settle the ‘debt.’ Despite a European Court ruling where this practise was declared unlawful, the Valencian authorities have ignored the judgement and now face a second court case brought about by boat owners who are described by some as living in a climate of fear.
52 year old Tony Maxted, a retired engineer from North Yorkshire is one of many affected. His boat is moored in the Torrevieja Marina where he had genuinely thought that the payment of mooring fees was sufficient to comply with all laws. He and his wife had been living on their boat for some two years and were about to head out for a day’s sail when, without warning, they were boarded by heavily armed police and virtually arrested and told they would not be permitted to move until the tax was paid. Mr. Maxted responded by making some urgent telephone calls in order to arrange to have his boat valued by an officially registered assessor and then made further arrangements to pay the 2,000 Euro tax. This was merely the beginning of an ongoing bureaucratic nightmare however, as he then received a bill for a further 3,500 Euros to have the vessel formally registered and was then denied the right to sail his own vessel, a 33 foot cruiser, unless he first passed a locally enforced ‘Skipper’s Examination’, conducted entirely in Spanish.
Mr. Maxted is now one of many British boat owners who possess UK based qualifications which are not recognised by the Valencian Government and who are left in the difficult position of having to consider selling their vessels in what is already a depressed economy.
Peter Paulsen, British owner of ‘Safety Yacht Services’ in the massive Torrevieja marina said, “Business is already bad here but if they [the Valencian Government] carry on doing this, they will drive all the people away to friendlier ports.”
One Briton, originally from Salford, who has asked to remain unnamed has already clashed with the authorities by refusing to pay the taxes and to take the matter to the highest courts. Fearful of being targeted by the police, he said, “We are joining forces and are preparing a legal defence and we will take it all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if we have to.” The man added, “It’s a constant worry that the next boat to be impounded will be ours. If that were the case, we would be forced to abandon it and return to England as we have no spare cash at all. No one wants their retirement dreams to end this way.”
As has been seen with the LRAU land ‘grab backs’, and the ongoing struggles of British and other house purchasers along the Costa Blanca to obtain permissions to reside in the thousands of illegally built houses they bought in good faith, the Spanish Courts are very bureaucratic and notoriously slow and more likely to rule in favour of their own interests. All local and national jurisdictions must be first tried and exhausted before any case can be taken to the European Courts and so the affected boat owners are likely to be waiting for many years for an outcome and they will be forced to join the long queues of those taking legal action in respect of their properties, many of which are without water or electricity supply.
When asked to comment, a local representative of the Port Office simply shrugged his shoulders and remarked, ‘This is Spain.’
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