This high stakes poker game has been going on for years. Musician Michael Cretu built a villa the size of a village on top of a hill near Santa Agnes.
However, this was not actually allowed according to Spanish law. Despite this, the Sant Antoni municipality gave the green light to the project, providing him with all the necessary permits. It now appears that demolition is inevitable. Cretu has threatened to sue for damages if it comes to that – to the tune of 18 million euros. Many speak of this giant estate, but hardly anyone has actually seen it. We got aerial photos of the compound. You can see the blue wing of the aircraft to the left.
At the moment it still conspicuously crowns the hilltop near Sant Agnes, but in just a few weeks the villa of the Rumanian musician Michael Cretu could lie in ruins between the pines. To be precise – on November 1st. This is the deadline that the administrative court in Palma de Mallorca gave to the Sant Antoni municipality for demolition of the illegally constructed mega-estate, and it is just the beginning of the troubles plaguing the main actors in this scandal.
|Cretu’s lawyer Jaime Roig assures us that his client has all of the permits for his house and acted appropriately. The lawyer believes that if a rich Ibicencan had built the house this would never have happened…|
In the ast few days the highest court in Palma has also decreed that criminal proceedings in the Cretu case would be ongoing. This means that the lord of the manor himself, as well as Sant Antoni’s former, Mayor Antonio Mari Tur (People’s Party/PP), the architects and several of the city councillors responsible for the construction and planning permits will continue to remain in the sights of the judiciary. They all stand accused of violating environmental protections laws and ignoring land-use regulations.
However, the centre of attention in all these rapid-fire events in this Sant Antoni construction and political scandal is the planned demolition of the Cretu villa. The estate, for which the musician received a construction permit from the municipality in 1997, includes more than 1,000 square metres of living space. Cretu uses it as residence for himself and his family, as well as a recording studio. It’s assessed land registry value is 8.4 million euros.
However, there are doubts about the supposed 1,000 square metres of living space approved in the planning permission and the assessed value of 8.4 million euros. Looking at our aerial photo, the pool alone has a size of about 1,000 square metres. In comparison, the house itself would have to be at least 3,000 to 4,000 square metres – and from above we’re looking at only one level. Many of the buildings in the complex have two storeys, in addition to an underground level. Meanwhile, Cretu himself makes the assessed value of 8.4 million euros argument absurd as, for years, he has been threatening a lawsuit through his lawyer for total damages of 18 million euros in the event of demolition.
Getting back to the demolition, just over a year ago engineers from the local town hall took a tour of the villa to make initial preparations for the demolition. Since that time no further action has been taken. Now the administrative court finally wants to see its decision enacted. If the building is still standing on November 1st there are financial sanctions for which the mayor will be held personally responsible. And this doesn’t mean a slap on the wrist.
As the recent case of an illegal construction on Mallorca shows, the mayor could be fined up to 600 euros for each week of delay. If this doesn’t have the desired effect, the court could then sequester his wages or place a lien on his property to cover the fines. Mayor Jose Sala Torres (PP) seems resigned to his fate, stating, “I will do what has to be done.” At the same time he has made it clear that he would prefer a solution that doesn’t involve demolition. He further stated, “It seems barbaric to demolish a house worth so much, which I’ve pointed out time and again.”
He finds this solution completely disproportionate, and also feels that public opinion in Sant Antoni backs his position. In fact a public innitiative has begun to create a petition against the demolition. What Torres imagines as an alternative? “Compensation for damages, purchase of the property and the use as a public residential estate or something like that.” Torres has even roughly outlined how this might be accomplished – by declaring the house an object of public interest by decree. “If such a law was enacted it would have my support.”
|In April 1997 Cretu received a permit from the Sant Antoni municipality and the Island Council commission responsible to build a villa on a hill near Santa Agnes of more than 1,000 square metres. There were a number of controversies surrounding the project even before construction started. For one, Cretu was building on the top of a hill, which isn’t allowed under Spanish law. Additionally, construction cannot take place above 200 metres in a natural protected area, which is how the area is classified, and the house is built at about 220 metres above sea level. Furthermore, no large buildings for commercial purposes, for example a music studio, are allowed.
The environmental organisation GEN pointed out all of these points to Antonio Mari Tur, the mayor at the time, in writing on a number of occasions. Those responsible not only ignored the complaints, they took it a step further and attempted to rebut the arguments of the environmentalists. One of the strangest counter-arguments coming from the town hall was the claim that the building was not located on the top of a hill, even though everyone could see that it was actually located atop the hill. Shortly thereafter GEN filed an official complaint with the public prosecutor’s office. In 2001 the highest court in Palma declared the building illegal and stipulated that the area must be returned to its natural state. Cretu and the Sant Antoni municipality both appealed against the decision, which was dismissed in 2002. The highest court confirmed the original decision on a number of occasions and Sant Antoni was called upon to enforce the decision within two months.
Surprisingly, at the end of 2003 the Balearic Islands parliament passed a law, at the request of the Ibicencan Island Council, that only applied on Ibiza and Formentera. It stated that homes in rural areas could be made legal after the fact if they were located at a height of between 200 and 250 metres above sea level. Despite this gambit, the highest court again confirmed the decision for demolition. Then, in 2006 came the decision of the Ibicencan investigating judge, Juan Carlos Torres, who suggested putting the penal proceedings, including those against former mayor Tur amongst others, on ice. In 2007 GEN and the public prosecutor’s office appealed against this decision and their appeal was upheld by the highest court.
This all begs the question of how the current owner Michael Cretu has reacted to the impending wrecking ball. “Up to this point there has been no official statement made by the authorities about the demolition”, says the Ibicencan lawyer Jaime Roig. “But we won’t make it easy for them. We really hope that the house will be preserved”. From mayor Torres’s point of view, Cretu is still living on the hill above Santa Agnes at the moment. However, who exactly is living in the villa right now is not known. Cretu’s lawyer would make no comment on this question. Cretu and his ex-wife, the German singer Sandra and their two children, have periodically resided in the villa, but the couple divorced several years ago.
It is more than likely that he will sue the municipality for damages if the house is demolished. At least that’s what he said through his lawyer two years ago, and that he would be claiming 18 million euros in damages (IbizaNOW covered the story at the time). From his point of view, he is in possession of a legal construction permit. As Cretu put it back then, he relied on the statements of his architects and experts.
Whether Cretu and the other protagonists will prevail with this argument remains to be seen. What is clear is that continuing investigations into a variety of offences in connection with the construction are underway again. The high court’s decision to continue with the criminal proceedings is a powerful slap in the face to the previous Ibicencan investigating judge, Juan Carlos Torres. He recently wanted to shelve the entire investigation. He reasoned that possible offences hadn’t been sufficiently proven. He also claimed that there were no clear indications of potential violations of the law. In addition, possible breaches of environmental and construction law have now passed the statute of limitations.
This legal interpretation was considered somewhat suspect and it remains unclear how exactly the judge reached these decisions. The Ibicencan environmental organisation Grup d’Estduis de la Naturaleza (GEN), and the public prosecutor’s office in Palma both appealed against the judge’s decisions. Neus Prats from GEN stated, “The investigating judge’s decision defies belief. The legal situation is clear – the building is illegal.”
The high court in Palma was persuaded by this argument and made mincemeat of all of the arguments for closing the case made by Judge Torres. There was no doubt that the house was built on top of a hill, which is illegal, and that the building permit was classified as illegal seven years ago.
The question remaining is whether or not the judicial tug-of-war over the demolition will continue. In the past the municipality and Cretu have done everything possible, pulled out all the stops to prevent this ‘worst-case scenario’. It is doubtful that this will work again.
Neus Prats of GEN says, “The decision is set in stone and cannot be appealed.” This has been re-confirmed by the high court in Madrid, the highest court of appeal in this case. But Cretu’s lawyer is one of the best – and usually keeps a few trump cards up his sleeve. It remains to be seen, however, if he actually has the cards or if his bluff has finally been called.
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