Bribes and backhanders between developers and town
planners have been commonplace

The Costa del Sol region in southern Spain is usually associated with white sand beaches, lush tropical forests and year-round beautiful warm weather. 

It is no wonder the Costa del Sol attracts more than two million tourists a year - and thousands of property developers. 

But the booming housing market has brought few benefits to residents.

Besides claims about the ruin of the landscape and the quality of life going down, locals point to the vast corruption and crime taking place in the town councils. 

Because the councils are not given government funding to provide services to the community, they turn to developers for help in exchange for planning permits.

Jeffrey Wilson and his wife own property which
now has a demolition order hanging over it
It is a vicious circle - and one that makes it easy for officials to pocket cash for themselves.

The Spanish authorities now estimate that about 30,000 illegal homes were built in Marbella, a district on the Costa del Sol, over the last decade.

They have since set up a specialist police force to investigate corruption in urban planning.

As a result, hundreds of Spanish, British and German families are now seeing their family homes demolished. 

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This episode of People & Power aired from Wednesday, January 30, 2008.

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