A judge in Spain ruled that Colombian singer and global superstar Shakira should stand trial on allegations of tax fraud. This novelty comes after the singer and the Spanish government failed to reach an agreement this summer. In July, Shakira issued her first public statement on the matter: “The prosecution has resorted to improper means to exert pressure, as they do daily and unfairly with thousands of taxpayers for profit.”
What are the charges?
The Spanish government accused Shakira of defrauding the country of 14.5 million euros in taxes (about $13.9 million) between 2012 and 2014. Three separate government entities charged her with six tax offences. The crux of the discussion lies in whether the singer lived in Spain during that time, or did she technically spend more than 183 days in the country, which would qualify her as a resident of Spain for tax purposes.
Shakira claims, however, that she was a resident of the Bahamas during that time period. She moved to Barcelona in 2015, where she lived with her then-partner Gerard Piqué, a footballer for FC Barcelona, until recently. The Spanish government first accused the musician of tax fraud in 2018.
Technically, the state concluded its investigation in July 2021, but Shakira’s defense filed an appeal to try to stop the trial, which they lost. If the defense had accepted the guilty plea and returned the money, essentially admitting her guilt, the prosecution would have significantly reduced or nullified the prison term.
If found guilty of all charges, the artist would face a prison sentence of eight years and two months, as well as a fine of 23.7 million euros. The prosecution has said that the alleged crimes are especially serious because they claim that Shakira used companies in tax havens to hide her income.
How has Shakira responded?
Shakira strongly denies all allegations of tax fraud. In an interview with elle magazine last week, the Grammy winner said she was refusing to settle with Spanish authorities because she could prove she was not a resident of the country during that three-year period.
“I have to fight for what I believe in; because they are false accusations”, said Shakira elle. “First of all, I didn’t spend 183 days a year at that time. I was busy fulfilling my professional commitments around the world.”
“Second, I paid everything they said I owed, even before they filed a lawsuit,” she continued. “So, as of today, I don’t owe them anything. And finally, I was advised by one of the four largest specialist tax firms in the world, PricewaterhouseCoopers, so I had confidence that I was doing things correctly and transparently from day one.”
The singer alleged that prosecutors had enlisted a “saucy press campaign” to try to sway public opinion, and that they knew the reputational damage could force her to settle.
“It is well known that the Spanish tax authorities often do this not only with celebrities like me (or [Cristiano] Ronaldo, Neymar, [Xabi] Alonso, and many more), also happens unfairly to the regular taxpayer,” she said. “But I am confident that I have enough evidence to support my case and that justice will prevail in my favor.”
What happens next?
Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were found guilty of tax evasion, but neither went to prison due to a provision that allows a judge to pardon sentences of less than two years for first-time offenders. A similar option had been on the table for Shakira: The two sides discussed reducing the prison sentence to two years, and prosecutors agreed to potentially stay the sentence. That option disappeared when the defense rejected the agreement.
Although a date for the trial has not yet been set, this decision marks a point of no return: now there is no other option than for Shakira to be tried. The Barcelona judge, Ana Duro, has said that the trial will take place once she has received the necessary qualifying documents from both parties.
The possibility of reaching an agreement, however, remains open until the day of trial. And in the meantime, the judge has ruled that the singer will not face any precautionary measures, such as house arrest.