Shakira faces trial in Spanish tax fraud case

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Colombian superstar Shakira faces trial in Barcelona on Monday in a tax fraud case, where Spanish prosecutors are pursuing a jail term of more than eight years for the Grammy-winning singer.

The 46-year-old is accused of defrauding the Spanish state of 14.5 million euros ($15.7 million) in income earned between 2012 and 2014. Shakira denies the charges, asserting that she only relocated to Spain on a full-time basis in 2015.

The case revolves around the amount of time the singer, known for hit singles like “Hips Don’t Lie,” “Whenever, Wherever,” and the 2010 World Cup song “Waka Waka,” spent in Spain between 2012 and 2014.

Spanish authorities assert that Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, often dubbed the Queen of Latin Pop, resided in Spain for more than half of that period and, therefore, should have fulfilled tax obligations in the country.

They contend that she relocated to Spain after her public relationship with former FC Barcelona star defender Gerard Pique in 2011 but maintained official tax residency in the Bahamas until 2015.

According to the prosecution’s indictment, Shakira allegedly “utilized a set of companies” based in tax havens “with the intention of not paying” taxes in Spain.

Prosecutors are aiming for a sentence of eight years and two months, along with a fine of nearly 24 million euros ($24 million), in the case against the singer.

Shakira’s legal team contends that until 2014, she led a “nomadic life,” primarily earning income from international tours. They assert that she permanently relocated to Barcelona shortly before the birth of her second son in January 2015.

“I’ve paid everything they claimed I owed, even before they filed a lawsuit. So, as of today, I owe zero to them,” the singer said in an interview published in Elle magazine in 2022.

Shakira confirmed her separation from Pique in June 2022, concluding a decade-long relationship and bringing to an end one of the world’s most renowned celebrity couples. In April, she relocated to Miami with their two sons, Milan and Sasha.

Her widely publicized trial is scheduled to commence at a Barcelona court at 10 am (0900 GMT) and is anticipated to continue until December 14. The court plans to hear testimony from nearly 120 witnesses.

Although the singer is anticipated to testify during the initial session of the trial, she might seek court permission to be excused from the subsequent hearings.

Given the thorough investigation conducted by Spanish prosecutors to substantiate their case, intimate details of her personal life are likely to surface during the proceedings. This includes interviews with her neighbors, scrutiny of her images on social networks, examination of payments at hairdressers, and even the health clinic she attended during her pregnancy—all conducted to support the prosecution’s allegations.

Inquiries into Shakira’s financial affairs have previously been a subject of discussion.

The renowned Latina artist found herself implicated in one of the most extensive financial document leaks, the “Pandora Papers,” in October 2021. This leak exposed the wealth and tax avoidance strategies of the global elite, particularly highlighting her situation related to residency in the Bahamas.

Spain has recently intensified its efforts to hold celebrities accountable for tax payments, as seen in cases involving football stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, both convicted of evasion. Although they received prison sentences, these were ultimately waived for being first-time offenders.

Shakira’s former partner, Pique, also faced legal consequences, being convicted of tax fraud in 2016 and subsequently directed to pay the tax office 2.1 million euros.

At the Latin Grammy Awards in Seville, southern Spain, on Thursday, the singer secured three awards, notably for song of the year and best pop song. These accolades were for her collaboration with Argentine DJ Bizarrap on “Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53.”

The track features allusions to her ex-partner Pique, including a mention of being burdened with a “debt to the tax office.” Remarkably, the song has garnered nearly 1.5 billion plays on platforms like Spotify and YouTube.