By Chris Jewers and Gerard Couzens In Barcelona
09:28 20 Nov 2023, updated 16:47 20 Nov 2023
- The global superstar arrived at a Barcelona courthouse on Monday to attend the first day of her £12.5m trial which had been expected to run until December 14
- But it was quickly announced she had reached a settlement that both allows her to avoid jail time sought by prosecutors and end the trial before it even began
Shakira has blasted Spanish authorities for targeting ‘high-profile individuals’ after she was hit with a £6.4million fine on top of a £15million tax bill for financial fraud – which she insists she only pleaded guilty to for the sake of her children.
The Colombian pop superstar was handed the seven-figure fine as part of a deal that both allows her to swerve jail time and puts an end to a lengthy fraud trial in Barcelona before it even began.
The singer, who has a net worth of roughly £240 million, insisted she was innocent but said she had made the decision to ‘spare my children seeing their mother sacrifice her well-being’.
‘I admire tremendously those who have fought these injustices to the end, but for me, today, winning is getting my time back for my kids and my career,’ she said in a statement.
She also blasted the Spanish authorities for pursuing her, saying her case was similar to others which have seen authorities go after ‘athletes and other high-profile individuals’. Such cases, she said, drain ‘those people’s energy, time, and tranquillity for years at a time.’
The singer will be fined £6.4 million (€7.3m) for the six tax fraud crimes she confessed to as part of the deal announced in court today, less than a third of the amount prosecutors were seeking.
She had already repaid the tax which Spanish officials had accused her of dodging – which with interest on top came to nearly £15 million (€17m). She will also have to pay a fine of £378,000 (€432,000) to avoid prison.
The global superstar arrived at a Barcelona courthouse on Monday to attend the first day of her trial for allegedly defrauding the Spanish state of £12.5 million (€14.5m) on income earned between 2012 and 2014.
Wearing a pink suit and sunglasses, the 46-year-old arrived outside the building just before 10am (0900 GMT). She blew a kiss to onlookers before she headed up the court steps and disappeared into the building, looking calm and relaxed.
READ MORE: Shakira takes a vicious swipe at ex Gerard Piqué while accepting an award in front of their sons
It was quickly announced that she had reached the settlement, with Shakira (full name Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll) telling the presiding judge that she had accepted the agreement reached with prosecutors.
Judge Jose Manuel del Amo asked Shakira to take the stand after the lawyers involved in the case confirmed in open court a deal had been reached.
He asked the singer, dressed in her eye-catching pink suit: ‘Do you accept the charges against you and the new replacement penalties you are facing.’
Shakira replied: ‘I do.’
Mr Manuel del Amo then confirmed that in light of the settlement, he was handing the artist a three year prison sentence, six months for each of the six counts of tax fraud she had admitted to.
But he added her prison time would be substituted by a fine, meaning she will not have to go to jail.
In a statement released by her representatives after the settlement had been announced, the singer said: ‘Throughout my career, I have always strived to do what’s right and set a positive example for others.
‘That often means taking the extra step in business and personal financial decisions to procure the absolute best counsel, including seeking the advice of the world’s preeminent tax authorities PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited and Ernst & Young Global Limited who have been my advisers during this whole process.
‘Unfortunately, and despite these efforts, tax authorities in Spain pursued a case against me as they have against many professional athletes and other high-profile individuals, draining those people’s energy, time, and tranquillity for years at a time.
‘While I was determined to defend my innocence in a trial that my lawyers were confident would have ruled in my favour, I have made the decision to finally resolve this matter with the best interest of my kids at heart who do not want to see their mom sacrifice her personal well-being in this fight,’ she added.
‘I need to move past the stress and emotional toll of the last several years and focus on the things I love – my kids and all the opportunities to come in my career, including my upcoming world tour and my new album, both of which I am extremely excited about. I admire tremendously those who have fought these injustices to the end, but for me, today, winning is getting my time back for my kids and my career.’
The case was set to centre on how much time the singer, whose hit singles include ‘Hips Don’t Lie’, ‘Whenever, Wherever’ and the 2010 World Cup song ‘Waka Waka’, spent in Spain between 2012 and 2014.
Spanish authorities alleged Shakira – dubbed the Queen of Latin Pop – spent more than half of that period in Spain and therefore should have paid taxes in the country.
They said she moved to Spain after her relationship with former FC Barcelona star defender Gerard Pique became public in 2011, but maintained official tax residency in the Bahamas until 2015.
In its indictment, the prosecution claimed Shakira ‘used a set of companies’ based in tax havens ‘with the intention of not paying’ tax in Spain.
Shakira was named in the ‘Paradise Papers’ leaks that detailed the offshore tax arrangements of numerous high-profile individuals, including musical celebrities like Madonna and U2’s Bono.
The defence team for Shakira, the Barcelona-based firm Molins Defensa Penal, said in November 2022 that she had not spent more than 60 days a year inside the country during the period in question, adding she would have needed to have spent half the year in Spain to be considered a fiscal resident.
Her defence argued that she was living a ‘nomadic life’ away from Barcelona for long stretches on a world tour in 2011 and then spent a lot of time in the United States as part of a jury for the NBC television music talent show The Voice.
Shakira’s lawyers said she only moved permanently to Barcelona just 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,’ she told Elle magazine in 2022.
Spanish prosecutors disagreed, and the investigating judge, Marco Juberías, wrote in 2021 on the conclusion of the three-year probe into the charges that he found there existed ‘sufficient evidence of criminality’ for the case to go to trial.
Shakira defended her innocence when she was questioned by Juberías in 2019.
She lost an appeal to have the case thrown out last year.
Prosecutors were seeking a jail term of eight years and two months, and a fine of nearly 24 million euros for the singer.
Shakira’s public relations firm said she had already paid all that she owed (14.5 million euros) and an additional 3 million euros (about £2.6 million) in interest.
This, on top of the 7.6 million euro fine and the 432,000 euros to avoid jail time, comes roughly to 25.5 million euros – meaning she will have paid back slightly more than the amount prosecutors were seeking when all is said and done.
Shakira had turned down a deal offered to her by prosecutors to settle her case in July 2022, saying, via her Spanish public relations firm Llorente y Cuenca, that she ‘believes in her innocence and chooses to leave the issue in the hands of the law.’
The details of that potential deal were not made public.
Shakira announced her split from Pique in June 2022 after a decade-long relationship, ending what had been one of the world’s most famous celebrity couples. She moved to Miami in April with their two sons, Milan and Sasha.
Her high-profile trial had been expected to run until December 14, with the court scheduled to hear from nearly 120 witnesses.
In a separate investigation, Spanish state prosecutors charged Shakira in September with alleged evasion of 6.7 million euros in tax on her 2018 income. They accused her of using an offshore company based in a tax haven to avoid paying the tax.
Neither the artist nor her lawyer commented on weekend reports suggesting she would agree to a last-minute deal with prosecutors to avoid the ‘damaging’ trial.
Respected Spanish newspaper El Mundo sensationally claimed at the weekend she was finalising a deal to avoid trial.
It reported ‘everything was pointing’ to the mother-of-two not having to do prison time, saying: ‘In the last few days Shakira’s lawyers have intensified their contact, both in person and remotely, with state prosecution representatives and contacts that represent the interest of Spain’s Tax Agency.
‘It appears both sides will reach an agreement in which the artist will admit to her crime, will pay a high sum of money as a fine, and will receive a prison sentence of less than two years which she won’t have to serve because she has no existing criminal record in Spain.’
It cited sources close to Shakira as saying she insisted she had committed no wrongdoing but wanted to spare herself a long high-profile trial that could be detrimental to her image.
Separate Spanish reports over the weekend said Shakira had summoned her legal team to the former family home she shared with Pique on Sunday night for a two-hour summit to discuss the trial and a possible settlement.
Spain has cracked down on football stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo over the past decade for not paying their full due in taxes.
The former Barcelona and Real Madrid stars were found guilty of evasion but both avoided prison time after their sentences were suspended.
Shakira, whose full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, has two children, Milan and Sasha, with Barcelona soccer star Gerard Pique.
The couple lived together in Barcelona before ending their 11-year relationship last year. Since then, she has resided in Miami.
After triumphing at the Latin Grammy Awards gala in Seville on Thursday, Shakira thanked her fans in Spain for ‘being with me in the good times and the bad.’