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Shakira agreed to a deal with Spanish authorities on Monday (Nov. 20) on the first day of a $15 million tax fraud trial in Barcelona that could have resulted in a significant prison sentence for the singer. According to the Associated Press, after maintaining her innocence for five years, the star agreed to a last-minute agreement, telling the presiding magistrate, José Manuel del Amo, that she accepted the agreement reached with prosecutors.
Shakira answered “yes” to confirm her acknowledgement of six counts of failing to pay the Spanish government 14.5 million euros (about $15.8 million) in taxes between 2012 and 2014. Under the agreement, Shakira will receive a suspended three-year sentence and pay a $7.6 million fine.
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In a statement shared with Billboard, Shakira said that throughout her career she has 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 such as PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited, who advised me from the start, and subsequently Ernst & Young Global Limited.”
Unfortunately, she added, despite those efforts she said Spanish tax authorities pursued a case against her, “as they have against many professional athletes and other high-profile individuals, draining those people’s energy, time, and tranquility for years at a time.”
Shakira said she was determined to defend her innocence at trial where her lawyers were confident she’d prevail, but decided to finally resolve the 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.”
According to the AP, the trial that would have included more than 100 witnesses over the next few weeks adjourned after just eight minutes. In July, prosecutors said they would seek an eight year prison sentence and a fine of $26 million for the 46-year-old singer, with the case hinging on where Shakira lived during the period in question. Prosecutors alleged that the star spent more than half of that time in Spain and should have therefore paid takes on her worldwide income in the country despite listing the Bahamas as her official residence; tax rates are much lower in the Bahamas than in Spain.
“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,” Shakira wrote in the statement. “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.”
In July 2022, Shakira turned down a deal offered by prosecutors to settle the case, saying at the time that she “believes in her innocence and chooses to leave the issue in the hands of the law.” The singer’s spokespeople had previously said she already paid all that she owed plus an additional $3.2 million in interest.
Shakira’s defense team said in November 2022 that she had not spent more than 60 days a year inside Spain during the period in question; they said she would have needed to have spent half the year in Spain to be considered a fiscal resident. Her defense argued that she was away from Barcelona for long stretches due to a 2011 world tour and spent time in the U.S. when she was on The Voice.
Prosecutors disagreed, with the judge writing in 2021 that he found there was “sufficient evidence of criminality” for the case to go to trial. 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. Spain has cracked down on soccer stars such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo over the past decade for not paying their full taxes; both were found guilty of evasion but avoided prison time after their sentences were suspended.
Shakira (born Shakira Esabel Mebarak Ripoll) has two children with Barcelona soccer star ex Gerard Piqué; the couple lived together in Barcelona before ending their 11-year relationship last year.
At Thursday’s 2023 Latin Grammy awards, Shakira performed “Acróstico,” an emotional, open letter to her children and gave a shout-out to her fans all over the world at the awards show in Seville, Spain. “I want to share this Grammy with my colleagues with whom I have had the pleasure of working and learning,” the Colombian singer said in acceptance speech for best pop song (“Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vo. 53”).
“With my Latin audience in Spain, in Colombia, in the United States, in Latin America. The Latin public that has taken me to the highest heights, those places I dreamed of since I was a child and to whom I owe everything,” she added. “I also want to share this with my Spanish public who has been with me through thick and thin … who have never stopped giving me love and support for a single day. I will never forget that. This is for you.”
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