The tax evasion trial for Shakira was set to begin in Barcelona but took a turn when it was announced that she had reached to settle the years-long legal dispute. She had initially faced an eight-year prison sentence and a fine of 24 million euros related to accusations that she had evaded taxes in the years 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Shakira, whose full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, was born in Colombia in 1977. Her debut album, Magia, hit the charts in 1990 when she was just 13 years old. Within a decade, she had sold millions of albums and became a household name.
In 2010, Shakira recorded the catchy “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa),” the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. She met then-FC Barcelona footballer Gerard Piqué while filming the video for the song (he retired from FC Barcelona in 2022).
Before that, the singer—perhaps more synonymous with soccer than any other pop star—made her World Cup debut in 2006, performing her hit song, “Hips Don’t Lie,” during the closing ceremony in Germany. She subsequently appeared in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil to sing the anthem, “La La La (Brazil).” (Fun fact: Piqué also made an appearance in Shakira’s video for that song).
Shortly after, the pair were officially an item. Shakira gave birth to the couple’s first son, Milan, in Barcelona in 2013. At the time, news agencies reported that the baby “was born in Barcelona, Spain where Shakira and soccer star Gerard Piqué currently reside.” Two years later, Pique and Shakira announced the birth of another son, Sasha.
The children were largely raised in Barcelona, a fact Shakira appeared to acknowledge in a 2022 Instagram post where she wrote, “Me establecí en Barcelona para darle una estabilidad a mis hijos, la misma que ahora buscamos en otro rincón del mundo al lado de familia, amigos y el mar.” That translates loosely to, “I settled in Barcelona to give my children stability, the same we are now looking for in another corner of the world next to family, friends and the sea.”
Shakira’s residence was precisely the issue in her tax matter. Shakira had previously resided in the tax-friendly Bahamas. According to Spanish authorities, she continued to claim Bahamian residency for tax purposes until 2015, when she changed her official residency to Spain. Because of the difference in residence for tax purposes, the authorities had accused Shakira of failing to pay more than 14.5 million euros ($15.8 million U.S.) in income taxes between 2012 and 2014.
Spanish tax authorities, however, claim that she was a resident of Spain, not the Bahamas, from 2011 through 2014. In response, Shakira reportedly paid more than 20 million euros ($21,891,300 U.S.) to settle part of her alleged tax debt while not admitting that she owed tax. If that sounds familiar, Lionel Messi did something similar, making what he called a “corrective payment” of 5 million euros (then $6.6 million U.S.) to Spanish authorities as a “corrective payment” in 2013. In 2016, a Spanish court found Messi and his father, Jorge Messi, guilty of tax fraud. Messi unsuccessfully appealed the ruling in 2017.
Under Spanish law, if an individual spends at least half of the year plus one day in Spain, the individual is considered a Spanish tax resident and is subject to tax on worldwide income. Allegedly, investigators could not prove with certainty that Shakira lived in the country for at least 183 days in 2012, 2013, or 2014. However, tax authorities claim that absences during those years were sporadic and that between 2012 and 2014, Shakira “had no physical presence for a single day” in the Bahamas.
As part of their efforts to establish residency, tax investigators followed the singer to places she frequented, like her hairdresser. They also tracked Shakira’s activity on social networks like Instagram, where the singer has over 90 million followers.
Shakira has, through her representatives, denied the allegations. However, the singer now says she has reached an agreement with prosecutors. According to the Associated Press, the trial, which was expected to include more than 100 witnesses, was called off after just eight minutes.
As a result of the agreement, Shakira will receive a suspended three-year sentence and must pay a fine of 7.3 million euros ($8 million) in addition to restitution, which includes the previously unpaid taxes and interest. She will also pay another fine of 432,000 euros ($472,000) in exchange for waiving her prison sentence—not unusual for cases involving non-violent crimes. Her legal record will also reflect that she was guilty of tax crimes.
The singer released a statement saying, “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 said. “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.”
She followed up with a message on Instagram declaring, “Una loba como yo siempre escoge la familia / A she wolf will always choose her family,” which translates to, “A wolf like me always chooses family / A she wolf will always choose her family.”
A further request for comment directed to her representatives was not immediately returned.
Shakira still has one battle to fight, this one stemming from new tax evasion charges related to her 2018 income. In that case, Spanish authorities allege that she used an offshore holding company to avoid paying $7.1 million in Spanish taxes.
Shakira was still in a relationship with Piqué at the time. The couple has since gone their separate ways following rumors that the footballer cheated on the pop star. Shakira appeared to fire back with a song with Argentine DJ Bizarrap, “Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53,” regarded as a diss track featuring lyrics like, “I’m worth two 22s,” and “You traded a Rolex for a Casio.”
The video, released earlier this year, has been viewed more than 648 million times.
Last week, the song reeled in a pair of awards, including Song of the Year, at the Latin Grammy Awards. Shakira accepted the prize from Sergio Ramos, Pique’s former soccer rival and Spanish national teammate, who was previously at Real Madrid (he’s now at FC Sevilla).
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