Lebanese-Colombian superstar Shakira settled a deal with Spanish authorities on the first day of a tax fraud trial in Barcelona on Monday, avoiding the risk of a prison sentence.
The pop star, who has won over fans worldwide for her hits in Spanish and English in different musical genre, told the presiding magistrate, José Manuel del Amo, that she accepted the agreement reached with prosecutors.
She answered “yes” to confirm her acknowledgment of six counts of failing to pay the Spanish government 14.5 million euros ($15.8 million) in taxes between 2012 and 2014.
Under the deal, Shakira is to receive a suspended three-year sentence and a fine of 7 million euros ($7.6 million).
The trial, which would have included more than 100 witnesses over the following weeks, was called off after just eight minutes.
In July, Prosecutors announced that they would seek a prison sentence of eight years and two months and a fine of 24 million euros ($26 million) for the multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy winner.
The case hinged on where Shakira, now 46, lived during that period. Prosecutors in Barcelona have alleged that the Colombian singer spent more than half of that period in Spain and therefore should have paid taxes on her worldwide income in the country even though her official residence was still in the Bahamas. Tax rates are much lower in the Bahamas than in Spain.
“This has been a difficult decision that took time to reach, a tough decision that is motivated by her desire to focus on raising of her children and her professional career,” defense lawyer Miriam Company told reporters.
“Her legal team had prepared the trial and were convinced we could demonstrate her innocence, but the circumstances changed and (Shakira) opted to accept the deal,”.
Shakira 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 deal were not made public.
The singer was named in the “Paradise Papers” leaks that detailed the offshore tax arrangements of numerous high-profile individuals, including music icons such as Madonna and U2’s Bono.
Her public relations firm had previously said that she had already paid all that she owed and an additional 3 million euros (about $3.2 million) in interest.
In November 2022, the defense team for Shakira, the Barcelona firm Molins Defensa Penal, said 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 defense argued that she was 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.
Spanish prosecutors disagreed, and the investigating judge, Marco Juberías, wrote in 2021 on the conclusion of a three-year probe into the charges that he found there existed “sufficient evidence of criminality” for the case to go to trial.
The singer defended her innocence when she was questioned by Juberías in 2019. She lost an appeal to have the case thrown out last year.
Shakira, whose full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, established her fiscal residency in Spain in 2014, at the same time, her oldest child enrolled in school in Barcelona, according to her defense team, as she was going to spend more time in the country with her family.
In Spain, an investigative judge carries out an initial probe and decides to throw the case out or send it to trial. A court can waive prison time for first-time offenders if they are sentenced to less than two years behind bars.
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 the singer of using an offshore company based in a tax haven to avoid paying the tax.
Spain has cracked down on soccer stars such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo over the past decade for not paying their full taxes. The former Barcelona and Real Madrid stars were found guilty of evasion but both avoided prison time after their sentences were suspended.
The pop star has two children, Milan, 9, and Sasha, 7, with her now-former partner Gerard Piqué. 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, the 45-year-old singer - dubbed the Queen of Latin Pop - thanked her fans in Spain for “being with me in the good times and the bad.”