Shakira Appears in Barcelona Court to Testify in Tax Fraud Case

AP Photo/Jens Meyer
Shakira speaks to the crowd during the Global Citizen Festival concert on the eve of the G-20 summit in Hamburg on July 6, 2017.

The Latin star denies charges that she evaded Spanish taxes

Shakira appeared in court in the Barcelona suburb Esplugues de Llobregat on Thursday (June 6) to answer to government charges of evading 14.5 million euro ($16.4 million) in taxes. She is accused of committing six counts of fraud. If found guilty, she faces as-yet unspecified fines and a possible jail sentence.

In court, the Colombian singer answered questions from her lawyer pertaining to the case, which focuses on whether or not she was living in Barcelona during the years 2012-2014, where she currently resides with her partner, soccer player Gerard Piqué, and their two sons. Prosecutors contend that as a resident of Spain during those years, she was therefore required to pay taxes on all of her worldwide income to the Spanish tax authority.    

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In court, Shakira claimed that during those years her visits to Barcelona were only sporadic, according to a report published in Spain’s El Pais newspaper, which described the Latin star's 90-minute testimony. The time to Barcelona increased as her relationship with Piqué progressed. She said that it was in 2014, when she put the couple’s eldest son in school, that she began to reside in Barcelona on a more permanent basis. She legally changed her residency from the Bahamasto, Spain in 2015.

The prosecution alleges that for tax purposes, Shakira pretended to live abroad while really residing with Piqué in Barcelona. She is also accused of using shelter companies to hide her earnings in tax havens, according to information from court documents published in the Spanish newspaper El Periodico and other Spanish media. 

Spanish tax law requires that individuals who spend 183 days or more in the country are residents and must pay taxes there. The investigation monitored Shakira's activity, using paparazzi and social media photos as evidence of her whereabouts. Those included photos of the "Waka Waka" singer supervising the construction on the family's new home in 2012 while pregnant with her first son. She gave birth in a Barcelona hospital in early 2013. Investigators even interrogated a local hairdresser to determine the frequency of her appointments.

The investigation found that Shakira spent 243 days in Spain in 2012, 212 days in 2013 and 244 days in 2014. Prosecutors claim that during that period, Shakira did not spend "one day" in the Bahamas, even though she claimed residency there. Even if Shakira had not spent over 183 days in Spain, according to Spanish tax law she could still be considered a resident during those years because her "vital interests" -- her home, partner and children -- are there, and days she spent outside of the country could be qualified as "sporadic absences." 

In early 2018, Shakira paid the Spanish tax agency, called Hacienda, more than 20 million euro (almost $25 million) in back taxes, for money owed for 2011, the year after she met Piqué, eliminating that year from the investigation's purview. Subsequently, she reportedly paid another 14.5 million euro for the years 2012-2014 as a good faith measure before the charges became public.

El Pais reported that in court on Thursday, Shakira said that she “didn’t understand” why she was being investigated when she has repaid the amounts in question to Hacienda. She said that the matter was in the hands of her consultants, who she described as “the best.”