Spanish singer Isabel Pantoja stepped out of a gray Mercedes and entered the gates of a women’s prison near Seville early on Friday morning. The artist known throughout Spain and Latin America as one of the all-time greatest interpreters of the copla, or Spanish torch song, has begun serving a two-year sentence for money laundering.
Efforts by Pantoja’s lawyers to delay her sentence after it was passed down earlier this month were definitively rejected Thursday (Nov. 21) by a court in Malaga, which ordered her to go to jail within 72 hours, according to Spanish newspapers. Arriving from her 500-acre estate, Cantora, Pantoja surrendered at the gates of the Alcalá de Guadaira prison, where photographers and reporters, as well as police, were waiting.
Pantoja, who has reportedly sold more than 6 million albums and commands an average 60,000 euros per concert, canceled a series of upcoming shows in Spain after her Nov. 4 sentencing, which capped a years-long investigation. In addition to the jail term, she is to pay 1.1 million euros.
The singer's troubles stem from her romantic relationship with Julian Muñoz, the former mayor of Marbella, the oceanfront Southern Spanish city long known as a hot spot for the rich. A state court in nearby Malaga convicted Pantoja of helping Muñoz launder funds he embezzled from Marbella government coffers while serving as mayor. Muñoz is currently serving a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence. His ex-wife, Maite Zaldivar, was also convicted.
A judge called Pantoja's crime "one of the most demolishing attacks that can be infringed on a democratic society." The court acknowledged it was making an example of Pantoja at a time of rampant corruption in Spain by public figures.
The raven-haired Pantoja, now 58 years old, is an icon in Spain who has recorded over 30 albums. A native of Triana, a Seville neighborhood that breeds flamenco artists, Pantoja first danced in a flamenco show at age 7, and launched her successful singing career when still in her teens. Pantoja's notoriety increased with her 1983 marriage to Francisco Rivera "Paquirri," a star bullfighter. When Paquirri was killed in the ring in 1984, the glamorous Pantoja became known as "the widow of Spain."
The dramas of Pantoja's personal life have been constantly tracked by gossip magazines, from whom Spanish media says she has earned considerable income over the years, including a payoff of 800,000 euros for one recent magazine exclusive, according to a report. Her net worth has been reported at over 10 million euros.