Colombian singer Shakira has been granted permission to attend just “one or two days” of her tax fraud trial in Barcelona. According to legal sources, Shakira — whose full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripol — will only have to appear in court on the day that she testifies over charges she defrauded the Spanish Tax Agency of €14.5 million ($15.9 million) between 2012 and 2014. The trial is expected to be broadcast live, meaning the singer will be able to follow the hearings from her home in Miami, where she has been living with her children after separating from former Barça soccer player Gerard Piqué.
Shakira has been charged with six crimes against tax authorities. The prosecution is requesting a prison term of eight years and two months, as well as a fine of €23.7 million ($25.9 million). Under Spanish law, a defendant facing more than two years in prison must be present at trial. But there is some leeway. The judge presiding over the case, José Manuel del Amo, has allowed Shakira to be absent from nearly all the hearings due to her professional commitments and the fact that she now resides in the United States.
Last Thursday, the judge summoned all the parties involved in the case — the Prosecutor’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office and Shakira’s lawyers, Pau Molins and Míriam Company — to discuss the high-profile trial. At the meeting, Del Amo accepted the defense request that Shakira attend court on the days that she has to testify, and agreed to allow the singer to choose when she wishes to testify depending on her schedule, be it at the beginning of the trial (as is typical), the middle or the end.
This is not the first time a defendant has been allowed to be absent from trial. Last October, Del Almo also granted this same leeway to soccer star Neymar, who was charged and later acquitted over alleged irregularities in his transfer to Barça. Del Amo allowed the Brazilian forward to fulfill his commitments with the PSG soccer team, and only appear in court to testify. The defense also requested that witnesses for Shakira who reside in Colombia and the United States be allowed to testify via videoconference.
The meeting on Thursday also outlined a calendar for the trial, which currently includes 200 witnesses. Both sides, however, have agreed to withdraw less significant testimony — such as the residents of the Barcelona apartment where Shakira and Piqué initially lived together — to speed up the hearings. The judge announced that the trial is scheduled to begin on November 20 and continue into December. The schedule, however, is provisional and may vary depending on which witnesses will be summoned.
The central question of the case is whether Shakira was a resident of Spain between 2012 and 2014, meaning she should have paid taxes in the country. According to court documents, Shakira should have paid €14.5 million in Spanish income tax — known as IRPF — and corporate tax, but instead used a “series of companies” to hide her wealth.
Shakira, however, claims that during this period she was traveling around the world for work, and that while she was in a relationship with Piqué she only visited Barcelona “sporadically.” She argues that at no point did she spend more than 184 days in Spain, which is the criteria for being considered a resident for tax purposes. According to Shakira, she did not become a resident of Barcelona until the end of 2014, when her first child started school. The singer has also pointed out that she has returned the money claimed by the Tax Agency.
Shakira has always maintained her innocence. After her separation from Piqué, which coincided with the final phase of the tax fraud probe, her lawyers and the Prosecutor’s Office discussed the possibility of an agreement. A draft deal was reached in which Shakira would face a reduced prison sentence (sentences from one to two years are suspended in Spain) in exchange for admitting her guilt and paying a hefty fine. But that agreement was thrown out by Shakira last summer, with the singer accusing the Prosecutor’s Office of using “improper means” to pressure her.
While the singer’s conviction has not changed, she is in a different personal situation. Shakira now resides in Miami and is eager to move past the tax fraud allegations, which have come with intense media scrutiny. The case is also linked to her relationship with Piqué, who argued she should fight the charges to the very end. In her famous breakup song with Bizarrap, Shakira sings: “You left me [...] with the press at the door and debt at the Treasury.” Although relations with the Prosecutor’s Office remain strained, neither the defense (which has changed hands) nor the prosecutor has closed the door to a last-minute deal. So far, however, no step has been made in that direction.
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