Spanish judge finds ‘sufficient evidence’ to try Shakira for tax fraud

The Colombian singer is likely to go to court for allegedly evading €14.5 million in duties, and may face jail time if sentenced

Shakira performing at the 2020 Super Bowl.
Shakira performing at the 2020 Super Bowl.SHANNON STAPLETON (Reuters)

Shakira will not be able to avoid trial for tax fraud, unless she reaches a last-minute deal with Spain’s public prosecutor. After a three-year investigation, Judge Marco Jesús Juberías has closed the probe into the Colombian singer and found that there is “sufficient evidence” to try her for evading €14.5 million in taxes by concealing her wealth via a network of companies based in tax havens. The prosecution is accusing Shakira, whose full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, of six tax offenses. If sentenced, the superstar may face jail time.

How the Spanish Tax Agency followed the trail of Shakira

“Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll stopped paying taxes in Spain during the years 2012, 2013 and 2014, even though she had a duty to do so as her tax residence was here,” Judge Jesús Juberías wrote in a court document to which EL PAÍS has had access. The singer has always insisted that during these years she was living in the Bahamas, a country where no income tax is paid, and only visited Spain “sporadically.” But this claim has been repeatedly debunked by tax inspectors, who have closely investigated Shakira’s life in Barcelona, where she lives with FC Barcelona soccer player Gerard Piqué.

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. The singer only appeared as the genuine holder “in companies based in territories considered to be tax havens,” the text stated.

Shakira and Gerard Piqué in a file photo from 2019.
Shakira and Gerard Piqué in a file photo from 2019.Cordon

Judge Juberías backed the arguments of the Spanish Tax Agency and public prosecutor, but indicated that this phase of the process was just about determining whether or not there was sufficient evidence of tax fraud, not the “innocence or guilt” of Shakira. The position of the Tax Agency and the singer’s defense team are “diametrically opposed,” said the court documents, and only a trial may determine who is right.

The decision is a major setback for Shakira, who has done everything possible to stop the case from going to court. This legal battle has centered on the singer’s place of residence. Under Spanish law, a person is considered a tax resident of the country if they have spent 183 days in the country. The Spanish Tax Agency recognizes that Shakira traveled often for work during the years in question, but considers these trips “sporadic absences” given that her residence, where she returned to after work, was Barcelona.

The judge also found enough evidence against another defendant in the case, Shakira’s lawyer and tax advisor at the time. However, the public prosecutor has asked for the case against him to be dropped, arguing that he did not commit a crime. The public prosecutor and the other accusations in the case – the State Attorney and the Catalan regional government – must now present a written report outlining what sentence they want to be given to Shakira. The singer, who has denied the accusations and claims to be innocent, has already paid €17 million to the Tax Agency. Sources from her legal team told EL PAÍS that she will appeal the judge’s decision.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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