Colombian music star Shakira had a court date this morning at 10am in Esplugues de Llobregat, a municipality in Barcelona, to testify over alleged tax fraud. The singer managed to avoid being seen by the press by having rented a space in a private parking garage located next to the courts, allowing her to escape the cameras.
The judge in charge of the case had given an “express order” that she should enter via the front door, as any other defendant or witness would, according to a spokesperson from the Catalan regional High Court. But sources close to the defense deny that this was the case, and confirmed that Shakira had entered via a side entrance by making use of the parking space, which was hired by her lawyer.
A woman with a similar appearance to Shakira – with blonde hair and short stature – distracted the press for several minutes this morning when she appeared at the court. But the real Shakira managed to slip by the press almost unnoticed.
The singer gave carefully planned and highly measured statements on the alleged €14.5 million fraud she has been accused of defrauding by the Spanish Tax Office. Unlike with other celebrities involved in such cases, she did not attract many members of the public this morning to await her arrival at the courts. There were a few women waiting to catch a glimpse of her from a balcony, and a group of friends who had found out about what was happening via a TV show. “We thought, let’s go along and see if we see her,” one of them said.
But like the majority of the journalists who were waiting to see her, they left empty handed, apart from having seen the arrival of the singer’s lawyer, José Ángel González Franco.
Shakira is accused of evading €14.5 million in taxes
Backed by a team of consultants, lawyers and PR experts, Shakira is, for now, facing six different accusations of fraud alone. According to the public prosecutor, between 2012 and 2014 she was living in Barcelona, and was in a stable relationship with the FC Barcelona soccer player Gerard Piqué. There are invoices and other evidence that back this claim. If this was the case, she should have been filing tax returns in Spain.
The singer, however, claims to have been resident in the Bahamas during this time, thus allowing her to save a considerable amount on taxes. According to the public prosecutor, her consultants created a “web of companies” to hide her income from the Spanish Tax Agency.
Speaking in the court on Thursday, she opted to only answer questions from her lawyer, and during a 90-minute session claimed that her visits to Barcelona were only “sporadic” during the period in question, and increased as her relationship with Piqué progressed.
She gave details of her “professional commitments,” including her participation in the US version of the hit showThe Voice. That, she claimed, proves that she lived abroad. She also claimed not to have spent half a year plus one day in Spain, which is the criteria set for being a tax resident in a country. At the end of 2014, she explained, she put her son Milan in school in Spain, and from that point started to consider becoming a resident.
Shakira also stated that she “didn’t understand” why she was being investigated when she has repaid the amounts in question to the Tax Agency, and claimed that all of these affairs were in the hands of her consultants, who, she claimed, were “the best.” She added that she never could have thought that they would commit any kind of offense.
Shakira is the latest in a long list of high-profile celebrities in Spain who have had to face court proceedings over tax avoidance. These include former Real Madrid soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, opera singer Montserrat Caballé, celebrity chef Sergi Arola and 1980s pop star Ana Torroja.
English version by Simon Hunter.