Starting next week, a total of 117 witnesses will appear in Shakira’s trial for alleged tax fraud in the amount of €14.5 million (about $15.8 million). Their testimony will help to establish the extent to which the Colombian singer spent time in Catalonia between 2012 and 2014. That is a key issue in the case; during that period, Shakira did not pay taxes in Spain despite the fact that, the Prosecutor’s Office argues, she should be considered a resident for tax purposes. The witnesses had dealings with Shakira for professional or personal reasons. Their testimony will help paint a clearer picture of the artist’s life during the years when she established her relationship with former Barça soccer player Gerard Piqué; the couple has since broken up. The witnesses will testify barring a last-minute plea deal; that possibility cannot be ruled out, since it would allow the singer to avoid prison in exchange for admitting her guilt.
One witness called is Shakira’s ex-boyfriend, Antonio de la Rua, because he held positions in companies that, according to the prosecution, served to channel millions of dollars in income to countries with little or no taxation. In 2004, the couple also bought a house in Nassau. Shortly afterward, the Bahamian authorities granted the singer a permanent residence permit, a document she has used in the criminal proceedings to claim that she had established her residence there. As EL PAÍS has reported, Shakira explained in her testimony before the examining magistrate that she was a nomad during the three years under investigation. She claimed that she traveled around the world on concert tours and that the only reason she occasionally visited Barcelona was to see her then-partner, Piqué. Calendar in hand, the prosecution does not believe her and is seeking a sentence of eight years and two months in prison, as well as payment of a fine of €23.5 million ($25.6 million).
If the Prosecutor’s Office and Shakira do not reach a plea agreement (they have tried, unsuccessfully, on a couple of occasions), Barcelona’s Palace of Justice courtroom will be the site of a colorful parade of witnesses, although some will testify via videoconference. The Prosecutor’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office — which defends the interests of the Treasury — have summoned workers who provided services to Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll or served her at some point. For the prosecution, these witnesses offer crucial evidence that the Colombian singer had made Spain her base of operations, the place where she returned after a concert or a tour. The tax inspector in charge of the case did detective work to reconstruct her day-to-day life and prove that she spent more than half of the year in Spain, the condition for being considered a resident citizen for tax purposes.
This group of witnesses includes employees of establishments that Shakira frequented: a worker at a beauty salon in Sarrià, Barcelona; the singer’s personal chauffeur; hotel and restaurant workers (including one from the famous Japanese restaurant Koy Shunka); a representative from the luxury company Dolce & Gabanna; the organizer of a Mattel toy company event; the owner of Fernández Automobiles; two fitness instructors and four Zumba teachers who, the prosecution says, traveled to the city for the express purpose of giving Shakira classes.
Neighbors and gynecologists
The couple’s neighbors will also appear in court to explain whether they saw them around often or daily: these include neighbors from Piqué's bachelor apartment on Muntaner Street in Barcelona (where they first settled), as well as neighbors from the house the pair bought together in the municipality Esplugues de Llobregat. The couple’s first child, Milan, was born on January 22, 2013. The Prosecutor’s Office says that his birth is proof of the pair’s rootedness in Spain, but Shakira disputes that, noting that she took her son everywhere with her, including travel for her tapings of the show The Voice in the United States. Other witnesses include the gynecologists who treated her at the Teknon clinic (where she used the nickname Sila Prieto) and a representative of La Miranda, the elite school where she enrolled her firstborn son.
Other witnesses had a more strictly professional relationship with Shakira, linked to her musical career. Mandinga recording studio representatives will testify, as will choreographers, backup singers, stylists, photographers, producers, managers, and the whole cast of advisors who worked with her. Senior executives from Sony Music and Live Nation (the company with which she signed a contract in 2008, guaranteeing her $300 million over a decade) are also expected to testify. If the trial goes ahead and no agreement is reached, one of the members of the Mexican band Maná, who recorded a song with the Colombian singer at the Codorniu facilities, may also testify.
The singer’s defense team, led by criminal lawyer Pau Molins, has accepted some of these witnesses (including Antonio de la Rua) and has requested other witnesses that the court has allowed. For Molins, these statements are exonerating evidence and will help to prove that Shakira did not spend enough time in Spain to be a tax resident. Among the witnesses for the defense are the directors of Pies Descalzos, Shakira’s children’s aid foundation, which, the singer claims, has suffered irreparable damage because of the criminal proceedings. Shakira’s brother Antonio William Mebarak, her personal cook, several friends from Miami and drummers, pianists and musicians who joined her on tour will also take the stand.
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