Shakira reaches deal with Spanish prosecutors to avoid going to prison for tax fraud

On the first day of her trial in Barcelona, the Colombian singer agreed to a suspended three-year sentence and a large fine. She says she did it for her children

Shakira with her lawyer, Pau Molins, arriving at the Barcelona courthouse.Alberto Garcia
Jesús García Bueno

Three “yes” and one “thank you.” With those brief words, the pop singer Shakira on Monday formally acknowledged that she defrauded the Spanish Treasury of €14.5 million (about $15.8 million) between 2012 and 2014. After weeks of negotiations, the Colombian singer finally reached a deal with prosecutors and accepted a suspended three-year sentence plus a fine of €7.3 million ($8 million). In exchange for acknowledging the facts and paying the fine (which she already did), the requested prison sentence, which was initially eight years and two months, has been reduced to three years. And she will avoid serving this time by paying another fine of €432,000 ($472,000).

Judge José Manuel del Amo of the Barcelona High Court entered the decision, which is final and cannot be appealed. Shakira will not have to undergo any more hearings and can return to Miami to be with her children. The trial, where up to 117 witnesses had been called to testify, would have placed the media spotlight on Shakira’s personal life during the time that she was in a romantic relationship with former Barça defender Gerard Piqué.

The need to avoid such public exposure and to minimize the risk of imprisonment led her to accept the deal. “I have to choose my battles and the most important one now is to do everything so that my children can live a full life and focus on what is really important: to see them grow up and spend time with them, without subjecting them to the anguish of seeing their mother in a criminal trial with the wear and tear that entails,” she said in a statement sent by her team just as Shakira accepted the penalty for tax fraud.

“Here we go,” Shakira told reporters as she entered the Barcelona courthouse at the stroke of 10 a.m., the scheduled start time of the trial. Outside, in the street, the police had deployed a large security operation for nothing: no fans showed up to greet her or offer their support. Instead, a few courthouse employees stuck their heads out of their windows to see the pop star arrive, all dressed all in pink and wearing sunglasses. The hearing lasted just 10 minutes, as the presiding magistrate merely noted that an agreement had been reached.

Under the terms of the deal, Shakira admits that, between 2012 and 2014, she was a tax resident in Spain and was under the obligation to pay her taxes here. From the beginning of the investigation, that was the question under debate. The singer always defended that during that period she was a nomad who traveled the world doing concerts and that her only visits to Barcelona, always sporadic, were to visit Piqué. The Tax Agency carried out an intense investigation by contacting service providers and professionals who assisted Shakira at that stage, and came to the conclusion that she spent more than half the year in Spain, a necessary condition for a citizen to be considered a tax resident.

The investigation was based on the testimony of witnesses who, starting this Monday, were going to parade through the courtroom to give an account of the singer’s life at that time. Thanks to the deal, Shakira will avoid public exposure that links her to a criminal act. Sources close to the singer said that her desire to turn the page and leave her Barcelona days behind has been decisive in reaching an agreement that, on two previous occasions, she had resisted without success.

The first attempt to reach a deal took place in the summer of 2022. The terms were very similar to those sealed on Monday: Shakira would accept a suspended prison sentence, acknowledge the facts and pay a high fine. The negotiations did not bear fruit, in part due to her close circle’s insistence that she should fight the accusation because she could win the case. The artist ended up slamming the door on the Prosecutor’s Office. A few days later, prosecutors filed charges, seeking eight years and two months in prison and the payment of a fine of €23.5 million.

As the trial date approached, and especially after her breakup with Piqué, Shakira sought to reach a deal. She changed her team and hired criminal lawyer Pau Molins, who won a very similar case for the former motorcyclist Sito Pons. Molins returned to the negotiating table with prosecutors last summer.

Despite the deal, Shakira’s problems with the justice system in Spain have not ended. The Prosecutor’s Office filed a second complaint for alleged tax fraud in 2018. Prosecutors accuses her of defrauding €6 million through a “network of companies” to “simulate” the transfer of rights to instrumental companies. The ministry has requested that Interpol notify the artist, who resides in Miami, of the complaint and the summons so that she can give evidence.

Reporters following the hearing inside the courthouse on Monday.
Reporters following the hearing inside the courthouse on Monday. Albert Garcia

For her children

In a statement sent out at the same time as Shakira was entering the courtroom, her team reported that the deal is the result of the “wear and tear” that the process has entailed for the artist. The goal is to put “an end” to the process and avoid the impact of media exposure. Shakira now feels the need to prioritize her career and stability and that of her children, the statement said.

“I have made the decision to finally resolve this matter with the best interest of my kids at heart who do not want to see their mom sacrifice her personal well-being in this fight,” added Shakira in that statement. “It is not a triumph to win if the price is to have so many years of your life stolen,” she emphasized before expressing her admiration for other celebrities who were prosecuted for the same crimes (she expressly cited former Real Madrid player Xavi Alonso and former motorcyclist Sito Pons) who “fought until the end. I need to move past the stress and emotional toll of the last several years and focus on the things I love, my kids and all the opportunities to come in my career.”

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