Barcelona — Pop star Shakira accepted a plea deal with Spanish authorities on Monday on the first day of her tax fraud trial in Barcelona, avoiding the risk of a prison sentence.
Shakira told the judge presiding over the case, Jose Manuel del Amo, that she accepted the agreement reached with the prosecution. She answered “yes” to confirm that she acknowledged the six charges of not paying the Spanish treasury 14.5 million euros (about $15.8 million) in taxes between 2012 and 2014.
According to the agreement, Shakira would receive a suspended sentence of three years in prison and a fine of 7 million euros ($7.6 million).
The trial, which would have included more than 100 witnesses and lasted weeks, was instead resolved in just eight minutes.
Prosecutors said in July they would seek a prison sentence of eight years and two months and a fine of 24 million euros ($26 million) for the singer, who won over fans around the world with hits in English and Spanish on different musical genres.
The case revolved around where Shakira, 46, lived between 2012 and 2014. Prosecutors in Barcelona alleged that the artist spent more than half of that time in Spain and therefore should have paid taxes on her overall income in the country, even though her official residence remained in the Bahamas. Rates are much lower in the Bahamas than in Spain.
The singer’s representation firm said it had already paid the money owed and another 3 million euros (about $3.2 million) in interest.
The winner of several Grammy and Latin Grammy awards greeted and blew a kiss to a small group of people gathered outside the court before entering.
Shakira rejected another agreement proposed by the prosecution in July 2022, and said through her public relations firm, Llorente y Cuenca, that she had “always acted in accordance with the law and under the advice of the best tax experts.” Details of that potential deal were not made public.
Shakira’s name appeared in the leak of the so-called “Paradise Papers” that detailed the tax reporting systems of several well-known people, such as Madonna or Bono, leader of U2.
Shakira’s defense team, Barcelona firm Molins Defensa Penal, said in November 2022 that the artist had spent no more than 60 days a year in the country during the period in question, adding that she would have had to spend half a year in Spain to be considered as a tax resident. Her defense alleged that she had spent long periods away from Barcelona on a world tour in 2011 and then she spent a lot of time in the United States as a judge on NBC’s musical talent television show The Voice.
The Spanish prosecutor’s office disagreed, and the investigating judge, Marco Juberias, wrote in 2021 at the conclusion of his three-year investigation that he considered there was enough evidence for the case to go to trial. Shakira defended her innocence when she was interrogated by Juberias in 2019.
Last year he lost an appeal seeking dismissal of the case.
Shakira established her tax residence in Spain in 2014, when her eldest son enrolled in a school in Barcelona, according to her defense team, because she was going to spend more time in Barcelona with her family.
In Spain, an investigating judge conducts a preliminary investigation and decides whether to dismiss the case or send it to trial. A court can suspend prison sentences for first-time offenders if they are sentenced to less than two years in prison.
In a separate investigation, Spanish prosecutors charged Shakira in September with allegedly evading €6.7 million in taxes on her 2018 income. She was accused of using a foreign firm based in another country with advantageous tax conditions to avoid payment.
In the last decade, Spanish authorities have persecuted soccer stars such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for not paying all the taxes they were owed. Both were convicted of tax evasion, but avoided prison because their sentences were suspended.
The artist, whose real name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, has two children, Milan and Sasha, with the now retired soccer player Gerard Pique. The couple lived together in Barcelona until last year, when they ended their relationship after 11 years. Since then Shakira has resided in Miami.
After triumphing at the Latin Grammy gala in Seville on Thursday, Shakira thanked her fans in Spain for their support.