A Spanish court ordered Colombian music superstar Shakira to stand trial on charges of tax fraud to the tune of 14 million euros (S$19.35 million), with prosecutors seeking an eight-year sentence against her.
Prosecutors in Barcelona said in July they would seek to have the singer jailed for more than eight years alongside a fine of nearly 24 million euros, after she rejected a plea deal over allegations of tax evasion.
They accuse the 45-year-old Hips Don’t Lie singer of defrauding the Spanish tax office of 14.5 million euros on income earned between 2012 and 2014.
Prosecutors say Shakira moved to Spain in 2011 when her relationship with Spanish footballer Gerard Pique became public, but maintained official tax residency in the Bahamas until 2015. The couple, who have two children, announced their separation in June.
On Sept 19, a Barcelona court ordered the singer to stand trial for six alleged tax crimes, according to a ruling made public on Tuesday.
In a statement, Shakira’s lawyers said “the order to proceed with the oral hearing” was expected and that her legal team would “do its job by presenting its arguments at the appropriate time”.
Shakira has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and claims she owes nothing to the Spanish tax office.
“I’m confident that I have enough proof to support my case and that justice will prevail in my favour,” she said in an interview published in American magazine Elle last week.
“While Gerard and I were dating, I was on a world tour. I spent more than 240 days outside Spain, so there was no way I qualified as a resident,” she added. “The Spanish tax authorities saw that I was dating a Spanish citizen and started to salivate. It’s clear they wanted to go after that money no matter what.”
The case centres on where Shakira lived from 2012 to 2014.
Her lawyers have said that until 2014 she earned most of her money from international tours, moved to Spain full time only in 2015 and has met all her tax obligations.
She says she has paid 17.2 million euros to Spanish tax authorities and has no outstanding debts, and that Spanish prosecutors are trying to claim money she earned during her international tour and from her participation as a judge on reality singing competition The Voice (2011 to present).
She joined the judges’ panel on the American show at a time when she was not yet a resident in Spain, she has said.
A Barcelona court in May dismissed an appeal from the singer, who has sold over 60 million albums, to drop the charges. Two months later, she dismissed a plea deal, saying she wanted her day in court to prove her innocence.
Shakira told Elle that the combination of her looming tax fraud trial, separation from Pique and custody battle for their children, as well as her father’s illness meant this is “probably one of the most difficult, darkest hours of my life”.
With her mix of Latin and Arabic rhythms and rock influence, the three-time Grammy winner has scored major global hits with songs such as Whenever, Wherever (2001) and Waka Waka (This Time For Africa), the official song of the 2010 World Cup.
Spain has in recent years cracked down on football stars such as Argentine Lionel Messi and Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo for not paying their full due in taxes. Both players were found guilty of evasion and received prison sentences that were waived for first-time offenders.
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