The long-awaited trial of the world-famous pop star Shakira, who faces charges of tax evasion in the country in the amount of 14.5 million euros, i.e. roughly 355 million crowns, was supposed to begin in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday morning.
Shortly after the singer blew a kiss to a group of supporters and entered the Barcelona courthouse, however, news broke that Shakira had struck a deal with Spanish prosecutors and the expected trial would not take place.
The indictment originally demanded a prison sentence of up to eight years for the singer. In the end, however, she compromised her demands and agreed with Shakira that she would pay two fines totaling over 7.7 million euros, i.e. over 188 million crowns.
Shakira denied any wrongdoing until the last moment, claiming that she had paid the authorities everything she owed, even with high interest. She rejected the earlier agreement of the Spanish prosecutor’s office and gave the go-ahead to a publicized trial. However, she changed her mind at the last moment.
“I have decided to finally resolve this matter in the best interest of my children, who do not want their mom to sacrifice her personal well-being in this fight,” Shakira said in a statement released shortly after pleading guilty in court.
What did the Spanish authorities blame Shakira for?
- The court case revolved around the years 2012 to 2014, when the singer partially lived in Barcelona, Spain, with her former partner and father of her children, soccer player Gerard Piqué. At the same time, she paid taxes in the Bahamas.
- While Shakira has repeatedly claimed that she only stayed in the country intermittently until 2015, Spanish authorities counter that she spent at least 183 days there between 2012 and 2014, making her automatically a tax resident in Spain.
- Tax officials based their claims about the singer’s tax residency on an analysis of her daily life captured on social media or credit card payments at hair salons, French lessons, recording studios and clothing stores.
- In July, the prosecution published a document in which it refers to the fact that Shakira bought a house in Barcelona in 2012, which became her and her partner’s home in the following years.
The Colombian pop star is not the first — and certainly not the last — high-profile celebrity to be accused by authorities of tax evasion. She is not even the only global star to appear before the Spanish courts amid increased media attention.
“I have been prosecuted by the tax authorities in Spain, as they have been against many professional athletes and other high-profile individuals, for years they have taken their energy and time and deprived them of their peace of mind,” said the singer, who is still facing a second investigation by Spanish authorities over alleged tax evasion. scams from 2018.
The singer’s ex-partner Gerard Piqué also has a history of tax evasion, on whom the courts in Spain imposed a fine of 2.1 million euros in 2019, the BBC reminds.
Both Messi and Ronaldo paid fines
In the past, even football stars got into trouble with the Spanish authorities due to tax offences. Among them Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Costa. Like Shakira, however, they all avoided prison and got out of the lawsuit with a fine.
Ronaldo, the world’s highest-paid footballer, was accused by Spanish authorities of tax evasion between 2010 and 2014, when he played for Real Madrid and lived in the Spanish capital.
In the end, the closely watched trial did not (as in the case of Shakira) last long. Ronaldo accepted the agreement of the Spanish prosecutor’s office and pleaded guilty to tax evasion in a matter of minutes. It cost him 18.8 million euros, roughly 480 million crowns. Thanks to that and thanks to the non-violent nature of his offense, he did not have to serve a prison sentence in the end (we wrote about it here).
Lawsuits did not escape even Messi. The Argentine soccer star was sentenced to 21 months in prison in 2017 for tax fraud of €4.1 million, which she allegedly committed together with her father, Jorge. However, even Messi did not end up in prison and paid a fine of a quarter of a million euros to the Spanish authorities.
Rounding out the trio of accused footballers is former Spanish football international of Brazilian origin Diego Costa, who pleaded guilty to withholding from the authorities an amount of more than 5.15 million euros for his transfer to the British Chelsea in 2014. Instead of a six-month prison sentence, he also received “only” a hefty fine.
Jail for tax fraud
However, not all celebrities were so lucky: from the past there are known cases of stars who ended up behind bars for their financial misdeeds.
The Grammy-winning American singer Lauryn Hill, who rose to fame with the hip-hop group The Fugees, wanted to retire years ago to take care of her children. There are six of them in total, and the father of five of them is Rohan, the son of the famous Bob Marley.
However, the American authorities found out that the singer had not paid income taxes in the amount of approximately 1.7 million euros. After she confessed to tax evasion in 2012, the court sent her to prison for three months, the Euronews server recalls.
“I am the child of former slaves who were forced into the system. An economic system was imposed on me,” Hill said in court, adding that she planned to pay back what she owed to the tax authorities. By interrupting her career, it was not possible.
The number three also figures in the case of an American actor known, for example, from a movie Blade Wesley Snipes. However, he was sentenced not to three months, but to three years in prison. The courts found him guilty in three cases from 1999 to 2001, when he failed to file a tax return and defrauded the authorities by the amount of approximately seven million dollars.
Even with a three-year prison sentence, however, the actor’s troubles with taxes did not end. In November 2018, Snipes was ordered to pay a total of $9.5 million in taxes that he owed, The Hollywood Reporter reported.
Mafia boss Al Capone remains one of the most well-known figures to have served a prison sentence for tax evasion in the past. He was accused in 1931 of a total of 22 tax evasions in the amount of more than 200 thousand dollars (which equates to roughly $3.8 million today).
Although Capone first tried to bribe the jury that was deciding his case, his tactics backfired and the gangster king received a hefty fine plus 11 years in prison. He served part of his sentence in San Francisco’s famous Alcatraz prison.
The tax affair casts a shadow over the career of Chuck Berry, the pioneer of rock and roll and the author of well-known hits such as Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethoven and Sweet Little Sixteen.
After the musician pleaded guilty in 1979 to failing to pay a total of $110,000 over the years (today it would be about $475,000) on income taxes from his concerts, the court sent him to prison for four months and ordered him to perform a thousand hours of community service.