Shakira Settled Her Tax-Fraud Case Minutes Into Trial

Photo: Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images

On the opening day of her long-awaited Spanish tax-fraud trial, Shakira — yes, Shakira — struck a last-minute deal with prosecutors to avoid potential prison time.

How did we get here, you ask? Back in 2018, Spanish prosecutors charged Shakira with six counts of tax evasion, alleging that the singer had failed to pay more than $16 million in taxes on income she earned between 2012 and 2014. (The charges arrived nearly a year after Shakira was named in the 2017 Paradise Papers, a sprawling investigation into the ways the rich and famous legally hide money offshore.) Shakira categorically denied prosecutors’ allegations. Central to her case was the question of where she lived between 2012 and 2014: While the singer denied living in Spain during that time, officially listing her residence as the Bahamas, Spanish prosecutors insisted she was claiming the Bahamas for tax purposes (tax rates are significantly lower in the Bahamas, where Shakira bought a private island in 2011.) Though Shakira and her ex, Spanish soccer player Gerard Pique, lived in Barcelona together for several years, the singer did not officially list Spain as her residence until 2015.

The case picked up steam again in 2022, after representatives for Shakira announced that the singer had decided to go to trial instead of accepting a settlement deal, with the singer telling Elle last year that the allegations are “false accusations.” Per Reuters, she appeared to reverse course on Monday, accepting the charges, a fine of over €7 million, and an additional €438,000 fine to avoid a three-year prison sentence; Spanish prosecutors originally sought an eight-year prison term and a fine of over $26 million.

“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,” the singer said in a statement released by her PR agency, per the Los Angeles Times. “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.”

Below, everything to know about the case.

Shakira’s team initially called the charges a “smear campaign.”

In November 2017, the Paradise Papers revealed that Shakira had transferred €30 million in musical rights to an offshore firm on the island of Malta. Per Business Insider, Shakira’s lawyer maintained that the tax sheltering was legal, telling a Spanish news site that the offshore firm “fulfills all legal requirements” and that “all of the corresponding information relative to this entity is public and transparent.” Two months later, judicial authorities in Spain announced Shakira was under investigation for tax evasion, with prosecutors officially leveling charges against her in December 2018 and demanding that she pay taxes in Spain on her worldwide income. At the time, representatives for Shakira told People that the singer owed nothing to Spanish tax authorities, arguing that she had paid what she owed in full and that the prosecutor was spearheading a “smear campaign” and using Shakira as a “scapegoat” to frighten other taxpayers.

Shakira rejected prosecutors’ first offer to settle the case.

Per the Associated Press, no details were released about the terms of the deal prosecutors offered to Shakira, but in July 2022, her PR firm announced she had rejected it and planned to go to trial, reiterating that the singer had deposited whatever she allegedly owed with the Spanish Tax Agency and had no outstanding tax debts.

Prior to her trial, Shakira called the allegations “fictional claims” by the Spanish government.

Before accepting her deal with Spanish prosecutors, Shakira repeatedly maintained her innocence, denying that she lived in Spain during the two years in question. In the summer of 2022, representatives for the singer told Reuters she was “fully confident of her innocence” and found the case to be “a total violation of her rights.” In a September Elle interview that year, Shakira said she “owed zero” to the Spanish government and that there was “no way” she qualified as a resident during the period in question, adding that she had “paid everything” she owed before a lawsuit had ever been filed. “I was confident that I was doing things correctly and transparently from day one,” said the singer, who called the government’s claims “fictional” and said it was the administration’s “style” to unfairly come after celebrities and regular taxpayers in order to force settlements. “I’m confident I have enough proof to support my case, and that justice will prevail in my favor,” the singer told the outlet, adding that she had elected to go to trial to “fight for what I believe.”

The trial, which was set to include over 100 witnesses and last for weeks, was instead called off after eight minutes. “This has been a difficult decision that took time to reach,” a defense lawyer for Shakira told reporters outside the Barcelona courtroom on Monday, per the L.A. Times. “Her legal team had prepared the trial and were convinced we could demonstrate her innocence, but the circumstances changed.”

This article has been updated.

Shakira Settled Her Tax-Fraud Case Minutes Into Trial