Despite receiving a plea deal offer to settle allegations of tax evasion, Colombian superstar Shakira has told a Spanish investigating judge that she wants to go to trial, affirming her innocence in the face of a tax evasion inquiry that has clouded the performer for over four years.
The singer, best known for her crossover English hits like "Whenever, Wherever," "Hips Don't Lie," and "She Wolf," and a prolific Spanish-language discography recorded across three decades, has been under investigation by Spanish tax authorities since her name appeared in the Paradise Papers in 2017. Prosecutors have alleged that she claimed residence in the Bahamas while living in Spain from 2012 to 2014. In 2021, a Spanish judge found "evidence of criminality," allowing the case to proceed to trial. Repeated attempts by the pop star to have the case dismissed have all failed.
Prosecutors offered her a deal back in 2021, but she turned it down, alleging that they were "uncompromising" and applied "improper methods" to pressure her into accepting a deal. After months of failed negotiations, she opted for a jury trial, asserting that the truth will prevail. She "trusts her innocence and chooses to leave the issue in the hands of the law," her P.R. firm, Llorente y Cuenca, said in a statement.
Shakira isn't the first Spanish celebrity to find herself in hot water with Spanish tax authorities. Over the last two decades, many Spanish singers and actors have found themselves embroiled in financial crimes investigations initiated by zealous prosecutors. Spanish singer Isabel Pantoja famously went to prison for two years over her then-boyfriend's money laundering schemes. Julio Iglesias has also found himself under investigation repeatedly as Spanish officials have scrutinized his vast personal fortune. These investigations have increased as Spain has beefed up its tax evasion laws and enforcement mechanisms in recent years.
Even Spain's royal family has been subject to aggressive tax investigations. In 2014, King Felipe VI's sister Princess Cristina was put under investigation for tax evasion, causing her to lose her noble titles. Former King Juan Carlos I, who restored Spain's democracy following the death of fascist dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, was subjected to a judicial investigation over unpaid taxes, paying 4.4 million euros in back taxes in 2021.
Shakira's decision to go to trial, rather than take a settlement or deal, has also upped the stakes. Prosecutors are now seeking an eight-year prison sentence against the singer, as well as a 23 million euro fine, in addition, of course, to the amount of taxes she allegedly failed to pay. Like in the United States, pursuing a jury trial, despite it being a constitutional right in Spain, often punishes Spanish defendants by increasing possible sanctions against them.