Shakira ADMITS tax fraud and agrees to pay £7m fine in bombshell last-minute plea deal to avoid jail ahead of trial | The Sun

SHAKIRA has confessed to six counts of tax fraud in a last-minute deal to avoid jail over allegations she failed to pay bills totalling £12.7million.

The pop star – who will pay a fine of £6.4 million – said she struck the deal for the sake of her two sons ahead of the lengthy trial that was due to start today.

The singer was summoned to a Barcelona courthouse as she faced spending eight years behind bars for allegedly defrauding Spanish tax officials.

Judge Jose Manuel del Amo asked Shakira to take the stand after the lawyers involved in the case confirmed in open court a deal had been made.

He asked the singer: “Do you accept the charges against you and the new replacement penalties you are facing," and Shakira replied, “I do.”

Mr Manuel del Amo then confirmed that in light of the settlement, he was handing the artist a three-year prison sentence, six months for each of the six counts of tax fraud she had admitted to.

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Shakira ADMITS tax fraud and agrees to pay £7m fine in deal to avoid jail


Shakira reveals reason why she settled huge £12.7m tax fraud case

But he added she will pay a fine instead of spending time in prison.

Shakira has previously said she paid the full amount the Spanish authorities said she owed before they filed charges – which with interest on top came to nearly £ 15million.

She will also have to pay a fine totalling £378,000 to avoid prison.

In a statement issued through her representatives today, Shakira said her lawyers were confident she would win the case but she decided to settle for the sake of her children.

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She said: “Throughout my career, I have always strived to do what’s right and set a positive example for others.

"While I was determined to defend my innocence in a trial that my lawyers were confident would have ruled in my favour, 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.

"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, including my upcoming world tour and my new album, both of which I am extremely excited about.

"I admire tremendously those who have fought these injustices to the end, but for me, today, winning is getting my time back for my kids and my career.”

Shakira explained it was her children who convinced her to make that decision.

She said: “I have to choose my battles and the most important thing for me right now is that my children live a full life and I focus on what is really important: watching them grow and spending time with them, without submitting them to the anguish of seeing their mother in a court trial with the damage that causes.

“They themselves asked me to do this and I’ve taken this decision for them.

“They have gone through some difficult times and I want them to see me happy finally and be able to look together to the future.”

Saying her fight to clear her name had caused her an enormous amount of wasted time and resources, she added: “I felt ready to face a trial and defend my innocence.

“My lawyers were convinced we had a winning case.

“However I have taken this decision after a fight lasting many years.

“I had two options, to continue to the end, mortgaging my happiness and that of my children, stopping making songs and albums and touring, being unable to enjoy my career and the things I love, or make a pact and close and leave behind this chapter in my life looking forward.

“I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s not a triumph winning if the price you have to pay is that they steal so many years of your life.”

The star was pictured earlier this morning walking into Barcelona’s Provincial Court wearing an eye-catching pink trouser suit and matching designer handbag accompanied by her lawyer Pau Molins.

She blew a kiss to onlookers before she headed up the court steps and disappeared into the building, looking calm and relaxed.

The 46-year-old faced six counts of failing to pay £12.7million in taxes between 2012 and 2014.

Spanish state prosecutors announced in a pre-trial indictment they were seeking an eight-year, two-month jail term for Shakira and a fine of nearly £21 million if judges found her guilty of six counts of tax fraud she allegedly committed in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported over the weekend that she was finalising a deal to avoid trial.

It reported “everything was pointing” to the mum-of-two not having to do prison time, saying: “In the last few days Shakira’s lawyers have intensified their contact, both in person and remotely, with state prosecution representatives and contacts that represent the interest of Spain’s Tax Agency.

“It appears both sides will reach an agreement in which the artist will admit to her crime, will pay a high sum of money as a fine, and will receive a prison sentence of less than two years which she won’t have to serve because she has no existing criminal record in Spain.”

It cited sources close to Shakira as saying she insisted she had committed no wrongdoing but wanted to spare herself a long high-profile trial that could be detrimental to her image.

Separate Spanish reports over the weekend said Shakira had summoned her legal team to the former family home she shared with ex-Gerard Pique on Sunday night for a two-hour summit.

She has been in Spain for over a week after leaving her new base in Miami, arriving on November 11 and spending two nights in a luxury hotel in Madrid before heading to Seville for the Latin Grammys.

She returned to Barcelona on Friday night with her brother Tonino, assistant Lili Melgar and her two children and has spent the weekend at her old family mansion in Espluges de Llobregat near Barcelona.

Any last-minute deal would have to be communicated to the three judges due to try Shakira before it is ratified in open court.

The prosecution case centres on a rebuttal of Shakira’s assertion she was a resident in the Bahamas between the start of 2012 and the end of 2014 and shouldn’t have been considered a Spanish resident for tax purposes despite starting to date her ex-Gerard Pique in 2010.

Many of the 117 witnesses due to testify will be asked about their knowledge of her life in Barcelona during the three key years before she registered as a full-time tax resident in Spain in 2015.

They include the Colombian artist’s ex-Argentinian boyfriend Antonio de la Rua, her chauffeur, hotel and restaurant workers and an employee at a beauty salon, as well as Zumba teachers prosecutors will allege came to the Catalan capital specifically to give Shakira classes.

The trial is scheduled to take place over 12 sessions on non-consecutive days at Barcelona’s Provincial Court, with the last one scheduled for December 14.

Spanish state prosecutors have already laid out the basis of their case against Shakira in a 15-page indictment submitted to an investigating magistrate.

In the written document they accuse the artist, real name Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, of living in Spain “on a regular basis” during the tax years 2012 to 2014.

First at former Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique’s Barcelona bachelor flat and then at a mansion she bought with her former partner in Esplugues de Llobregat near the Catalan capital through an investment firm.

They claim her absences from Spain for work and other reasons were “sporadic” apart from a period of 61 days she spent in the States in 2012 when she was a coach on the US version of the singing competition The Voice.

The indictment adds: “The accused spent 242 days in Spain in 2012, 212 days in 2013 and 243 days in 2014 and she was out of this country, to fulfil her professional commitments and for leisure, 124 days in 2012; 153 days in 2013 and 122 days in 2014.”

People who spend more than 183 days in a given calendar year in Spain are considered Spanish residents for tax purposes and under the country’s tax rules are obliged to declare their worldwide earnings.

State prosecutors say Shakira, “knowing she lived on a regular basis in Spain and remained in the country most of the year” decided to use an existing offshore corporate framework to hide her worldwide earnings and evade income and wealth tax payments.

The singer-songwriter carried out the alleged fraud by hiding behind companies presented as the beneficiaries of earnings that ended up in her pocket, her accusers allege.

As well as an eight-year prison sentence, prosecutors have also demanded a fine of nearly £21million for Shakira, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, if she is convicted of all six charges.

Tax inspectors reportedly spent more than a year checking up on the Hips Don’t Lie singer.

The inspectors are known to have visited her favourite hairdressers in Barcelona and checked her social media to try to show she spent most of the three years in dispute in Spain.

A statement released by Shakira’s Barcelona-based publicists LLYC in November last year said: “Shakira is a taxpayer who has always shown impeccable tax conduct and has never had tax problems in any other jurisdiction.

“The singer relied on top advisors such as PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

“She never exceeded the 183 days of presence in Spain required to be a tax resident.

“With no solid evidence to support the charges against her, she has been fiercely persecuted in the criminal and media spheres using unacceptable methods to damage her reputation and force her to come to a settlement agreement.”

Before leaving Barcelona to start a new life with sons Milan and Sasha following her ugly split from Pique, Shakira delivered a stinging attack on the Spanish tax authorities.

She claimed she was being “persecuted” and accused the Spanish Treasury of using “unacceptable methods to damage her reputation and force her to come to a settlement agreement.”

She also insisted she had no intention of making any last-minute plea bargain deals and would go to trial, although local reports earlier this week in Spain claimed two separate sets of talks about an out-of-court settlement had already taken place between the opposing sides that never came to fruition.

Earlier this year it emerged Shakira is also facing a separate tax probe in Spain which is still in its infancy and is running separately from the case due to go to trial today.

Officials confirmed in July a court near Barcelona had agreed to investigate her at the request of state prosecutors for suspected 2018 tax breaches.

The wealth tax in Spain is an annual tax payable on the total net value of assets held on December 31. Spanish tax residents pay tax on their worldwide assets.

Shakira arrived in Barcelona last weekend from Miami ahead of her performance at the annual Latin Grammys in Seville on Thursday where she scooped up three awards.

Court officials in the Catalan capital said on Friday Shakira was scheduled to testify tomorrow, although if the trial does end up going ahead her lawyers could ask the three trial judges set to decide her fate to allow her to take the stand after all the evidence against her has been presented.

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