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Shakira testifies over tax dispute
POP-ROCKER Shakira appeared in court today (Thursday) for a hearing concerning her alleged tax irregularities, facing an accusation of 'defrauding' the authorities of around €14.5 million between 2011 and 2014.
The Colombian-born musician, songwriter and vocalist entered the court in Esplugues de Llobregat (Barcelona province) via the back door to avoid the media, after having rented a parking space – although the judge had expressly ordered her to access the building via the main entrance on the basis that she 'was not entitled to special treatment' purely through being a celebrity.
Reporters had been camped outside the court all night, hoping to get a statement and photograph.
Accompanied by husband Gerard Piqué, 32, she testified for an hour and 20 minutes during an interrogation over six counts of tax fraud she has been charged with.
refused to answer questions other than those posed by her own lawyer, but insisted she was not living full-time in Spain until 2015, meaning she was not liable for tax in the country for the three years in question.
She has, however, paid off the supposed debt, plus interest and fines – an amount in region of €20m - and now does not owe any money to the public coffers.
Although Shakira's relationship with FC Barcelona midfielder Gerard Piqué quickly became serious after they met at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the 42-year-old says she was not resident in Barcelona, where they now live, until 2015.
For the years 2012 to 2014 inclusive, the Waka Waka singer's tax declarations show her as having lived in Spain for 61, 118 and 117 days respectively – well below the 183-day cut-off after which a person is considered tax resident.
During these years, Shakira was on tour around the world and was also working as coach for pop reality show The Voice in Miami, where she had previously lived with long-term ex-boyfriend and former manager Antonio de la Rúa.
But tax authorities allegedly investigated her personal affairs, according to right-wing daily broadsheet ABC, which claims her 'regular hairdressing and personal trainer appointments and gym visits' in Barcelona 'proved' she was living in Spain.
This said, the article did not reveal the number of days in each year Shakira was 'known' to have made these appointments and visits, meaning it is not clear whether the reporters consider this 'proof' that she was resident in Barcelona more than the necessary 183 days.
She is reported to have set up dormant companies in tax havens – including the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Malta, Panamá and Luxembourg – to reduce what she owed.
But Shakira's legal advisors said she followed recommendations by global accounting firm Price Waterhouse (PwC), a blue-chip corporation with years of experience in handling international and cross-border tax returns and with full knowledge of the fiscal systems in every country.
According to prosecutors, the half-Lebanese artist 'signed a tax ruling deal' with Luxembourg authorities giving her 'specific and privileged' fiscal status, 'despite already living in Spain'.
In Spain, tax evasion, deliberate or not, is considered a civil offence when the sum owed is up to €120,000, but any amount higher than this means it is automatically classified as a crime.
This means that, by default, footballers and international music and film professionals will be committing a criminal offence if they do not pay their tax, since their high earnings mean their dues will always be way above the criminal threshold.
Several celebrities have been caught out in this way, and as yet, none has been given a prison sentence of more than two years which means, for a first offence, they do not have to serve it.
However, the stigma of being branded a 'criminal' can affect their careers.
Many, including Shakira, claim they are being 'used as scapegoats' and to 'frighten the public' about what could happen if they attempt to shirk their tax duties.
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