For the past few years, the Spanish government has been accused of targeting footballers for tax evasion, racking up allegations against such superstars like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Javier Mascherano. This week, things took a slightly different turn when Spanish tax authorities set their sights on the partner of FC Barcelona footballer Gerard Piqué. Granted, this isn’t just any WAG: Piqué’s partner is international pop singer Shakira. Spanish tax authorities have charged Shakira with tax evasion for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Shakira, whose full name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, was born in Colombia in 1977. Her debut album, Magia, hit the charts in 1990 when she was just 13 years old. Within a decade she had sold millions of albums and become a household name.
In 2010, Shakira recorded the catchy “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa),” which was the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. She met Piqué while filming the video for the song. The video has more than 2 billion views on YouTube. You can see it here:
(Fun fact: Piqué also made an appearance in Shakira’s follow-up World Cup 2014 song, “La La La (Brazil).”)
Within a few years, the pair were officially an item. Shakira gave birth to the couple’s first son in Barcelona in 2013. At the time, news agencies reported that the baby “was born in Barcelona, Spain where Shakira and soccer star Gerard Piqué currently reside.”
Shakira’s residence is precisely what’s causing her current tax headache. Shakira had previously resided in the tax-friendly Bahamas. According to Spanish authorities, she continued to claim Bahamian residency for tax purposes until 2015, when she changed her official residency to Spain.
Spanish tax authorities, however, claim that she was a resident of Spain, not the Bahamas, from 2011 through 2014. Earlier, Shakira paid more than 20 million euros ($22.6 million U.S.) to settle part of her alleged tax debt, while not admitting that she owed tax. If that sounds familiar, Lionel Messi did something similar, making what he called a “corrective payment” of 5 million euros (then $6.6 million U.S.) to Spanish authorities as a “corrective payment.” Messi was subsequently criminally charged and convicted of tax evasion.
Spanish tax authorities now argue that Shakira owes more than 14.5 million euros ($16.4 million U.S.) in unpaid taxes. They are seeking to hold her criminally responsible for the years 2012 through 2014, alleging that she took steps to conceal her residency during those years for tax purposes (2011 is excluded due to the statute of limitations).
Under Spanish law, if an individual spends at least half of the year plus one day in Spain, the individual is considered a Spanish tax resident and is subject to tax on worldwide income. Allegedly, investigators were not able to prove with certainty that Shakira lived in the country for at least 183 days in any of 2012, 2013 or 2014. However, tax authorities claim that absences during those years were sporadic and that between 2012 and 2014, Shakira “had no physical presence for a single day” in the Bahamas.
The investigation has been ongoing for more than a year. As part of their efforts to establish residency, tax investigators followed the singer to places she frequented, like her hairdresser. They also tracked Shakira’s activity on social networks like Instagram, where the singer has more than 55 million followers.
The matter will now move to court where a judge will decide whether to accept the criminal complaint brought by prosecutors. Shakira has, through her representatives, denied the allegations.