Superstar Colombian singer Shakira’s Maltese company that manages her income will be placed under the spotlight when her tax evasion trial starts in Barcelona on 20 November.
The hearings, which Shakira will be attending in person, promise to be a media circus. They will run through December and some 200 witnesses are due to be called to testify.
Spanish prosecutors are asking a court in the town of Esplugues de Llobregat, just outside of Barcelona, to sentence Shakira to eight years and two months in prison and a fine of €23.8 million for allegedly evading Spanish taxes by claiming she did not live in the country for the tax years between 2012 and 2014.
They have accused the Colombian singer, whose full name is Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, of evading the Spanish taxes through a “corporate framework” in which her Maltese company played a central role.
Shakira’s lawyers have argued in Spanish courts that her income is managed through a Maltese company that complies with all legal requirements.
In a defence brief presented recently to the Spanish courts, her lawyers argue that up until 2015 she did not spend over 183 days a year in Spain, thus exempting her from Spanish tax, and that her income was managed by a Maltese company that complies with all legal requirements.
The brief adds Shakira, “has scrupulously complied with all her tax obligations in the multiple territories with which she has had professional ties”, without a single sanction.
The Maltese company, Tournesol Limited, was registered in Malta on 27 December 2007. The company holds the rights to her musical assets, amounting to a value of some €32 million.
The company’s authorised share capital is €3.02 million. Tournesol, in turn, owns a Luxembourg-based firm named ACE Entertainment.
A search of the Malta Business Registry shows Shakira is still 100% owner of the company, and her listed residence address is the home in Esplugues de Llobregat, outside of Barcelona.
The company is registered at the Oyia Business Centre in Marsa. The singer has a reported estimated net worth of around €300 million.
Shakira claims to have officially switched her country of residence from the Bahamas to Spain in 2015, the year after the Spanish tax authorities questioned the dates.
Spanish prosecutors argue that since she resided in Spain for more than 183 days a year, a legal tax year, Shakira “was a tax resident in Spain and was obliged to pay taxes on all of her worldwide income on income tax and wealth taxes” between 2012 and 2014.
They argue that Shakira set up a “corporate framework” based in Malta, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Panama and Luxembourg to avoid doing so, where she hid income and assets.
Shakira, however, claims she was a tax resident in the Bahamas from 2012 until the end of 2014 when she settled in Barcelona. But prosecutors contend the singer lived in Spain “regularly” between 2012 and 2014 – in Barcelona and then in a mansion she bought with her former husband, Barcelona FC’s Gerard Piqué, in Esplugues de Llobregat through a company.
They argue the property was Shakira’s family home and that she only left Spain during that period “for professional reasons and very short durations”.
The singer’s lawyers, the Molins law firm of Barcelona, have accused prosecutors of “violating” Shakira’s right to privacy while investigating her for alleged tax fraud and maintain that since 2011 she has paid more than €104 million in taxes worldwide.
Shakira’s lawyers accuse the Spanish Treasury of having mounted a media campaign to ” force” the singer “despite her innocence, to plead guilty and accept the charges”.