Shakira hit with $16M tax evasion suit in Spain

Colombian pop musician Shakira is facing a $16.3 million US tax evasion suit by Spanish prosecutors. The charges allege that for two years she listed the Bahamas as her official residence for tax purposes, but was actually living in Spain with her partner.

Representatives say the Spanish tax authorities are using her 'as a scapegoat' to frighten other taxpayers

Shakira performs at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in 2014, in Las Vegas. ( Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press)

Spanish prosecutors are charging pop star Shakira with tax evasion, alleging she failed to pay more than $16.3 million US between 2012 and 2014.

The charges published Friday allege Shakira listed the Bahamas as her official residence for tax purposes during those years but was in fact living in Spain with her partner, Spanish soccer player Gerard Pique.

Tax rates are much lower in the Bahamas than in Spain.

Shakira said in a statement Friday through her representatives that she was not a legal resident in Spain during the years in question and owed nothing to the Spanish tax authorities, who are using her "as a scapegoat" to frighten other taxpayers into coming clean.

Shakira after receiving the Crystal Award during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland in 2017. (Ruben Sprich/Reuters)

Prosecutors in Barcelona say her travel abroad was for short periods because of professional commitments, while most of the year she stayed in Spain. They want her to pay tax in Spain on her worldwide income.

The Colombian singer officially moved to Spain for tax purposes in 2015, after having two children by Pique.

A magistrate will determine whether there is enough evidence to put Shakira on trial. 

Prosecutors want Shakira to pay a bond of €19.4 million — the amount they say she owes in tax, plus 33 per cent, according to Spanish law. Otherwise, prosecutors recommend a court freeze of her assets to that amount.

Shakira was named in the "Paradise Papers" leaks that detailed the offshore tax arrangements of numerous high-profile individuals, including musical celebrities like Madonna and U2's Bono.

The documents were obtained by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and investigated by Spanish news website El Confidencial.

Spain's tax authorities referred their probe to the Barcelona prosecutor's office a year ago.

High profile athletes have also been in trouble with Spanish tax authorities, like soccer players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.