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Tax-evasion case: At pre-trial hearings over alleged €14.5m tax fraud, Shakira presents expert report claiming presence in Spain was ‘sporadic’ | Economy and Business

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Shakira and Gerard Piqué in a file photo from 2019.
Shakira and Gerard Piqué in a file photo from 2019.Cordon

Shakira is running out of options to avoid a trial for six alleged tax offenses. The Colombian singer claims that until 2015 her fiscal residence was in the Bahamas, and as such, she should not have had to pay Spanish income tax – known as IRPF. A report submitted by her defense attorneys, to which EL PAÍS has had access, claims that during the three years in question her presence in Spain was “sporadic.” That hypothesis, however, was refuted on Thursday by a Tax Agency investigator who confirmed evidence of the evasion before the judge overseeing the pre-trial stage of the case.

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The prosecutor claims that the global superstar, whose real name is Isabel Mebarak, evaded €14.5 million in taxes by concealing her wealth via a network of companies based in tax havens. The Spanish Tax Agency believes that from the year 2012, two years after she began a relationship with the then-Barcelona FC soccer player Gerard Piqué, she should have been considered a resident of Spain because she spent more than the stipulated six months plus one day to be classified as such. It is true that she traveled across the world during that period due to her work commitments, but these were “sporadic absences.” The Tax Agency claims that to all intents and purposes she was living in Barcelona.

If the case is sent to trial, Shakira could end up facing having to publicly testify in court and could even face jail time

When she appeared before the court for questioning back in 2019, Shakira stuck to the script prepared by her defense team and claimed that during those three years she was living in the Bahamas, where she had a property that she had shared with her previous partner Antonio de la Rúa. She defined herself at the time as a “nomad with no roots.” Her defense attorneys are sticking to this hypothesis despite the fact that it has been debunked by tax inspectors. There is not one piece of evidence to show that she spent a single day on the islands from 2012 onward. Her defense has insisted that their client held a residency certificate issued by the authorities in the Bahamas, a country where no income tax is paid.

“What’s important is not so much the residence in the Bahamas, but whether Shakira can be considered a fiscal resident in Spain,” reads the report from the defense, which was put together by two professors of financial and tax law. The real fight that Shakira is facing is elsewhere: over the timeline. The singer is seeking to contest the number of days that she lived in Spain.

It is true that the Tax Agency has been unable to compile “direct evidence” that she lived in Spain for the 183 days to be considered a resident. Such proof could include receipts for purchases, social media posts and the use of credit cards. The agency does, however, have indirect proof and considers her tours and concerts to be “sporadic absences” because after her work was done she returned to Spain.

The law professors who put together the report argue that these sporadic absences are only relevant for a taxpayer whose residency in Spain had been previously established. “During these years there were sporadic presences in Spain and never permanence,” the document argues, even if the singer was considered a “fiscal traveler.” One of the experts hired by Shakira appeared in court at the same time as one of the tax inspectors, who managed to refute all of the former’s arguments.

For Shakira, the problem lies in the fact that she has nothing to prove that she was in the Bahamas, not even a plane ticket

The defense is seeking to play all of its chips. The lawyers have insisted that a criminal trial is “not the appropriate place” to resolve these differences with the Tax Agency, because residency rules in Spain are “open, confusing and indeterminate.” The battle is over days, but also hours. The report is calling for the court not to include as whole days occasions when Shakira spent just a few hours in Spanish territory. But the tax inspector has also managed to pull apart this argument, and argues that entire days in both Spain and the Bahamas should be taken into account. For Shakira, the problem lies in the fact that she has nothing to prove that she was in the Bahamas during these years, not even a plane ticket, and as such, there is no other country to which these absences can be attributed.

The judge overseeing the case in Esplugues de Llobregat (Barcelona) will have to decide whether to send it to trial. Shakira, who has already returned the amount she allegedly evaded paying, could end up facing having to publicly testify in court and could even face jail time – the prosecutor is accusing her of six tax offenses related to the non-payment of IRPF and wealth taxes for those three years.

Another route that the singer could explore is a deal with the prosecutor, under which she could accept the acts of the case and pay the corresponding fine in exchange for a greatly reduced sentence.

For now, the battle continues. Via a press release, her representatives have insisted that the process is still in the “pre-trial phase,” and have expressed their willingness to collaborate to resolve what they consider to be a mere “difference of criteria.”

English version by Simon Hunter.



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How the cost of renting an apartment in Copenhagen compares to other cities in Denmark

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With the arguable exception of second city Aarhus, Copenhagen is significantly more expensive to rent housing than anywhere else in Denmark.

But the extra cost in the capital depends on where else in Denmark you compare with, as well as the type of housing you rent.

Private or general housing?

First, it is important to note the difference between the two main types of rental housing in Denmark: private rentals and almene boliger (literally, ‘general housing’), a form of subsidised housing.

For almene boliger, local municipalities put up 10 percent of building costs and in return have the right to decide who is allocated one in four available apartments, enabling them to provide housing to municipal residents who need it. The housing therefore plays a role in the social housing provision.

This type of housing is normally managed by a boligforening or housing association. Rent goes towards costs of running the housing and to pay off the housing association’s loans, which means property owners aren’t profiting from rents and prices are controlled.

Aside from housing assigned by the municipality, almene boliger are open for anyone. However, to get one, you must get to the top of a waiting list, which you join by signing up with associations which operate housing in the city where you live (or want to live).

In Copenhagen or Aarhus, it can take years to get to the top of these lists, while in smaller cities you might get an offer in weeks or even days.

As such, many newcomers to Denmark must turn to the private rental market if they are living in one of the main cities.

READ ALSO: Deposits, complaints and registration: Five key things to know about renting in Denmark

Private housing: Copenhagen clearly pricier 

A study conducted by housing research centre Bolius in November 2020 found the cost of a 56 square-metre apartment in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district to be 8,536 kroner per month.

The study, which was based on data from 2019 and 2020 from rental platforms boliga.dk and boligportal.dk, shows the average monthly cost of non-limited private apartments on Nørrebro, compared with 16 other locations in Denmark.

The cost takes into account the cost of a deposit (normally three months’ rent) and adds it to the average cost of renting the housing for five years (thereby assuming none of the deposit is returned to the tenant).

In comparison to the price in Nørrebro, the study found rent in Hillerød north of Copenhagen to be slightly less (8,218 kroner) for a slightly larger apartment (65 square metres).

Moving further out from Copenhagen, costs begin to drop even more.

In Kalundborg on the west coast of Zealand, you can rent a 71-square-metre flat for 5,167 kroner per month. Næstved, a commuter town between Copenhagen and the Great Belt Bridge, comes in at 6,039 kroner for an apartment at 72 square metres.

The cheaper rents are consistent further to the west, exemplified in Jutland cities Aalborg (5,544 kroner for 62 square metres), Vejle (6.696 kroner for 84 square metres) and Esbjerg (4,399 kroner for 54 square metres).

Although Aarhus is not included in the study, third-largest city Odense is. Here, there is still a significant saving on Copenhagen, with 8,488 kroner, a similar rent to that in Nørrebro, getting you an apartment over 50 percent bigger at 82 square metres.

General (almene) housing: closer, but still higher in Greater Copenhagen

Rent prices for almene or subsidised housing were most recently analysed in a 2020 report by Landsbyggefonden (National Building Foundation), a support institution for the social housing sector.

According to that report, the rent for family housing (meaning housing not reserved for students or seniors) is “on average, approximately 100-200 kroner per square metre higher [per year, ed.] east of the Great Belt Bridge than west of it”.

Of the five administrative regions, average rent for family subsidised housing is highest in Greater Copenhagen at 906 kroner per square metre for a year’s rent.

The lowest rents can be found in South Denmark, where the yearly cost is 722 kroner per square metre.

Zealand is the region that comes closest to Copenhagen on the costs for this type of regular housing. Here, tenants can expect to pay 859 kroner per square metre in a year. The equivalent costs in Central Jutland and North Jutland and 778 kroner and 747 kroner respectively.

The study also places Greater Copenhagen as the most expensive region when rents are presented as the median monthly rent for family housing.

Here, the median values are split into five categories based on apartment size, with Copenhagen coming out as the most expensive region for each category.

For example, the median monthly rents for apartments between 50-60 square metres are as follows: 5,039 kroner (Greater Copenhagen); 4,913 kroner (Zealand); 4,541 kroner (Central Jutland); 4,388 kroner (North Jutland); 4,236 kroner (South Denmark). The national average is 4,667 kroner.

Sources: Domea, Bolius, Landsbyggefonden



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Officials pushed for State to buy direct provision centres from private firms

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The Government should buy a number of privately-owned direct provision centres as a “priority” as it would be more “cost effective” for the State to run the facilities for asylum seekers, international protection officials have said.

The savings arising from owning the accommodation centres rather than paying private contractors to do so “could be considerable”, departmental briefing documents provided to Minister for Children and Integration Roderic O’Gorman last year state.

The vast majority of direct provision centres are currently owned and run by private companies, with accommodation providers having received some €1.6 billion since 1999, including €183 million last year.

The latest figures show some 7,150 people are in the system of seven State-owned sites and 39 private centres. A further 24 commercially-owned premises are being used to provide emergency accommodation for asylum seekers.

The briefing document, released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, says that housing people seeking asylum in State-owned centres would provide the “best protection from the vulnerability of present market reliance”.

“They are also much more cost efficient to run, and the State owns the asset,” it notes.

The document suggested that State centres should aim to accommodate 5,000 people, and “allowing the private sector to supply the rest is regarded as an achievable and reasonable target”.

The purchase of existing centres from private providers “to immediately boost the State’s footprint in this area should be considered as a priority,” the internal document said.

“Some service providers may be open to this and the market appears to be favourable at present,” it said.

The internal briefing suggested the department could then seek private companies or NGOs to run the centres, which would be a “competitive cost option”.

‘Badly needed’

Ongoing maintenance for centres owned by the State was also “badly needed,” as current pressures on the Office of Public Works (OPW) meant it was not possible “for immediate repairs to be done if required”.

“In exploring the model of more State centres, we need to agree and acquire a capital budget,” the briefing stated.

“State land does not require planning permission for new centres as the Minister has a power under the Acts, whereby the OPW can grant the planning permission and this is usually a three-month process. It is not subject to appeal.”

The document says that State centres “can also have a bigger footprint as it will be a permanent fixture in the locality”. In recent years a number of plans for private providers to open direct provision centres in regional towns have been met with protests from locals and anti-immigration activists.

Mr O’Gorman’s department has sought to reform the direct provision system and is seeking to replace the network of centres with a new system of accommodation and supports by the end of 2024.

New centres

A department spokesman confirmed the State has not bought any new centres since the briefing note was written. The spokesman said under the planned overhaul of direct provision, asylum-seekers who arrived into the country would initially be housed in a number of reception and integration centres.

Asylum-seekers will spend a maximum of four months in the reception centres before moving into housing secured through Approved Housing Bodies.

“These centres will be State-owned and purpose built to provide suitable accommodation for approximately 2,000 people at any one time, to cater for the flow-through of the 3,500 applicants over a 12-month period,” he said.


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IN PICTURES: French daredevil takes hair-raising Seine tightrope walk

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Attached by a strap to a safety lanyard, 27-year-old Nathan Paulin slowly progressed barefoot on a line stretched across the river between the Eiffel Tower and the Chaillot Theatre.

He stopped for a few breaks, sitting or lying on the rope.

Paulin holds an umbrella as he performs, for the second time, on a 70-metre-high slackline spanning 670 metres between the Eiffel Tower and the Theatre National de Chaillot. (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

“It wasn’t easy walking 600 metres, concentrating, with everything around, the pressure … but it was still beautiful,” he said after the performance on Saturday.

He said obtaining the necessary authorisations had been a difficulty for him, plus “the stress linked to the audience, the fact that there are a lot of people”.

Photo: (Photo by THOMAS COEX / AFP)

Paulin, holder of several world records, performed the feat to celebrate France’s annual Heritage Day – when people are invited to visit historic buildings and monuments that are usually closed to the public.

He said his motivation was “mainly to do something beautiful and to share it and also to bring a new perspective on heritage, it is to make heritage come alive”.

He had already crossed the River Seine on a tightrope, on Heritage Day in 2017.



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