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Pop star Shakira reaches a deal with Spanish prosecutors on the first day of tax fraud trial

Colombian performer Shakira leaves court in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. Global pop star Shakira is summoned on Monday to a Barcelona courthouse for the opening day of her trial for allegedly defrauding Spanish tax officials of millions of euros. Shakira faces six counts of failing to pay the Spanish government 14.5 million euros (now $15.8 million) in taxes between 2012 and 2014. Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain — After having maintained her innocence for nearly five years, pop star Shakira struck a last-minute deal on the opening day of her tax fraud trial in Barcelona to avoid the risk of going to prison.

Shakira told the presiding magistrate, José Manuel del Amo, on Monday that she accepted the agreement reached with prosecutors. She answered “yes” to confirm her acknowledgment of six counts of failing to pay the Spanish government 14.5 million euros (about $15.8 million) in taxes between 2012 and 2014.

The trial, which was expected to include more than 100 witnesses over several weeks, was instead called off after just eight minutes.

Under the deal, Shakira is to receive a suspended three-year sentence and to pay a fine of $8 million in addition to the previously unpaid taxes and interest. She will pay another fine of $472,000 in exchange for having her prison sentence waived.

However, she now has it on her legal record that she was found guilty of tax fraud, which could affect another pending tax case.

The fraud allegations had hinged on where Shakira, now 46, lived during 2012-14. Prosecutors in Barcelona alleged the Colombian singer spent more than half of that period in Spain and therefore should have paid taxes on her worldwide income there even though her official residence was still in the Bahamas. Tax rates are much lower in the Bahamas than in Spain.

Prosecutors said in July that they would seek a prison sentence of eight years and two months and a fine of $26 million for the singer, who has won over a fans around the global with her hits in Spanish and English in different musical genres.

Shakira said in a statement provided by her public relations firm that she had wanted to fight on but put her family, career and peace of mind first.

“I have made the decision to finally resolve this matter with the best interest of my kids at heart who do not want to see their mom sacrifice her personal well-being in this fight,” she said. “I need to move past the stress and emotional toll of the last several years and focus on the things I love, my kids and all the opportunities to come in my career.”

The multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy winner waved and blew a kiss to a small crowd of bystanders before entering the courthouse. She briefly sat in front of the panel of judges, flanked by teams of prosecutors on one side and the defense on the other.

“This has been a difficult decision that took time to reach,” defense lawyer Miriam Company told reporters. “Her legal team had prepared the trial and were convinced we could demonstrate her innocence, but the circumstances changed and (Shakira) opted to accept the deal.”

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Hannah Waddingham

Hannah Waddingham’s friends weren't exactly ready to celebrate Christmas when they received an invitation to attend a live taping of her holiday special last May at the London Coliseum.

It “was uncommonly sweaty in London,” recalled Waddingham, "and there was us putting out an invitation saying, ‘Please wear your Christmas finery.’ So many of my friends rang me, were like, ‘Dude, really?’ I was like, ‘Yes, get your Christmas sweater out. If I’m going to be sweating, so can you.’”

“Hannah Waddingham: Home for Christmas,” debuting Wednesday (along with an accompanying soundtrack), is a dream come true for the performer, an Emmy Award-winner and three-time Olivier Award nominee. Her mother, Melodie Kelly, was an opera singer and Waddingham says she essentially spent her childhood at the Coliseum.

"I’ve run around those corridors since I was 8 years old. The reason why I am who I am as a performer is from sitting in that theater watching the great opera singers of the day... And then, of course, you know, my mother I didn’t mention it in the special, but my mother is heavily afflicted with Parkinson’s disease and is in a wheelchair. So the fact that she was even able to be there, my father sitting next to her, who had had quintuple heart surgery while I was shooting ‘Ted Lasso’ ... and to have my little girl, who by some quirk of the universe was 8 years old when we were shooting it, it’s unbelievable. Kismet.”

Waddingham is joined by other special guests including Leslie Odom Jr., Luke Evans (“He and I have known each other for 20 years from theater,” she said), and Sam Ryder. Some of her pals from “Ted Lasso” also appear.

“We put the blanket offer out to them, and said, ‘Hannah wants as many of you as will be there.’ They were all clamoring to be involved. And let me tell you, they are big, fat Christmas hams."

The special caps off an eventful year for Waddingham. Besides “Ted Lasso” airing its fourth season, and taping “Home for Christmas,” she hosted the Olivier Awards, and also co-hosted the Eurovision Song Contest and the Earthshot Prize in Singapore alongside Prince William and actor Sterling K. Brown.

“2024 is really going to have to go some because 2023 has been insane," she said.

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LONDON — Comedian Russell Brand has been interviewed by British police over three alleged sexual offenses, U.K. media reported Sunday.

The Sunday Times and BBC said Brand, 48, was interviewed last week at a London police station.

Without naming Brand, the Metropolitan Police force said that “a man in his 40s attended a police station in south London on Thursday November 16, 2023. He was interviewed under caution by detectives in relation to three non-recent sexual offenses. Inquiries continue.”

British police do not name suspects who have not been arrested and charged. "Under caution" means the interview was recorded and can be used in future prosecutions.

In September, the Times and Sunday Times newspapers and broadcaster Channel 4 said four women had made allegations of sexual assault against Brand. They dated from the period between 2006 and 2013, when Brand was a major star in Britain with a growing U.S. profile.

He denies all the claims, saying his relationships were “always consensual.”

Two U.K. police forces, the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police, launched investigations into Brand after the claims were published.

Brand was dropped by his talent agent and publisher after the allegations became public, and a series of live dates was canceled.

The BBC and other media companies he had worked for have launched reviews into his behavior and their response.

Known for his unbridled and risqué standup routines, Brand hosted shows on radio and television, wrote memoirs charting his battles with drugs and alcohol, appeared in several Hollywood movies and was briefly married to pop star Katy Perry between 2010 and 2012.

In recent years, Brand has largely disappeared from mainstream media but has built up a large following online with videos mixing wellness and conspiracy theories.

From combined wire reports

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