Spanish Singer Isabel Pantoja Denied U.S. Visa After Serving Prison Time for Money Laundering

Pantoja’s comeback concerts in Miami and San Juan have been canceled, but promoters are “confident” they will announce new dates soon.

Spanish diva Isabel Pantoja has been denied a visa to perform two scheduled comeback concerts in Miami and San Juan. The Miami concert had been set for Sunday (Feb.11).

The news, announced Thursday (Feb. 8) by the label and concert promoters, is a disappointment for Pantoja’s expectant fans. However, it is not all that surprising, since Pantoja is an ex-convict who served time on money laundering charges.

U.S. State Department regulations stipulate that “any alien who has engaged…in an fense…relating to laundering a monetary instrument” is inadmissible for entry into the United States. In addition, the regulations state that anyone who is convicted a crime “moral turpitude,” or a conspiracy to commit such a crime, which is interpreted to include money laundering, will not be allowed to enter the United States.  

Despite those regulations, the show’s promoters remain convinced that Pantoja will be granted a visa to perform. According to a statement from Universal, the concerts were “temporarily postponed.” The statement said that Pantoja had been initially approved for the visa by the U.S. Embassy, but her visa was subsequently denied “after a second revision.” The promoters, Loud and Live and 5 stars Entertainment, announced that those who had tickets for the show in Miami should hold on to them and wait for new dates.

Upon Pantoja’s sentencing in Spain, the judge called her crime “one the most demolishing attacks that can be infringed on a democratic society.” She was sentenced to two years for her involvement in a money laundering scheme cooked up by her lover, the former mayor the ritzy Spanish port town Marbella. The singer entered a women’s prison in her native Andalusia in November 2014, and was released on probation in March 2016. She met the obligations her sentence in October 2016.

Pantoja, who has sold over 6 million albums and released some 30 recordings, had signed a contract with Universal Music Spain before her sentence. A new album came out about two months after the end her probationary period. Hasta Que Se Apague el Sol (Until the Sun Goes Dark), which Pantoja recorded with the Mexican star Juan Gabriel before she entered prison, went gold in Spain just weeks after its release. It was the final recording for Gabriel, who died in August 2016.

In 2017, Pantoja returned to the stages Spain and South America for a series triumphant concerts. The dates in Miami and Puerto Rico were originally scheduled for last October, but were canceled due to Hurricane Irma.  

Pantoja is an iconic artist in Spain known for her dramatic flair. She first danced in a flamenco show at age 7, and started singing pressionally when still in her teens. Pantoja's notoriety increased with her 1983 marriage to Francisco Rivera “Paquirri,” a star bullfighter. When Paquirri was killed in the ring in 1984, the glamorous Pantoja became known as “the widow Spain.”

Concert promoters said the statement that they remained “confident” that they will be able to announce new dates for the concerts shortly. According to the promoters, the shows were sold out.

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