Emma Watson, the Harry Potter actress-turned-liberal activist, has been named in the Panama Papers.
But it’s no big deal, she says, because having an offshore company or account is not illegal or unethical. But it is private. Or it was supposed to be.
“Emma (like many high-profile individuals) set up an offshore company for the sole purpose of protecting her anonymity and safety,” said a statement issued by her representatives Tuesday. “Emma receives absolutely no tax or monetary advantages from this offshore company whatsoever — only privacy.”
The Panama Papers, in case you’ve forgotten already, are a cache of more than 11 million confidential documents from a Panama law firm leaked to and published online last month by an international consortium of journalists who have been busy combing the database for details on how rich, famous and powerful people hide their wealth in offshore accounts and tax havens.
Scandal and embarrassment soon followed for a dozen heads of state and scores of their relatives. At least one had to resign and others, including Watson’s fellow Brit, Prime Minister David Cameron, have been forced to explain why they have offshore accounts and whether or not any of their country’s financial and tax laws were broken.
But there were relatively few well-known entertainers named initially, and none were American. Oscar-winning Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar, martial-arts star Jackie Chan, and Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan were the major celebrity boldfaced names that came out initially.
Later, the names of other celebrity Brits, including Simon Cowell, the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, ex-wife of Prince Andrew, and Heather Mills, ex-wife of Paul McCartney, also turned up in the Panama Papers.
Now Watson has been added to the list, after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published more data on more than 200,000 entities on its website on Monday.
The British conservative weekly The Spectatorperused the database and found that “Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson” is a beneficiary in an offshore company based in the British Virgin Islands. The magazine used the discovery to suggest that Watson’s continued political activism could lead to more questions about her use of this offshore company.
As Watson’s smarter-than-everybody character Hermione Granger might say, not so fast. Privacy and safety are what Watson seeks, not bolt holes for themillions she’s earned from Harry Potter.
UK companies are required to publicly publish details of their shareholders and therefore do not give her the necessary anonymity required to protect her personal safety, which has been jeopardized in the past owing to such information being publicly available,” her statement said. “Offshore companies do not publish these shareholder details.”
Watson, 26, who grew up playing Hermione in the Harry Potter movies, has become an outspoken liberal and feminist activist, representing the United Nations as a goodwill ambassador and campaigning for women’s rights and girls’ education around the world.
Last week, after lawyer Sadiq Khan was elected mayor of London (becoming the first Muslim to head a major western city), Watson called on him to set up a statue of a British suffragette outside Parliament.