Emma Watson is one of my favorite celebrities in Hollywood. Not only did she play Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movie series, but she's also a proud humanitarian and feminist. So, I was very surprised when I found out that Watson was connected to the Panama Papers in some fashion. But how serious is the problem and how is Watson connected to the Panama papers in the first place?
According to CNN Money, Watson set up an offshore company using the law firm Mossack Fonseca, which is currently, along with several other major players, at the center of the Panama Papers leak. For those who still aren't sure what the Panama Papers are, here is a brief refresher.
Essentially, the Panama Papers was a massive information hack that yielded a wealth of information from Mossack Fonseca, which is based in Panama. According to many, it's the biggest leak of information ever — bigger than WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden combined.
Mossack Fonseca, if you're unaware, provides a way for the elite to start up shell companies, which act as tax havens against foreign authorities. In other words, it's like putting your money in a really big piggy bank in the Caribbean where no one can ever touch it or find out how much you've got, at least not easily. According to The Guardian, this is also one of the ways for the rich to "exploit secretive tax regimes." While keeping money in offshore structures isn't illegal, money launderers and criminals definitely take advantage of the anonymous company structures — but Emma Watson isn't one of these people.
According to Watson's spokesman, Luke Windsor, Watson set up the company to protect her safety and does not gain any financial or tax incentive from the company. Companies set up in the United Kingdom, where Watson is from, are required to publish details and do not give the same level of anonymity as setting up a company offshore does.
Windsor explained as much in a statement to Romper on Thursday, saying,
Emma (like many high profile individuals) set up an offshore company for the sole purpose of protecting her anonymity and safety. 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 jeopardised in the past owing to such information being publicly available. Offshore companies do not publish these shareholder details. Emma receives absolutely no tax or monetary advantages from this offshore company whatsoever — only privacy.
According to a Windsor, the biggest consequence from the leaking of information is the fact that it is a massive blow to Watson's established and privacy — one of the main reasons she was connected to the offshore account in the first place.
"The offshore world really only has one product and that is secrecy and when you take away that product you don't have anything for sale," said Gerard Ryle, the director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — the group that published the Panama Papers.
Watson, however is not the only celebrity or known person to be named in the massive leak. According to USA Today, Simon Cowell, Jackie Chan, Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister David Cameron are among the names of well known people who were named in the Panama Papers.
So while Emma Watson definitely had an offshore connection with Mossack Fonseca, it doesn't mean that it was for any reason other than to protect her own personal safety and privacy. And who can really blame her?