Emma Watson used Panama Papers company to purchase property

The actress was revealed to be in the database on Thursday 


Heather Saul
Friday 13 May 2016 11:20

Emma Watson was one of the latest high-profile figures to be linked to the Panama Papers after her name was included in a database earlier this week.

The Harry Potter actress’s name was found by The Spectator in a searchable database containing more details about the Panama Papers. In the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' database, Watson, 26, was listed as a beneficiary of a company in the British Virgin Islands.

Watson, who has had trouble with stalkers in the past, is understood to have used the company to purchase a property.

Watson's representatives said the company was set up for privacy purposes and stressed that she does not receive any tax or monetary advantages from owning the property via an off-shore company.

“Emma (like many high profile individuals) set up an offshore company for the sole purpose of protecting her anonymity and safety,” her spokesperson said in a statement.

“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.

What are The Panama Papers?

“Offshore companies do not publish these shareholder details. Emma receives absolutely no tax or monetary advantages from this offshore company whatsoever – only privacy.”

The Independent spoke to Gavin Cunningham, Forensic Services Partner at accountancy firm Menzies LLP and formerly a principal investigator at the Serious Fraud Office, about Watson’s appearance in the database.

When her spokesperson says she set it up for ‘privacy reasons’, what does that mean?

It is likely that Emma Watson was aiming to avoid the very financial scrutiny that this discovery has prompted, and it’s worth reiterating that her actions are completely legal.

As a well-known figure, it is not surprising that she does not want her personal financial affairs to be in the public domain.

Could she have anonymity in the UK?

While individuals have no obligation to publish their earnings or tax return, it is now extremely difficult to keep the ownership of a UK company private. Legislation introduced in April 2016, known as the PSC (People with Significant Control) regulations, requires all private businesses incorporated in the UK to publish a register of anyone with a significant shareholding or operating interest in a firm, which can be accessed via Companies House.

If a celebrity carries out their professional services through a UK limited company or say, holds assets such as a house through a UK limited company, their connection to the company is now likely to be revealed. Any earnings gained or the value of any assets would be available to view at Companies House.

How common is it for celebrities to use offshore companies like this?

In light of the new PSC registration legislation introduced in April, it’s quite possible that more individuals, as well as celebrities, examine the merits of setting up an offshore company. If so, this might be considered ironic given that the legislation was designed to provide greater transparency.

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