In a shocking revelation, Hubert Seipel, an influential German writer and filmmaker, has come under scrutiny for allegedly receiving substantial secret offshore payments amounting to at least 600,000 euros ($652,000) from companies linked to a Russian oligarch in close proximity to President Vladimir Putin. The Guardian, on November 14, reported on leaked files that detail the covert financial transactions, raising questions about the integrity of Seipel’s work as an independent expert on Russia.
Financial Trail Leading to Putin’s Inner Circle
The leaked documents suggest that Seipel received the funds in installments, purportedly to support his work on two books about Vladimir Putin. The financial transactions were reportedly orchestrated through accounts associated with Alexei Mordashov, a Russian steel and banking magnate who has faced sanctions in the aftermath of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The European Union has identified Mordashov as “benefiting from his links with Russian decision-makers.”
The payments were funneled through De Vere Worldwide Corp, a British Virgin Islands (BVI)-registered company owned by a high-ranking executive in Mordashov’s Severstal group. The revelation comes as part of the Cyprus Confidential project, with offshore records shared with The Guardian.
Seipel’s Defense: Independence Amid Financial Backing
Hubert Seipel has acknowledged the financial support from Mordashov for his books but vehemently defended his independence, stating, “I always set clear legal boundaries that guaranteed my independence.” The nature of Seipel’s relationship with the Russian oligarch and the purpose of these secret payments have sparked debates about the influence these financial ties may have had on the content of his works.
Bestselling Books and Award-Winning Documentary: The Paradox of Seipel’s Success
Seipel’s books, particularly the 2015 biography titled “Putin: Inner Views of Power” and the 2021 release “Putin’s Power: Why Europe Needs Russia,” reportedly achieved bestseller status, with tens of thousands of copies sold. The Guardian’s report indicates that these books have been viewed by many as sympathetic portrayals of the Russian President.
Adding another layer to the controversy is Seipel’s award-winning 2012 documentary, “I Putin – a Portrait,” for which he received exclusive access to Vladimir Putin, traveling extensively with the Russian leader. Seipel proudly claims to be one of the few journalists in the world to have direct and regular contact with Putin, boasting of having met him “nearly 100 times.”
Implications and Questions for Independent Expertise
The allegations against Hubert Seipel raise critical questions about the intersection of financial interests and journalistic independence, particularly in the realm of political commentary. As a recognized expert on Russia, Seipel’s work has shaped public perception, and the revelation of significant financial backing from a Putin-linked oligarch prompts concerns about the objectivity of his analyses.
This controversy underscores the challenges of navigating the fine line between journalism, financial relationships, and geopolitical influence, leaving the public to question the authenticity of the narratives presented by ostensibly independent experts. The true extent of Seipel’s ties to the Russian elite and the impact on his body of work remain subjects of intense scrutiny as this story unfolds.