Veteran German journalist Hubert Seipel, acclaimed for his best-selling book and award-winning documentary on Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been exposed for secretly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from a shell company linked to sanctioned Russian oligarch Alexey Mordashov. The leak, part of the Cyprus Confidential investigation by Paper Trail Media, Der Spiegel, and ZDF, sheds light on the extent of Russia’s propaganda efforts abroad.
Financial records reveal that Seipel, known for his latest book “Putin’s Power,” portraying him as the only Western journalist with direct access to Putin, agreed to receive approximately $700,000 as a “sponsorship” from a company associated with Mordashov.
This undisclosed deal occurred over the past five years, with leaked documents indicating that a lawyer from Mordashov’s steel conglomerate served as a witness to the agreement.
The leaked records suggest that Seipel received financial support for writing a book on the political environment in the Russian Federation, with a previous agreement in 2013 for a “Putin biography.” While Seipel defended the legitimacy of his work, he admitted to Mordashov’s sponsorship but denied being a “Putin agent” and emphasized Mordashov’s role as an entrepreneur using private funds.
Seipel, who interviewed Putin for public broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk in 2014, asserted that he hadn’t received payments from third parties for his documentaries or televised interviews. However, his publisher, Hoffmann und Campe Verlag, claimed to have no knowledge of the sponsorship agreement and reserved the right to take further steps pending the verification of the allegations.
The Cyprus Confidential investigation, led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, exposes the complicity of financial service providers, including PwC Cyprus, in helping Russian elites hide billions of dollars in assets from sanctions. PwC Cyprus, which had worked for Mordashov and other oligarchs for decades, terminated relationships with approximately 150 client groups after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The report emphasizes the broader context of Russia’s efforts to influence foreign media, citing instances in Italy, the US, and Latin America. In Germany, Seipel, known as a “Putin connoisseur,” has faced scrutiny for his access to Putin and has now come under further questioning regarding his financial ties.
The investigation highlights Cyprus’s role as a key financial and secrecy hub for Putin’s associates, prompting concerns about the ethical practices of businesses in the region. The revelations surrounding Seipel’s secret deal highlight the challenges posed by Russian influence campaigns on Western media and raise questions about the integrity of journalism in the face of undisclosed financial ties.
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