Hubert Seipel, an influential German writer and filmmaker, received at least 600,000 euros ($652,000) in secret offshore payments from companies linked to an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Guardian reported on Nov. 14, citing leaked files.
Seipel, who has long been seen as one of Germany’s top independent experts on Russia, reportedly received the money in installments, which the documents suggest was to support his work on two books about Putin, deemed by many as sympathetic to the Russian president.
According to the Guardian, the money was paid from accounts connected to Alexei Mordashov, a Russian steel and banking magnate, sanctioned following Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The European Union described the billionaire as “benefiting from his links with Russian decision-makers.”
The payments to Seipel went through a British Virgin Islands (BVI)-registered company called De Vere Worldwide Corp, owned by a top manager in Mordashov’s Severstal group, showed the offshore records leaked as part of the Cyprus Confidential project and shared with the Guardian.
Seipel admitted to the media outlet that his books were financed by Mordashov but insisted he remained impartial in his work. “I always set clear legal boundaries that guaranteed my independence.”
Seipel’s books — a 2015 biography called Putin: Inner Views of Power and a 2021 title, Putin’s Power: Why Europe Needs Russia — reportedly became bestsellers, with tens of thousands of copies sold.
For his award-winning 2012 documentary I Putin – a Portrait, Seipel received exclusive access to the Russian leader, traveling with him across Russia.
One of the few journalists in the world to have direct and regular contact with Putin, Seipel said he has met him“nearly 100 times,” as cited by the Guardian.