The journalist Hubert Seipel is accused in media reports of having received hundreds of thousands of euros from Russia. His book publisher has stopped selling his works. Seipel denies that there was any influence on the content.
According to media reports, the German TV journalist and Putin biographer Hubert Seipel is said to have received hundreds of thousands of euros from Russia without informing his employer, Norddeutscher Rundfunk. As the “Spiegel” and the ZDF magazine “Frontal” reported on Tuesday, citing confidential documents from Cyprus, the issue is specifically about 600,000 euros that were paid as part of a so-called sponsorship agreement.
Seipel’s contractual partner was officially a shell company called De Vere Worldwide Corporation based in the British Virgin Islands. This apparently belongs to the company network of the Russian oligarch and long-time major TUI shareholder Alexei Mordashov, whom the European Union imposed sanctions on after the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. There were indications that there had previously been a second, similar agreement, it said.
Hubert Seipel wrote books about Putin
Seipel had interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin several times. His biography “Putin. Inside Views of Power” was published in 2015. The book “Putin’s Power. Why Europe Needs Russia” followed in 2021. Both books were published by the Hamburg publishing house Hoffmann and Campe. The publisher announced on Tuesday: “Due to the report on Hubert Seipel published by “Spiegel” and ZDF, Hoffmann and Campe Verlag has decided to no longer offer his books for sale.” The publisher had no knowledge of the facts described.
The NDR stated that it was examining legal steps and had contacted the author and those responsible for the production company. “Seipel admitted to NDR that he had received money from Alexey Mordaschow through two “sponsorship contracts” in 2013 and 2018 and explained that it was for two book projects,” the broadcaster said. Mordashov is considered a Russian oligarch. He has been a major shareholder of Tui for many years. The EU added Mordashov to its sanctions list at the end of February 2022.
According to NDR, Seipel did not disclose the conclusion of the contracts at the time. “The broadcaster sees this as a significant conflict of interest, which calls into question Seipel’s journalistic independence.” Seipel last worked for the public broadcaster NDR in 2019. According to the information, the Grimme Prize-winning journalist produced a documentary about Putin for the ARD broadcaster in 2012 and conducted interviews with the Russian President and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who fled the USA, in 2014.
According to “Spiegel” and ZDF, the payments to Seipel were uncovered as part of “Cyprus Confidential”, an international investigative investigation into questionable transactions in the EU country Cyprus.
Seipel admitted to investigative startup Paper Trail Media that Mordashov paid him money, but defended the legitimacy of his work. “The books have led to lively discussions and ideological disputes,” said Seipel. When asked whether he had disclosed his relationship with the oligarch to his publishers, Seipel emphasized that no one had asked him whether he was working “on behalf of foreign powers.”
Seipel was considered one of the most sought-after Russia experts and one of the few journalists who had direct access to Putin. He made several films about the Russian president and was often featured in German media and talk shows.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.