There’s a war raging in Europe: for the first time since 1968, a European country has been invaded. What consequences will this war have for the Netherlands and Europe? Read more

There’s a war raging in Europe: for the first time since 1968, a European country has been invaded. What consequences will this war have for the Netherlands and Europe? 

In this dossier, we focus on how money flows to and from Russia. We analyse the role which the Netherlands plays in the chess game of the Russian rulers and wealthy oligarchs – in Groningen, at the Zuidas and in The Hague.

7 articles

© JanJaap Rijpkema

Who is Jorrit Faassen, Putin’s Dutch son in law?

Jorrit Faassen, a mysterious man from Leiderdorp, is purportedly married to Maria Putina, daughter of the Russian president, and has at one time lived with her in Voorschoten. Faassen denies the relationship. Are any of the rumors true? Which are fake news? Join us on our quest, past penthouses, Russian forums, Moscow highways, and UFOs.

This article in 1 minute
  • Since 2011, media outlets both in the Netherlands and abroad have reported that a Dutch man, Jorrit Faassen, is purportedly married to Vladimir Putin’s eldest daughter. Some outlets inflate the story, while others ignore it. However, Faassens meteoric career in Russia is undeniable; additionally, he appears to have very influential contacts there. Something that hasn’t gone unnoticed in Russia.
  • Follow the Money put its own team on the case. They investigated news reports and family trees, followed leads, studied deeds of sale, read internet forums, tracked down relatives, found clues and hit dead ends, compared endless amounts of photos and lived with their phones glued to their ears.
  • Earlier this week, we published the first results of these investigations. Jorrit Faassen turned out to have bought a plot on a quay in Duivendrecht from his own company, which had purchased the land years earlier. He had plans to build a villa and business premises there. Plans to which Duivendrecht has since put a stop.
  • Shortly afterwards, we published an intriguing update: the shares of Molenkade Ontwikkeling bv, Faassens’s Duivendrecht company, turned out to be owned by a Cypriot company with strong ties to Putin’s inner circle.
  • Today we publish part three, in which we reveal the life story of Jorrit Faassen. Welcome to the roller coaster.
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‘You should do something with this.’ With these words, a Follow the Money journalist is handed Jorrit Faassen’s telephone number on an Austrian ski slope, the day after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This man has for years been rumored to be Putin's son-in-law.

When we call Faassen on his Russian number a week later, he answers quickly. It must be said, we are slightly shocked by this: it feels bizarre to be on the phone with someone who may be closely related to the man who has just started a potential world war. Faassen is displeased that we have his number, but turns out to be willing to talk to us.

He strongly denies any connection to the Putin family. ‘That is entirely false,’ says Faassen, when we ask him about his relationship with Maria Putina: ‘As for where that story got started, go find out yourself.’

That’s easier said than done. Anyone who writes about Putin’s family is treading on dangerous ground; the Russian president famously keeps his family out of the media at all costs.

Vladimir Putin has two daughters from his first marriage: Maria, born on April 28, 1985, and Katya, born on August 31, 1986. Photos of them are scarce, photos of them with their father even more so. He is also said to have a third illegitimate daughter, although the Kremlin denies this.

Mystery

For years, various media outlets have been reporting that Dutchman Jorrit Faassen is purportedly married to Maria Putina. For example, the couple is supposed to have lived in an apartment in Voorschoten, which they subsequently sold in 2021.

Everything about Jorrit Faassen is shrouded in mystery. There are only two photos of him available, he appears to have been deleted from online family trees, and he has no social media profiles, or has deleted them. Jorrit’s relatives and friends slam the door or hang up whenever Follow the Money approaches them.

Last week, Follow the Money spoke with Jorrit Faassen for half an hour, inviting him to comment on his remarkable real estate deal in Duivendrecht. He does indeed own land in Duivendrecht and confirms that he plans to have a villa and six office buildings built there. But journalists have blown his story out of proportion, he claims, which all started in 2010. He denies being Putin’s son-in-law. He would not say to whom he was married, if not to Maria Putina. Then, defiantly, ‘You’re welcome to prove it is true.’

Follow the Money took up the gauntlet. What followed was a scavenger hunt that took us from obituaries and endocrinology conventions via road rage and a wedding party to Russian forums and a Korean newspaper. We now present our findings.

Firstly: what happened in 2010, when ‘it all started’, according to Jorrit Faassen?

Rublyovsky Highway

At the end of that year, on November 14th, 2010, Jorrit Faassen is driving his BMW down the Rublyovsky Highway, a wide six-lane road on the west side of Moscow. Suddenly, he is cut off by a Mercedes and a Volkswagen. He is forced to stop. ‘Several men jumped from the cars and attacked me with clubs,’ Faassen will later tell the police. ‘They smashed the side windows of my car and beat me up. Then, they jumped back into their cars and fled towards the center of Moscow.’

Faassen, who sustains minor injuries, manages to memorize the cars’ plates. Later that day, the perpetrators are arrested: powerful banker Matvey Urin and his bodyguards. In addition, the licenses of Urin’s banks are revoked. In Russia, the reaction is one of surprise: how can one young, unknown foreigner pressing charges bring down such a powerful banker?

The story is quickly picked up by, among others, Dutch media entrepreneur Derk Sauer’s The Moscow Times, and Business Insider. Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that Faassen is ‘not known in Dutch business circles in Moscow’.

‘The son-in-law of someone very important’

The rumor that he is Putin’s son-in-law ensues. After searching the depths of the internet, Follow the Money discovers its source. It’s historian, journalist and activist Vladimir Pribylovski, who publishes a blog under the pseudonym Anticompromat. Two weeks after the original incident, he reports: ‘It is said that this Dutchman is the husband (or betrothed) of someone’s daughter.’ Someone responds (anonymously) to this and writes: ‘I heard that story from some bankers I know. They did not mention the name of the Dutchman, they called him “the betrothed of Putin’s eldest daughter”.’​

Anticompromat’s report sparks a media storm in Russia, after influential journalist Yulia Latynina discusses the Rublyovsky highway affair on her show on radio station Moscow Echo. ‘When you try to imagine how a Dutch citizen can become such an important figure, only one logical answer comes to mind: he is someone’s son-in-law. The son-in-law of someone very important.’​

How important, exactly? Jorrit Faassen admits to Follow the Money that he is married to a Russian woman, but denies that his wife is Maria Putina. Could she be the daughter of another oligarch?

To untangle the knot of rumors and facts, we have to go back to far before 2010.

‘Not too bright’

Jorrit Joost Faassen was born on February 24, 1980; his birth announcement was published in Leidsch Dagblad. When Jorrit is two, he gets a little brother. Jorrit’s father, Jozef Johan Marie (Jos) Faassen, was a naval officer in Willemstad, Curaçao until 1986. It is not clear whether – and if so, for how long – Jorrit lived in Willemstad. In 1986, father Faassen and mother Felicitas van de Stadt buy a house in Leiden, where Jorrit grows up.

A former colleague of Faasen tells us that, in the 1990s, Jos Faassen was a Captain (colonel) in the Royal Dutch Navy’s Defense Materiel Organisation Directorate. By 2004, he had likely reached retirement age, although he is still an active member of a Navy association.

Jorrit gets his secondary education at Visser ’t Hooft Lyceum. Peter Wietsma, his German teacher in the fifth grade, remembers Jorrit as ‘a nice and calm boy’, who ‘was able to keep up just fine’; an ‘average student’. Jorrit was absent at last year’s reunion, on the occasion of the school’s centennial.

Jorrit later studies architecture, as reported by Radio Netherlands Worldwide in January 2011, and in 2005 Leidsch Dagblad devoted an article to the then 24-year-old ‘Leiden student’ Jorrit Faassen. People who knew Jorrit at the time characterize him as ‘anti-intellectual’, ‘low-brow’ and ‘not too bright’. According to one source, Faassen and his friends mostly concern themselves with boozing, expensive watches and fast cars.

Copypasta and Bigfoot

After the blogs of Anticompromat and Yulia Latynina’s radio show, in January 2011, a copypasta begins to make the rounds on Russian forums: bloggers on Livejournal.com copy the same message over and over, making it difficult to trace the original source. This copypasta offers an explanation for the extreme measures against banker Matvey Urin: Jorrit is reputedly Vladimir Putin's son-in-law. Russian news sites eagerly run with this story.

On January 11, 2011, Dutch newspaper Dagblad De Pers also writes about Faassen. A Shell director in Moscow anonymously states that a ‘young, blond Russian’ – Maria Putina – let slip that she is ‘happily married’ to a Dutchman. The next day, Russia correspondent Geert Groot Koerkamp writes a report about the rumors for Radio Netherlands Worldwide, quoting Latynina. He emphasizes that the rumors cannot be confirmed.

This level of nuance disappears when Quote picks up the story six months later, in September 2011. The Dutch business magazine writes that Faassen is ‘according to various sources married to Putin's eldest daughter’.

Two weeks before the Rublevsky Highway incident, The Korea Times, which also publishes articles such as ‘Is this bigfoot?’ and ‘Alien spaceships to attack Earth in November!’, already prints the scoop that Vladimir Putin has a Dutch son-in-law. Halfway through the article it states: ‘Putin has two daughters, the eldest is married to a Dutch – not Russian – young man.’ The story is not picked up.

Wedding

Between 2007 and 2008, Jorrit is ‘key specialist of the Residential Property Department for countryside real estate management’ at Gazprombank-Invest. Or at least, someone reports that he is introduced as such in the annual report of his next employer, Stroytransgaz. According to a press release, he has been part of Stroytransgaz management since March 2009. Until August 2015, he was listed on Russian consultancy firm MEF Audit’s website as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors, Reuters wrote that year.

While Faassen is making a career for himself at Gazprom and Stroytransgaz, he and a Russian woman throw a large wedding party at a castle in Wassenaar, on June 28th 2008. ‘It was a very posh venue,’ according to a source who attended. ‘There was a reception, a big dinner. I wondered: who’s paying for this? It must have cost a fortune. The bride’s parents did not attend, but her younger sister did.’

Casper Faassen, one of Jorrit’s cousins and a well-known artist, also attended the party, although he claims not to remember the details very well. He is one of the few family members willing to speak to Follow the Money. Although he hasn’t been in contact with his cousin for years, not since the rumors started, really, his name regularly crops up in relation to Jorrit.

Periodically – after the annexation of Crimea (February 2014), the MH17 disaster (July 2014) and now the war in Ukraine – he even receives threats from people who think he is close to Jorrit. ‘But I don’t even know what country he lives in and I’m very concerned about what’s happening in Ukraine right now.’

‘At the time I didn’t know who Jorrit’s wife was,’ says Casper Faassen. ‘Only later, when the rumor about Jorrit and Maria started, one begins to suspect: why weren’t Jorrit’s wife’s parents there?’ There was dancing at the party – the tango – and Casper remembers a speech by Jorrit’s friends. ‘They joked that they had gone to a club together to pull rich Russians. I thought it was a bit silly.’

Colonel Faassen: ‘salient’

Is it an interesting detail that Jorrit’s father – the father of Putin’s son-in-law – is a colonel? ‘It’s salient, that much is sure,’ says Jelle van Buuren, when Follow the Money presents him with this information. Van Buuren is senior lecturer at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs at Leiden University. ‘But it makes a lot of difference whether Faassen was still employed as such when his son got into a relationship with Putin’s daughter, or with that of another oligarch,’ he warns. ‘Even if Colonel Faassen’s track record is otherwise impeccable.’

Furthermore, a red flag should have been raised at the Ministry of Defense as soon as the name Faassen was associated with Putin'’ daughter. ‘In these cases, a risk analysis would usually be made,’ Van Buuren explains: ‘What knowledge and skills does he have and how vulnerable are we, should they fall into the wrong hands? And, how easily can he access information to which he should not officially have access?’

We make inquiries with the Ministry of Defense and the military intelligence service (MIVD). Their reply: ‘We cannot answer the questions pertaining to Putin’s son-in-law; as an intelligence service, we never make statements about individuals.’

An oligarch’s daughter

Could it be, we wonder, that the bride was not Maria Putina, but some other Russian oligarch’s daughter? There are several Russian families who could have got Faassen a job at Gazprom at an early age and who could have made short work of a powerful banker like Matvey Urin.

During his conversation with Follow the Money, Jorrit Faassen acknowledges his marriage to a Russian. ‘I am married to a Russian woman and have children, I will leave it at that.’

But all notarial deeds that Follow the Money looked at, including the purchase and sale deeds of the apartments in Voorschoten and those of the land in Duivendrecht, state that Faassen’s marital status is ‘unmarried’ and he is not in a ‘registered partnership’. If he is indeed married, he possibly lied about it to several notary publics.

‘Sorry, but I won’t cooperate’

While Casper is willing to talk to Follow the Money, this doesn’t apply to many others who move (or have moved) in Jorrit’s circles. The former owner of Jorrit’s piece of land in Duivendrecht, real estate agents, construction companies: almost everyone refuses to answer our questions.

Since we cannot find a telephone number for Jos Faassen, we decide to visit him. After all, Jorrit is still in contact with his father, Follow the Money knows. The Colonel opens the door. His mood changes as soon as we introduce ourselves and start talking about his son: immediately he slams the door shut. A little later, he even runs after us to return the questionnaire we put in his letterbox.

Jorrit’s brother does not open the door when we ring the bell. He does not answer his phone and there is no response to the letter that Follow the Money leaves at his home. 

We then call Jurgen Hagemans. He knows Jorrit from back in the day, and the two are still good friends. When we say we’d like to ask some questions about Jorrit, Hagemans says: ‘Sorry, but I won’t cooperate,’ and hangs up on us.

Voorschoten

Despite his important positions at Russian companies, Faassen does not leave the Netherlands completely. In October 2009 he bought two apartments – his wife is not on the deed – on the eighth and ninth floors of an apartment house on Annie MG Schmidtlaan in Voorschoten, for 608 thousand euros. ‘Putin’s daughter living in Voorschoten penthouse’, was the AD headline in 2013, and the unlikely rumor was circulating that father Putin had been spotted at the local Albert Heijn supermarket.

'I wouldn’t say that I was homesick,’ Faassen tells Follow the Money, ‘but yes, there were times when I wanted to go back to the Netherlands. And Voorschoten is close to where I grew up. But I’m having a great time in Moscow. I’ve enjoyed living here for sixteen years.’ The Voorschoten house does not seem to have been inhabited during the period Faassen owned it, according to several sources. When he sold the property, doors were missing and there was no bathroom or kitchen.

In the aftermath of the news about the Voorschoten apartment, something strange happens. In April 2013, Quote publishes a new article with the headline ‘Vladimir Putin Furious at Quote’; In it, the magazine writes that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has confirmed the relationship between Jorrit and Maria Faassen. De Telegraaf picks up the story, followed by the Volkskrant. De Telegraaf repeated this ‘fact’ again last week, as did Quote itself.

When Follow the Money contacts the Quote journalist in question, her reaction is one of shock. ‘Is that still online? That is just not okay. We had a source who told us this. He promised to come up with audio recordings of Lavrov, but he didn’t come through. So what it says is wrong. At the time, I told the editors that the article ought to be taken offline.’ The reporter from De Telegraaf who picked up the news about Lavrov in 2013 is also surprised. ‘I can’t imagine we would just copy something from Quote.’

In April 2013, even before Dutch media picked up the story, The Moscow Times reported that a spokesman for the Kremlin denies there being a relationship between Jorrit and Maria.

More indications

But there are other solid indications that Maria Putina and Jorrit Faassen are (or at least, were) in a relationship. This week, Follow the Money revealed that Jorrit is linked to Poetin’s inner circle through his company. And in 2015, Reuters discovered that Maria Putina, who is an endocrinologist, has published a number of scientific papers.

Between 2012 and 2017, Maria published several papers. In them, she uses both the name Maria Faassen and Maria Vorontsova, a surname often used by Maria Putina. In one publication, both names show up: Maria Vorontsova as a contributor, and Maria Faassen as the author. Her co-authors – who did not respond to Follow the Money’s questions – are in many cases the same people. And Reuters discovered that, on the website of the institute where Maria Putina worked, there is a powerpoint presentation by Maria Vladimirovna Faassen. The name of the file: faassen.pdf.

A paper authored by Maria Faassen was presented during an endocrinology conference in 2015. One of the audience photos shows a woman who closely resembles Maria Putina, Follow the Money discovered. Another reason to think that Maria Putina and Maria Faassen are one and the same person.

Maria Putina has also been photographed several times in the Netherlands, as Russian magazine The New Times (Novoje Vremja) reported in 2016. It published photos of a woman who, according to the magazine, is Putin’s daughter: one with a bicycle in front of the door of a bicycle repair shop on the Bloemgracht in Amsterdam, and one presumably taken during the 2008 ‘carnaval’ celebrations in Maastricht.

It could all be coincidence. There are no photographs or official documents that provide indisputable evidence of a relationship between Maria Putina and Jorrit Faassen.

Jorrit says he is married ‘to another Russian woman’. It is possible that he is married to another Russian, who is involved in the same scientific research as Maria Putina, and whose father is also called Vladimir. But it isn’t likely. Because Follow the Money found another puzzle piece.

During our search, we come across an obituary of Jorrit’s grandfather. He passed away on April 18, 2009. The online version of the obituary has been truncated and doesn’t mention any family members. Follow the Money decided to go to the Royal Library in The Hague, hoping to find the entire obituary text in De Haagsche Courant.

On page fourteen of the April 21st, 2009 edition, we find the obituary. It lists the whole family. Jos and Felice from Leiden. Casper is mentioned, also along with his hometown, as is Jorrit’s brother. Between these two:

‘Moscow, Jorrit & Maria’.

No response

In the days leading up to this publication, Follow the Money tried to talk with Jorrit Faassen. We have two of his phone numbers, and tried those repeatedly, from three different numbers. We sent him text messages and tried to reach him via his Telegram account.He did not respond.

Tips

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In collaboration with Tom de Regt.