Sunday, Mar 26, 2023

Socialite who charmed Nato staff in Naples was Russian spy, say investigators

Socialite who charmed Nato staff in Naples was Russian spy, say investigators

GRU officer spent decade posing as Peruvian jewellery designer, say investigative journalists

A team of investigators claim to have unmasked a deep-cover spy from Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, who spent a decade posing as a Latin American jewellery designer and partied with Nato staff based in Naples.

The investigators say the woman went by the name of Maria Adela Kuhfeldt Rivera, and told people she met that she was the child of a German father and Peruvian mother, born in the city of Callao, Peru.

In fact, she was a career GRU officer from Russia, according to research by Bellingcat in partnership with a number of media outlets including La Repubblica in Italy and Der Spiegel in Germany, and shared with the Guardian before publication.
“Rivera” was what

the intelligence community call an illegal, a deep-cover agent trained to pose as a foreigner. Moscow’s intelligence agencies have used illegals since the early Soviet period. Sometimes, they stay living in their fake identities for decades.

Posing as “Rivera”, the illegal moved between Rome, Malta and Paris, eventually settling in Naples, home of Nato’s Allied Joint Force Command, around 2013. She set up a jewellery boutique called Serein and led an active social life.

Her acquaintances said that by taking on the role of secretary at the Naples branch of the international Lions Club, she was able to befriend many Nato staff and other affiliates. One Nato employee told the investigators that he had a brief romantic relationship with “Rivera”.

Traditionally, illegals have been extremely hard for counterintelligence agencies to find, but in a world of biometric data, facial recognition software and open source investigation possibilities, it has become harder for Russia to keep its illegals below the radar.

‘Rivera’ (pictured right) took a one-way flight to Moscow the day after Bellingcat published a joint article suggesting the 2018 Salisbury novichok poisoning suspects were GRU operatives.

Christo Grozev, Bellingcat’s CEO and lead investigator, said in an interview that he had first found the trail of a possible GRU illegal when he was looking at a leaked database of border crossings logged by Belarusian border guards and provided by a group of hackers in opposition to the regime of Alexander Lukashenko.

Grozev searched for Russian passport numbers in ranges known to have been used by GRU operatives, and found numerous hits. Most had Russian names, but one stood out: Maria Adela Kuhfeldt Rivera.

Looking more closely at “Rivera”, Grozev found that she travelled on several Russian passports with serial numbers in a range used by other known GRU operatives, including an officer who had been indicted for the alleged novichok poisoning of the Bulgarian arms dealer Emilian Gebrev, and another GRU officer reportedly involved in the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in 2018.

He also discovered that on 15 September 2018, “Rivera” bought a ticket from Naples to Moscow. The previous day, Bellingcat and its Russian investigative partner, the Insider, published an article on the two Salisbury poisoners, who travelled under the cover identities Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, noting irregularities in their passport data suggesting they had security services links.

It seems “Rivera” was withdrawn by her bosses, who feared that other operatives with similar passport numbers could be compromised. She does not appear to have left Russia again.

Two months after her sudden departure from Naples, she posted a Facebook status in Italian, apparently as a way of explaining her disappearance and silence.

“It’s the truth I must finally reveal … Hair is growing now after chemo, very short but it’s there. I miss everything, but I’m trying to breathe,” she wrote.

Some GRU illegals only travel abroad for quick, short-term missions and change identities regularly, while others like “Rivera” spend years inhabiting the same cover identity.

In June, the Netherlands deported a man arriving on a Brazilian passport in the name of Viktor Muller Ferreira, accusing him of being a Russian illegal named Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov. He had apparently spent a decade preparing his identity, including stints studying in Ireland and the US, and was suspected of trying to infiltrate the international criminal court in The Hague.

The unusual thing about “Rivera” is that she travelled on a Russian passport, when usually illegals disguise their links to Russia or the Soviet Union. It seems that an earlier attempt to pass off “Rivera” as a Peruvian citizen failed: an official Peruvian document from 2006 notes that her application for citizenship was rejected as fraudulent.

Apparently, unfazed by the setback, the GRU then relaunched the “Kuhfeldt Rivera” identity with a Russian passport. This was a strange decision, but it is possible she had already made valuable contacts under that identity and did not want to lose them.

Numerous people who had met “Kuhfeldt Rivera” said she told them her Peruvian mother had taken her to the Soviet Union in 1980 and left her there. She had apparently tried various routes to gain a western European passport over the years.

Bellingcat said it had identified the real Russian woman behind the fake “Rivera” persona, based on information and photo matching from various databases and open source research. She did not reply to requests for comment from the Guardian.


Related Articles

Singapore’s Prime Minister says China and US need to stabilize relations because world can't afford a confict between the two superpowers
Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel Corporation, died at 94
Powell: Silicon Valley Bank was an 'outlier'
Bordeaux town hall set on fire in France pro democracy protest
Police violence in Paris
Donald Trump arrested – Twitter goes wild with doctored pictures
NYPD is setting up barricades outside Manhattan Criminal Court ahead of Trump arrest.
Credit Suisse's Scandalous History Resulted in an Obvious Collapse - It's time for regulators who fail to do their job to be held accountable and serve as an example by being behind bars.
Paris Rioting vs Macron anti democratic law
'Sexual Fantasy' Assignment At US School Outrages Parents
The US government has charged Chinese businessman Guo Wengui with leading a $1 billion fraud scheme that cheated thousands of followers out of their money.
Credit Suisse to borrow $54 billion from Swiss central bank
Russian Hackers Preparing New Cyber Assault Against Ukraine
"Will Fly Wherever International Law Allows": US Warns Russia After Drone Incident
If this was in Tehran, Moscow or Hong Kong
TRUMP: "Standing before you today, I am the only candidate who can make this promise: I will prevent World War III."
Drew Barrymore
China is calling out the US, UK, and Australia on their submarine pact, claiming they are going further down a dangerous road
A brief banking situation report
Lady bites police officer and gets instantly reaction
We are witnessing widespread bank fails and the president just gave a 5 min speech then walked off camera.
Donald Trump's asked by Tucker Carlson question on if the U.S. should support regime change in Russia?.
Silicon Valley Bank exec was Lehman Brothers CFO
Elon Musk Is Planning To Build A Town In Texas For His Employees
The Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse effect is spreading around the world, affecting startup companies across the globe
City officials in Berlin announced on Thursday that all swimmers at public pools will soon be allowed to swim topless
Fitness scam
Market Chaos as USDC Loses Peg to USD after $3.3 Billion Reserves Held by Silicon Valley Bank Closed.
Senator Tom Cotton: If the Mexican Government Won’t Stop Cartels from Killing Americans, Then U.S. Government Should
Banking regulators close SVB, the largest bank failure since the financial crisis
Silicon Valley Bank: Struggles Threaten Tech Startup Ecosystem"
Man’s penis amputated by mistake after he’s wrongly diagnosed with a tumour
In a major snub to Downing Street's Silicon Valley dreams, UK chip giant Arm has dealt a serious blow to the government's economic strategy by opting for a US listing
It's the question on everyone's lips: could a four-day workweek be the future of employment?
Is Gold the Ultimate Safe Haven Asset in Times of Uncertainty?
Spain officials quit over trains that were too wide for tunnels...
Corruption and Influence Buying Uncovered in International Mainstream Media: Investigation Reveals Growing Disinformation Mercenaries
Givenchy Store in New York Robbed of $50,000 in Merchandise
European MP Clare Daly condemns US attack on Nord Stream
Former U.S. President Carter will spend his remaining time at home and receive hospice care instead of medication
Tucker Carlson called Trump a 'demonic force'
Kamala Harris: "The United States has formally determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity."
US Joins 15 NATO Nations in Largest Space Data Collection Initiative in History
White House: No ETs over the United States
U.S. Jet Shoots Down Flying Object Over Canada
Nord Stream terror attack: David Sacks breaks down Sy Hersh's story
Being a Tiktoker might be expensive…
Miracle: El Salvador Search and Rescue teams, with the support of Turkish teams, rescued a woman and a child from the rubble 150 hours after the earthquake
SpaceX, the private space exploration company, made a significant breakthrough in their mission to reach space.
China's top tech firms, including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, NetEase, and, are developing their own versions of Open AI's AI-powered chatbot, ChatGPT