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

A team of investigators Claim to be unmasked A deep-cover spy in Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, who spent a decade as a Latin American jewelry designer and partied with NATO staff in Naples.

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

In fact, she was a career GRU officer in Russia, according to research by BellingCat, partnering with several media outlets including Republic in Italy and Der Spiegel in Germany, and shared with the Guardian before publication.

“Rivera” is known to the intelligence community as an illegal, deep-cover agent who is trained to pose as a foreigner. Moscow’s intelligence agencies have used illegals since Soviet times. Sometimes, they live in their fake identities for decades.

Known as “Rivera”, he moved illegally between Rome, Malta and Paris, eventually settling around 2013 in Naples, home of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command. She established a jewelery boutique called Seren and led an active social life.

Her acquaintances said that by working as a secretary at the Naples branch of the International Lions Club, she was able to befriend many NATO personnel and other allied people. A NATO employee told investigators he had a brief affair with “Rivera.”

Traditionally, illegal detection was extremely difficult for counterintelligence agencies, but in a world of biometric data, facial recognition software, and open source investigative possibilities, it has become even more difficult. Russia To keep the illegal radar down.

‘Rivera’ (pictured right) took a one-way flight to Moscow after Bellingcat published a joint article suggesting the 2018 Salisbury Novichok poisoning suspect was a GRU operative. Photo: Provided by Bellingcat

Krysto Grozev, Bellingcat’s CEO and chief investigator, said in an interview that when he was looking at a leaked database of border crossings logged by Belarusian border guards, he discovered the potential GRU was illegal and provided by a group of opposition hackers. Under the rule of Alexander Lukashenko.

Grozev searched for Russian passport numbers that were used by GRU operatives and received several hits. Most had Russian names, but one stood out: Maria Adela Kuhfeld Rivera.

Looking more closely at “Rivera,” Grozev discovered that she had traveled on several Russian passports with serial numbers that had been used by other known GRU operatives, including the officer convicted of the charge. novichok poisoning of Bulgarian arms dealer Emilion GebrevAnd another GRU officer was reportedly involved in the 2018 attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.

He also discovered that on September 15, 2018, “Rivera” bought a ticket from Naples to Moscow. Earlier in the day, Bellingcat and his Russian investigative partner, Insider, An article published The two Salisbury poisoners, traveling under the cover identities of Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, had security services links to them, noting irregularities in their passport data.

It seems that “Rivera” was withdrawn by her boss, who feared that other operators with the same passport number 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 to explain her disappearance and silence.

“This is the truth that I must finally reveal … after chemo the hair is now growing back, very little but it is there. I miss everything, but I’m trying to breathe,” she wrote.

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

In June, the Netherlands A man was deported Arriving on a Brazilian passport in the name of Victor Müller Ferreira, he is accused of being a Russian illegal named Sergei Vladimirovich Cherkasov. He had spent a decade building his identity while studying in Ireland and the US and was suspected of trying to infiltrate the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

What is unusual about “Rivera” is that she traveled on a Russian passport, when illegals usually hide their links to Russia or the Soviet Union. It appears that an earlier attempt to pass “Rivera” as a Peruvian citizen failed: an official Peruvian document from 2006 states that her citizenship application was rejected as fraudulent.

Apparently undeterred by this setback, the GRU later relaunched the “Kuhfeld Rivera” identity with a Russian passport. It was a strange decision, but it’s possible that she had already made valuable contacts under that identity and didn’t want to lose them.

Numerous people who met “Kuhfeld Rivera” said she told them her Peruvian mother took her to the Soviet Union in the 1980s and left her there. She had tried various ways to get a Western European passport over the years.

Bellingcat said Based on information and photo matching from various databases and open source research, the real Russian woman behind the fake “Rivera” persona was identified. She did not respond to The Guardian’s requests for comment.

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