A team of investigators claims to have unmasked a GRU Russian military intelligence spy who had been posing as a Latin American jewelry designer for decades and was hanging out with NATO officials in Naples. The Guardian wrote about it,” European Pravda reported.
Specifically, the Bellingcat investigation, in partnership with several media outlets, including La Repubblica in Italy and Der Spiegel in Germany, states that the woman was named Maria Adela Kuhfeldt Rivera and told people she met that she was the child of a German father and a Peruvian mother who was born in Callao, Peru.
In reality, she was a career GRU officer from Russia.
“Rivera” turned out to be what the intelligence community calls an illegal secret agent trained to impersonate a foreigner. Moscow’s security services have used illegals since the early Soviet period. Sometimes they have remained living under their false identities for decades.
Under the alias “Rivera,” the woman moved between Rome, Malta and Paris, eventually settling in Naples, where the NATO Joint Forces Command is located, around 2013. She opened a jewelry boutique called Serein and led an active social life.
Her acquaintances said that by taking on the role of secretary at the Neapolitan branch of the international Lions Club, she was able to befriend many NATO officers. One NATO officer told investigators that he had a brief romantic relationship with Rivera.
Traditionally, counterintelligence agencies have had great difficulty finding illegals, but in a world of biometrics, facial recognition software and open-data investigative capabilities, russia has found it harder to keep its illegals out.
Hristo Grozev, the CEO of Bellingcat and the lead investigator said that he first discovered the trail of a possible GRU illegal alien by looking through a database of border crossings registered by Belarusian border guards, provided by a group of opposition hackers.
Grozev searched for Russian passport numbers in ranges known to have been used by GRU operatives and found numerous matches. Most had Russian names, but one stood out: Maria Adela Kuhfeldt River.
Taking a closer look at Rivera, Groziev discovered that she was traveling on several Russian passports with serial numbers in the range used by other known GRU officers, including the officer accused of poisoning Bulgarian arms dealer Emilian Gebrev with Novichok. the GRU officer involved in the 2018 attack on Sergei Skripach and his daughter in Salisbury.
He also found that on September 15, 2018, Riviera bought a ticket from Naples to Moscow. The day before, Bellingcat and its Russian partner Insider published an article about the two Salisbury poisoners. “Rivera was probably recalled by her superiors because of fears that other operatives with similar passport numbers might be compromised. She doesn’t seem to have left Russia again.
Two months after her sudden departure from Naples, she posted a Facebook status in Italian, apparently to explain her disappearance and silence, writing that she had undergone chemotherapy.