Maria Adela Kuhfeldt Rivera—also known as Maria Adela or Adela Serein—had what investigative publication Bellingcat called “an exotic backstory.”
According to Bellingcat, Rivera (pictured) told friends that she was born in Peru, to a Peruvian mother and German father. Her mother traveled to the Soviet Union for the 1980 Olympic Games, but then left due to an emergency, leaving the young child stranded in the Soviet Union.
Adela said that she was raised by a Russian family her mother befriended, but her adoptive mother was so abusive, she decided she would never live in Russia. She instead moved away, studied gemology, had a brief marriage (her husband was said to have died), then became a jewelry designer, opening up a swanky jewelry boutique, called Serein, in Naples, Italy, where she forged connections with the city’s elite, including officials from NATO.
Last month, Bellingcat—in an investigation done in cooperation with German newspaper Der Spiegel, Italian newspaper La Repubblica, and Russia’s The Insider—reported that Adela’s real identity was Russian citizen Olga Kolobova, believed to be a Russian “illegal” or deep-cover spy.
The site said it unmasked Adela using a mix of open-source data, public data from Peru (where Adela once tried and failed to gain citizenship), leaked Russian databases, and interviews with her friends.
Adela registered her Serein jewelry brand in Paris in 2012, and later established the Serein SRL business in Naples. Serein’s now-deleted website can be seen here and its Instagram account here (archived).
According to Bellingcat, which did a reverse image search on Serein’s items, the “self-branded jewelry sold in ‘Maria Adela’s’ boutique and touted on [its] website as ‘made in Napoli’ appeared to be inexpensive jewelry purchased from Chinese online wholesalers.”
I forgot my favourite part of the story, where she appears to have got her "exclusive" jewellery range from Ali Express vendors. pic.twitter.com/PBs5sFWiYq
— Eliot Higgins (@EliotHiggins) August 26, 2022
Adela, who was described as “glamorous and impeccably dressed,” attended at least one jewelry trade show—Jewellery Arabia—where, according to a Serein Facebook post, she presented cufflinks to now-deceased Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the prime minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain. She also told one friend that she had attended jewelry exhibitions in Switzerland and Germany.
As the owner of an up-scale jewelry boutique, “Maria Adela” worked her way into high-level social circles, including those frequented by NATO officers in Naples. We spoke to one NATO officer who admitted to a “romantic” relationship with her, and many others she befriended. pic.twitter.com/qtZ2lUXmzF
— Aric Toler (@AricToler) August 26, 2022
Adela could not be reached for comment, and apparently not much has been heard from her since September 2018, when she reportedly took a one-way flight from Naples to Moscow, shortly after Bellingcat unmasked some Russian agents with similar passport numbers.
“Missing everything but trying to breathe,” she wrote. “Thank you to all the people who have not stopped ‘bombing’ me with messages these past 5 months!!!”
In December 2021, she reportedly sent a What’sApp text to one of the friends she made in her jewelry days, saying “There are [a] lot of things which I can’t (and never be able) to explain! But missing you a lot and very very much.”
There is more on all this in Bellingcat’s story.
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