Thursday, 17 Jun 2021

Fugitive Italian mafia boss who escaped prison found hiding in Brazil

‘King of cocaine’ is recaptured: Fugitive Italian mafia drug boss who cut a hole in a prison roof to flee 30-year jail term in Uruguay is found hiding in Brazil

  • Italian mafia boss Rocco Morabito was arrested Monday in northeast Brazil
  • It comes almost two years after he escaped through the roof of Uruguay prison
  • Morabito, a top ‘Ndrangheta figure, faces 30 years in prison for drug trafficking

The fugitive Italian mafia boss Rocco Morabito was arrested Monday in northeast Brazil, almost two years after he escaped through the roof of a prison in Uruguay where he was awaiting extradition to Italy.  

Morabito – a top ‘Ndrangheta figure – was captured in the city of Joao Pessoa along with another Italian ‘outlaw’ as a result of a joint investigation with Italy, Brazil’s federal police said in a statement. 

Dubbed the ‘cocaine king of Milan’, Morabito was arrested in Uruguay in 2017 after decades on the run and was awaiting extradition to Italy for international drug trafficking charges. 

But the mafia boss escaped through a prison roof in the Uruguayan capital of Montevido in 2019 after cutting a hole before he and three other inmates robbed the occupants of a nearby farmhouse. 

Two years later and Brazilian police have been able to arrest the fugitive, who is facing 30 years in prison.

The fugitive Italian mafia boss Rocco Morabito was arrested Monday in northeast Brazil, almost two years after he escaped through the roof of a prison in Uruguay where he was awaiting extradition to Italy. Pictured: Morabito after 2017 Uruguay arrest

Morabito was one of Italy’s most wanted men when he was arrested in a Montevideo hotel in September 2017.

By then, he had lived for 13 years under a fake identity in the Uruguayan resort town of Punta del Este.

He had been sentenced in his absence to 28 years’ imprisonment by an Italian court in 2015, a penalty later increased to 30 years.

In June 2019, Uruguay’s interior ministry announced Morabito and three other inmates had escaped through a hole in the roof of their prison in the capital Montevideo, setting off a massive manhunt and causing Uruguay’s prison chief to resign.

Morabito had been wanted by Italy since 1994 after he was caught paying 13 billion lire ($8 million) to import almost a tonne of cocaine, Corriere della Sera newspaper reported. 

Italy’s much-feared ‘Ndrangheta mafia is thought to run much of Europe’s cocaine trade from Calabria in the southwest.

It is also involved in arms trafficking, prostitution and extortion.   

Morabito first carved out a reputation for himself as the King of Cocaine after arriving in trendy Milan from his hometown of Africo in Italy’s poor southern region of Calabria at the age of 23.

Nicknamed ‘U Tamunga’ in reference to a German military vehicle, the DKW Munga, the young Morabito became a charismatic figure in Milan who frequented bars and parties, according to Italian press reports.


Longtime Italian fugitive Rocco Morabito seen before going on the run in 1994 (left) and after he was caught in Uruguay (right) in September 2017

He soon came to the attention of Italian anti-Mafia investigators and they regularly tracked him delivering suitcases filled with millions of lira to Colombian drug traffickers.

Police moved in on his birthday as he made what would be his last delivery, in October 1994, but he managed to escape.

The following year he was sentenced in absentia to 28 years’ imprisonment for mafia association and drug trafficking. 

Later the sentence was extended to 30 years. 

An international arrest warrant was issued in 1995 with the aim of tracking down Morabito and extraditing him to Italy to serve his sentence. 

In 2017 he was arrested after living in Uruguay under a false name for 13 years and jailed while Italy’s request for extradition was processed.

Officials said at the time that he had acquired Uruguayan residence after entering the country with a false Brazilian passport in the name of Francisco Capeletto. 

He was originally arrested in 2017 on charges of falsifying identity papers, but has been awaiting extradition on more serious charges of ‘international drug trafficking’.

The Uruguayan interior ministry said, in a statement at the time of his arrest, that he had been living in a luxury villa in Punta del Este, a resort town, with his Uruguayan wife since 2004, having first arrived in the South American nation in 2001.    

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