An Italian Mafia boss known as the “cocaine king of Milan” has been arrested in Uruguay after managing to stay on the run and dodge drug trafficking and organised crime association charges for 23 years.
Rocco Morabito, 50, was apprehended as a result of a joint investigation carried out by Italian and Uruguayan police, who tracked him down to a property in the southern resort city of Punta del Esta, where he had been living using false papers for more than 10 years.
Morabito, who Italy’s interior minister described as the most wanted member of the notorious Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta clan, was sentenced to 30 years behind bars after being implicated in an attempt to smuggle cocaine worth an estimated 13 billion lire (€6.5 million) into Italy from Brazil in 1994.
The fugitive mob boss was held alongside his Angolan wife on Monday at a luxury hotel in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo after authorities worked to reveal his true identity.
Searches of properties linked to the 50-year-old resulted in the seizure of a number of items, including approximately $50,000 (€42,000) in cash, a 9mm pistol, 12 bank cards, two cars, 13 mobile phones and 150 passport-sized photos of him in various different disguises.
In a statement, the Uruguayan interior ministry said Morabito entered the country in 2001, and set up home pretending to be a Brazilian man named Francisco Antonio Capeletto Souza.
He was imprisoned on charges of using false documents following his arrest in Uruguay, where he is expected to stay while Italian authorities seek his extradition.
Speaking with Italian media, Morabito’s lawyer said the fugitive drug trafficker has eschewed crime since arriving in Uruguay, and had attempted to lead a normal life.
Italian media reported that police had been concentrating their efforts to apprehend Morabito on Brazil until only a few months ago, when investigators received intelligence that one of his children had recently registered for a school in Uruguay using her real name as opposed to an alias.
Uruguay’s interior ministry published a series of images showing the items seized at Morabito’s home, along with a picture of him in custody.
The Daily Telegraph quotes Italian police official Emilio Russo as saying: “He didn’t put up any resistance.
“He tried to deny who he really was, but when put under pressure admitted to his real identity.
“We maintain that Morabito was still actively involved in criminality. He was not a former member of the ‘Ndrangheta, he was still very much an active member.”
Morabito was one of Italy’s top five most wanted organised crime bosses, a list that also includes Sicilian mafia kingpin Matteo Messina Denaro, who is wanted on suspicion of murder, grievous bodily harm and involvement in a criminal organisation.