Rocco Morabito: Italian mafia boss dubbed ‘cocaine king’ escapes prison in Uruguay

52-year-old, who had been on the run for more than 20 years before his arrest in 2017, managed to break out through a hole in the building’s roof alongside three others

Will Kirby
Monday 24 June 2019 16:54 BST
Police footage shows Rocco Morabito in 2017 after his arrest in Uruguay

A mafia boss, who was once considered in the top five most dangerous Italian fugitives, has escaped from a Uruguayan prison, the country’s interior ministry has confirmed.

Rocco Morabito, dubbed the ‘cocaine king of Milan’, had been the most wanted fugitive member of the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta, Italy’s most powerful organised crime group and one of the biggest importers of cocaine in Europe.

The 52-year-old broke out of the Central Prison in Montevideo alongside three other inmates, escaping “through a hole in the roof of the building” late on Sunday before robbing the owners of a nearby farmhouse, the ministry said in a statement.

A nationwide police appeal for information on their whereabouts has been launched.

Morabito was awaiting extradition to Italy for international drug trafficking, having been arrested at a Montevideo hotel in 2017 after living in Uruguay under a false name for 13 years.

Until his arrest, he had been living in a luxurious mansion in a wealthy Punta del Este neighbourhood where he was considered a model citizen, who devoted himself to his work in the soybean business and selling rural properties.

He was discovered with a Brazilian passport in the name of Francisco Attilio Capelletto Souza, a soy trader and a resident of the coastal city of Punta del Este, as well as 13 mobile phones, 12 credit cards and a gun.

Morabito was initially arrested on charges of falsifying identity papers, but has been awaiting extradition on the more serious charges since September 2017.

The three other men who escaped with him were awaiting extradition to Brazil and Argentina, including one on charges of homicide.

“It is disconcerting and serious that a criminal like Rocco Morabito, boss of the ‘Ndrangheta, managed to escape from a jail in Uruguay while he was waiting to be extradited to Italy,” Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said.

“I make two commitments, First: to shed light on evasion procedures, asking for immediate explanations from the Montevideo government. Second: we will continue to hunt down Morabito, wherever he is, to throw him in jail as he deserves.”

Born in Africo in Italy’s poor southern region of Calabria, Morabito moved to Milan in his early twenties and rapidly rose through the mafia ranks.

Investigators began tracking him and recorded him regularly delivering cash-filled suitcases to South American drug traffickers in the city centre.

Police attempted to arrest him in October 1994 but he managed to escape and fled the city. He was sentenced in absentia to 28 years in prison the following year, which was later increased to 30 years.

Additional reporting by agencies

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