Rome, Italy: Italian prosecutors and police celebrated the apprehension of a powerful mafia boss in Brazil Tuesday, who had eluded justice in Italy for over three decades.
Rocco Morabito, the second most dangerous fugitive on the Italian interior ministry’s list, was apprehended in northeast Brazil on Monday.
He was apprehended nearly two years after making a daring escape from an Uruguayan prison where he was awaiting extradition to Italy.
Following a global operation combining Italy, Uruguay, and the United States, Morabito, a “capo” or captain of the ‘Ndrangheta organized criminal organization, was discovered in the city of Joao Pessoa with another Italian fugitive.
Morabito is “one of the most important brokers in narco-trafficking”, said Giovanni Bombardieri, chief prosecutor in the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria, during an online press conference.
During an online press conference, Giovanni Bombardieri, head prosecutor in the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria, described Morabito as “one of the most prominent brokers in narco-trafficking.”
Morabito, dubbed “the king of cocaine” by the press, has been sought by Italian authorities since 1994, as part of a decades-long effort to dismantle the ‘Ndrangheta, the country’s most powerful mafia syndicate, whose tentacles extend far beyond its historical base in the Calabria area.
Morabito was in Brazil, according to investigations launched shortly after his prison break in 2019, according to Pasquale Angelosanto, leader of Italy’s carabinieri special operations unit, which deals with organized crime.
Relaxing on the beach
Morabito appeared to be lurking in plain sight, according to special operations unit member Massimiliano D’Angelantonio.
“He led a pretty normal life, going to the beach, frequenting local places. He didn’t seem to be living like a fugitive but had a social, normal life,” D’Angelantonio said.
Morabito is accused of, among other things, facilitating the transfer of drugs into Italy and their sale in Milan, as well as attempting to import 592 kilograms (1,300 pounds) of cocaine from Brazil in 1992 and 630 kilos the following year.
Morabito had lived in the Uruguayan vacation town of Punta del Este for 13 years under a false identity before being arrested in a Montevideo hotel in September 2017.
In 2015, an Italian court condemned him to 28 years in prison in his absence, which was later enhanced to 30 years.
In a hurry
Morabito and three other inmates escaped from jail in 2019 via a hole in the roof, sparking a large manhunt in Uruguay and prompting the resignation of the country’s prison chief.
Morabito, who hails from the Calabrian hamlet of Africa, arrived in Milan, Italy’s business center, at the age of 23 and immediately established himself.
The teenage Morabito earned the nickname “U Tamunga” after a German military vehicle, the DKW Munga. He quickly became a captivating figure in Milan, attracting the attention of anti-mafia detectives.
During one of his routine drop-offs of suitcases stuffed with millions of lire to Colombian cocaine traffickers in Milan in October 1994, cops moved in. He was able to flee.