ROME/MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) - One of Italy’s most wanted mob bosses has been arrested in Uruguay after 23 years on the run from convictions for mafia association, drug trafficking and other serious crimes, the interior ministries of both countries said on Monday.
Rocco Morabito was considered the most wanted fugitive member of the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta, Italy’s most powerful organized crime group and one of Europe’s biggest importers of South American cocaine.
The 50-year-old was arrested in Montevideo after Uruguayan police and Italian authorities worked together to determine his real identity, the Italian ministry said in a statement.
Dubbed the “cocaine king of Milan,” Morabito had been wanted since 1994 after he was caught paying 13 billion lire ($8 million) to import almost a ton of the drug, Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.
Morabito entered Uruguay in 2001, and took up residence with his wife in the coastal resort city of Punta del Este, the Uruguayan interior ministry said in a statement. He was living there under the false identity of Francisco Antonio Capeletto Souza, of Rio de Janeiro, it added.
Morabito was jailed in Uruguay for using false documents while Italy’s request for extradition is processed, the statement said, adding that $50,000 in cash was found at his home along with 13 cell phones.
An international arrest warrant was issued in 1995 with the aim of tracking down Morabito and extraditing him to Italy, where he has been sentenced to 30 years in jail.
The arrest ticks one member off the Italian interior ministry’s five-strong list of the country’s most-wanted organized criminals, on which Morabito had rubbed shoulders with feared Sicilian boss Matteo Messina Denaro.
Reporting by Isla Binnie in Rome and Malena Castaldi in Montevideo; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Mark Trevelyan