Italian mafia boss escapes from Uruguayan prison

Mugshot of Rocco Morabito

Mugshot of Rocco Morabito

He was arrested in 2017, after living in Uruguay for 13 years using a false name.

Based out of Calabria in Southern Italy, the 'Ndrangheta mafia is thought to control about 80% of Europe's cocaine trade, according to the BBC.

Rocco Morabito, 53, leader of Italy's most powerful organised crime group - the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta - fled the prison in Uruguay's capital, Montevideo, through a hole in the roof of the building.

Morabito, who had been on the run for 23 years, was arrested in September 2017 at a luxury hotel in Montevideo, along with his wife, reportedly an Angolan national.

"Among the fugitives is the Italian Rocco Morabito, who was waiting for his extradition by the Italian justice being investigated for global drug trafficking", the Uruguayan Ministry of Interior said in a statement.

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".

In the 1980s and '90s, Morabito was a capo for the 'Ndrangheta's arm in Milan, making friends on the party scene and wooing the financiers and accountants necessary to launder money.

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When he was arrested, Morabito had 13 cell phones, an automatic pistol, 12 credit and debit cards, a large quantity of Uruguayan money and $50,000 in USA cash, plus currency certificates worth United States $100,000, the Uruguayan Interior Ministry said.

When cops eventually arrested Morabito, he was found to have a Brazilian passport in the name of Francisco Attilio Capelletto Souza.

Speaking at the time of his arrest, his lawyer claimed that Morabito had been "leading a normal life" since 1994 and hadn't been involved with criminal actitivies.

Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini has vowed to find Rocco Morabito.

A top Italian organized crime boss escaped during the night from the Uruguayan prison where he was awaiting extradition to Italy, Uruguay's interior ministry said Monday. First: to shed light on evasion procedures, asking for immediate explanations from the Montevideo government. He pledged to get to the bottom of the escape, and to "keep hunting Morabito, wherever he is, to throw him in jail as he deserves".

The mobster, who was sentenced in absentia to 30 years in prison in Italy, had been sought by police since 1994 after attempting to import nearly a tonne of cocaine, worth 13bn lire ($7.64m), into Italy from Brazil. The four men let themselves down by rope to an adjacent farm, where they robbed the owner, the ministry added.

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