Italian Mafia Boss Known as ‘Cocaine King’ Arrested in Brazil After Prison Break

May 25, 2021
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Rocco Morabito, a fugitive drug lord with ties to the powerful ‘Ndrangheta criminal gang, was detained in a hotel room in the city of Joao Pessoa, Brazil’s Justice Ministry said, Sky News reported.

He broke out of prison in June 2019 by escaping through the roof with three other inmates in Uruguay’s capital Montevideo, the country’s authorities announced at the time.

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Morabito, Italy’s second most wanted criminal, had been wanted for 23 years for convictions including Mafia association and drug trafficking before his previous arrest in September 2017.

Then, he was found using a fake name, a false Brazilian passport, and living in a luxury villa with its own swimming pool in the seaside resort of Punta del Este in Uruguay.

Morabito was convicted in 1994 after doing a £6.2mln drug deal to import almost a tonne of cocaine into Italy, but fled the country before he could be jailed.

He was awaiting extradition to Italy when he escaped jail in Uruguay.

Brazil’s Justice Ministry added Morabito was arrested along with two other people, including another Italian fugitive, whom it did not name.

Italian police had travelled to Brazil for the arrest and were involved in the operation.

A statement from the justice ministry said, “(Morabito) was considered the second most wanted criminal in Italy and accused of involvement with the ‘Ndrangheta, considered one of the largest and most powerful criminal organizations in the world.”

The ministry added that Morabito had already been sentenced to 30 years in prison in Italy.

In recent years, Brazil has become a key player in the trans-Atlantic drug trade, with its gangs linking up with criminals in Europe to move record loads of cocaine to the continent.

Morabito’s arrest in the Northeast of Brazil also hints at a growing trend in cocaine shipments from the poorer region of the country due to growing scrutiny in the major ports of southeastern Brazil.

The ‘Ndrangheta is based in Italy’s southern region of Calabria and has surpassed Cosa Nostra to become the most powerful mafia group in the country – and one of the largest criminal gangs in the world.

Dubbed the “cocaine king of Milan,” prosecutors stated Morabito played a large role in trafficking operations between South America and the Italian city – a distribution point where drugs are then sold elsewhere.

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