ROME – A top crime syndicate boss convicted of drug trafficking and on the run from Italy since 1994 has been arrested in Uruguay, where he was living in a luxury villa in a seaside resort town under an alias and using a false Brazilian passport, authorities said Monday.
Reggio Calabria Chief Prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho said Rocco Morabito played a big role in cocaine trafficking between South America and Milan, a distribution point for the drug to be sold elsewhere. Morabito was described as a key figure in the Calabria-based ‘ndrangheta mob, one of the world’s biggest cocaine traffickers.
Interior Minister Marco Minniti said Morabito has been convicted of mafia association and drug trafficking.
Morabito must serve 30 years in Italian prison. Italian state radio said Morabito, 51, was arrested Sunday in a Montevideo hotel, but lived in a villa with its own swimming pool in Punta del Este.
Police in Uruguay said they confiscated a 9 mm gun, 13 cell phones and $54,000 (about 45,000 euros) in cash from his villa. Also confiscated was a luxury Mercedes coupe.
Media reports said that until a few months ago, investigators had concentrated their manhunt in Brazil. But one of his children was recently registered for school in Uruguay with Morabito’s real name instead of an alias, shifting the focus of the hunt for him to that country, Italian news reports said.
Police in Uruguay said Morabito has a wife there, who was briefly detained, and who has a Portuguese passport stating Angola as her birthplace.
Prosecutors have said the ‘ndrangheta tries to ensure its cocaine deals with drug cartels are carried out to its satisfaction by having its own top bosses live in South American so they can be closer to the producers.