After years on the lam, the “King of Cocaine” and “Ndrangheta” mafia Rocco Morabito was extradited from Brazil to Italy (photos)

‘King of cocaine’, Rocco Morabito, who is a bigwig in the powerful ‘Ndrangheta mafia, has been extradited from Brazil to Italy after 28 years on the run. Morabito, the second most-wanted fugitive in Italy was arrested in Brazil in May 2021 and extradited to Italy on Wednesday, July 6. He is expected to serve a 30-year prison sentence for various drug offences.

‘He was a major architect in the internationalisation of the (crime) gangs and became the king of cocaine brokers,’ Nicola Morra, head of parliament’s anti-mafia commission, wrote on Facebook. The interior ministry said Morabito had been included in its ‘special search programme’ for absconded criminals.

Morabito, 56, had convictions for international drug trafficking from separate cases in the Italian cities of Milan, Palermo and Reggio Calabria. Investigators say he was the point person for the ‘Ndrangheta in South America. The ‘Ndrangheta is based in the southern region of Calabria, and has surpassed Cosa Nostra to become the most powerful mafia group in the country, and one of the largest crime gangs in the world.

Morabito’s arrest, along with that of another fugitive drugs trafficker in Brazil last year, came some four years after he had managed to escape from jail in Uruguay. When he was captured in 2017 in Uruguay, Morabito was living in a luxury villa in a seaside resort using an alias and a false Brazilian passport, authorities said at the time.

During his arrest in a Montevideo hotel, police also seized a 9mm gun, 13 mobile phones and a stash of cash, as well as a Mercedes coupe. In addition to drug trafficking, Morabito has been convicted in Italy of Mafia association. He had long been one of Italy’s most wanted men prior to his 2017 arrest in Uruguay.By then, he had lived for 13 years under a fake identity in the Uruguayan resort town of Punta del Este.

In June 2019, Uruguay’s interior ministry announced Morabito and three other inmates had escaped through a hole in the roof of their prison in the capital Montevideo, setting off a massive manhunt and causing Uruguay’s prison chief to resign. Morabito had been wanted by Italy since 1994 after he was caught paying 13 billion lire ($8 million) to import almost a tonne of cocaine, Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.

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