Italian drug lord Rocco Morabito escapes from Uruguay prison

Montevideo [Uruguay]: An Italian mafia boss and drug kingpin has escaped from prison in Uruguay where he was awaiting extradition to Italy, the Uruguayan Ministry of Interior said on Monday.

Fifty-three-year-old Rocco Morabito, leader of Italy’s most powerful organised crime group – the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta fled the central prison here, along with three other inmates, through a hole in the roof of the building late on Sunday night, CNN reported.

One of Italy’s most-wanted fugitives since 1994, Morabito and the three others let themselves down by rope to an adjacent farm, where they robbed the owner, the ministry added.

“Among the fugitives is the Italian Rocco Morabito, who was waiting for his extradition by the Italian justice being investigated for international drug trafficking,” the statement said.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Twitter it was disconcerting that a criminal like Morabito had managed to escape from a prison in Uruguay while waiting to be extradited to Italy. 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.”

Morabito was arrested in 2017 in Uruguay after more than 20 years on the run. Convicted in absentia for drug trafficking and organised-crime activities in Italy, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Immediately after his arrest, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said he was “considered one of the sought-after members of the Ndrangheta.”

Authorities have said that Morabito — one of Italy’s five most-wanted fugitives — entered Uruguay in 2001 using false Brazilian identification papers including a bogus birth certificate. He lived in a comfortable rural villa near the town of Maldonado, adjacent to the resort city of Punta del Este for about a decade.

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 US cash, plus currency certificates worth USD 100,000, the Uruguayan Interior Ministry said.

In a search of Morabito’s home, authorities seized a 2015 Mercedes and a Portuguese passport in his false Brazilian name. His wife — an Angolan national with a Portuguese passport — was also arrested, authorities said.

Meanwhile, the Interpol has further issued a red notice — its highest-priority international arrest warrant — for all four escapees. One of the fugitives is pending extradition to Brazil, and another to Argentina.