On Monday, Brazil’s Federal Police arrested one of Italy’s most-wanted mobsters, putting an end to a years-long international chase after Rocco Morabito, a prominent member of one of the world’s most powerful crime syndicates, the ‘Ndrangheta.
After having been on the run for 22 years and escaping jail in 2019, Brazilian agents arrested Morabito, 54, in a hotel in the northeastern city of João Pessoa. The member of the Morabito clan, one of the many families within the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, was sentenced in Italy to 30 year years in prison.
Authorities also apprehended another Italian citizen identified as Vincenzo Pasquino who, like Morabito, will face extradition.
The ‘Ndrangheta clan chief has allegedly trafficked drugs from Brazil to Europe since the 90s, according to police investigations. Officials also said that recent operations revealed the syndicate’s links to Brazilian criminal groups.
Morabito was first arrested in Uruguay in 2017 but two years later managed to break out of a prison in Montevideo in a spectacular escape that occurred just before he was about to be extradited to Italy. An investigation later found that another ‘Ndrangheta member bribed guards with 50,000 euros (US$61,000).
Originally from Africo, a small town in the southern region of Calabria, the Morabito family became one of the most powerful clans involved in international drugs and weapons trafficking in the 90s.
Giuseppe Morabito, nicknamed U’Tiradrittu (“The straight shooter”), is the historical boss of the family clan known for taking over the drug business in Milan and other northern areas of Italy and Europe.
Rocco Morabito, a cousin of U’Tiradrittu, has been often referred to as ‘Milan’s cocaine king’ for heading the clan’s coke imports from Latin America to Europe.
After Milan, Morabito reportedly settled in Fortaleza, Brazil, before he moved to Uruguay, where he lived in a luxurious villa and used a fake identity for at least a decade before his first arrest. After escaping, he relocated to Brazil.
Italian authorities celebrated the apprehension of Morabito and applauded the Cooperation Against ‘Ndrangheta (I-CAN) project, a three-year initiative promoted and financed by the Ministry of the Interior and led by Interpol that targeted the syndicate and its illegal interests.
“Once again, the determination, dedication and professionalism of all the investigators involved have made it possible to bring to justice, after two years of complex and detailed investigations, the leading exponent of the ‘Ndrangheta – considered the second most dangerous fugitive after Matteo Messina Denaro,” said Italy’s Minister of the Interior, Luciana Lamorgese.
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