Brazil captures fugitive Italian mob boss

Morabito, considered a "capo" or captain of the 'Ndrangheta group, was captured in the city of Joao Pessoa along with another Italian "outlaw" as a result of a joint investigation with Italy, Brazil's federal police said in a statement.

FILES: Handout file photo taken on September 05, 2017 released by the Uruguayan Interior Ministry on June 24, 2019, showing Italian Rocco Morabito, wanted for more than 20 years for drug trafficking and mafia activities, during his arrest in Montevideo. Picture: AFP.

BRASÍLIA - Italian mob boss Rocco Morabito was arrested Monday in northeast Brazil, police said, almost two years after his escape from a prison in Uruguay where he was awaiting extradition to Italy.

Morabito, considered a "capo" or captain of the 'Ndrangheta group, was captured in the city of Joao Pessoa along with another Italian "outlaw" as a result of a joint investigation with Italy, Brazil's federal police said in a statement.

Morabito is wanted in Italy on charges of drug trafficking.

"There are records of Rocco Morabito's involvement in... drug trafficking between Brazil and Europe since the 1990s," said the Brazilian police.

Brazil's Federal Supreme Court had issued an arrest warrant.

Dubbed "the king of cocaine," Morabito has been wanted since 1995 by the Italian justice system, which accuses him of illicit association and drug trafficking.

Among other crimes, he is accused of ensuring the transport of drugs into Italy and their sale in Milan, as well as attempting to import 592 kilograms (1,300 pounds) of cocaine from Brazil in 1992 and 630 kilograms a year later.

He was one of Italy's most wanted men when he was arrested in a Montevideo hotel in September 2017.

By then, he had lived for 13 years under a fake identity in the Uruguayan resort town of Punta del Este.

He had been sentenced in his absence to 28 years' imprisonment by an Italian court in 2015, a penalty later increased to 30 years.

PRISON ESCAPE

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.

Italy's much-feared 'Ndrangheta mafia is thought to run much of Europe's cocaine trade from Calabria in the southwest.

It is also involved in arms trafficking, prostitution and extortion.

Morabito arrived in trendy Milan from his hometown of Africo, in the Calabria region, at the age of 23, and quickly carved out a reputation on the drug scene.

Nicknamed "U Tamunga" in reference to a German military vehicle, the DKW Munga, the young Morabito became a charismatic figure in Milan who frequented bars and parties, according to Italian press reports.

He soon came to the attention of Italian anti-Mafia investigators and they regularly tracked him delivering suitcases filled with millions of lira to Colombian drug traffickers.

Police moved in on his birthday as he made what would be his last delivery, in October 1994, but he managed to escape.

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