By Nick Squires
An alleged mafia boss nicknamed “the King of Cocaine” has been captured in South America after 23 years on the run.
Rocco Morabito, wanted by Italian police for allegedly masterminding the trafficking of cocaine from Latin America to Europe, was arrested in a hotel in Uruguay. He is considered to be one of Italy’s five most dangerous fugitives.
During a search of his home in Uruguay, police found 13 mobile phones, which investigators said were used for drugs deals, a 9mm pistol, ammunition, a hunting knife and 150 passport photos of himself in different guises.
Morabito, an alleged kingpin in the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, is believed to have been living in Uruguay for around a decade under the alias Francisco Capeletto Souza. He had been able to obtain Brazilian identity documents, as well as the right to live in Uruguay.
His arrest was the result of a joint operation between police in South America and investigators in Calabria, the home of the ‘Ndrangheta. The organised crime network, which for years has been extending its reach, makes millions by smuggling cocaine into Europe, often via Italy.
Morabito was arrested in a hotel in Punta del Este, a tourist resort about 90 miles from the capital, Montevideo, “after months of intense international cooperation in intelligence matters”, the Italian police said in a statement.
His false identity was known to Interpol, and when he checked into the hotel an alert was generated. His wife, a 54-year-old Angolan with a Portuguese passport, was also arrested. Morabito is expected to be extradited back to Italy in the coming months, where he faces 30 years in prison for various crimes, including mafia association and drug trafficking.