‘The King of Cocaine’. Alleged mafia drugs kingpin arrested in South America after 23 years on the run

An alleged mafia boss nicknamed “the King of Cocaine” has been captured in South America after 23 years on the run.

Rocco Morabito, who was 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 and has been on the run from arrest since 1994. 

During a search of his home in Uruguay, police found 13 mobile phones, which investigators said were used for drug deals, a 9mm pistol, ammunition, a hunting knife and 150 passport photos of himself in different guises.

Morabito had been on the run for more than 20 years when he was captured in Uruguay. Credit: EPA

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 much-feared ‘Ndrangheta.

The villa in which Morabito lived with his wife in Uruguay. Credit: Uruguay interior minister

The organized crime network, which for years has been extending its reach from its home territory to other parts of the world, makes millions by smuggling cocaine into Europe, often via Italy. Italian police described Morabito as “one of the most important members of the ‘Ndrangheta”. 

He was arrested in a hotel in Punta del Este, a tourist resort about 90 miles from the capital, Montevideo. 

Morabito was on Italy’s list of most wanted fugitives. Credit: Italian police

The arrest came “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. 

“He didn’t put up any resistance,” said Emilio Russo, an Italian officer involved in the investigation. “He tried to deny who he really was, but when put under pressure admitted to his real identity.

“We maintain that Morabito was still actively involved in criminality. He was not a former member of the ‘Ndrangheta, he was still very much an active member.”

Police found weapons, ammunition and 13 mobile phones when they searched Morabito’s home in Uruguay. Credit: Uruguay interior ministry

His wife, a 54-year-old…

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