Rocco Morabito's villa in the resort town of Punta del Este.
Rocco Morabito's villa in the resort town of Punta del Este. Marcelo Umpierrez

Cocaine king's 23 years on the run ends in jail

ONE of Italy's most infamous mafia bosses, known as the "cocaine king of Milan”, has been arrested after 23 years on the run.

Rocco Morabito was caught in Uruguay after fleeing from convictions for associating with the mafia, drug trafficking and other serious crimes, the Italian Interior Ministry said.

Morabito, 50, was described as the most wanted member of the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta, the most powerful organised crime group in Italy and Europe's biggest importer of cocaine from South America.

He was detained in coastal Punta del Este, about 50km east of Montevideo, on Monday with his wife.

The arrest followed co-operation between Uruguayan police and Italian authorities who worked to discover his identity - that was helped when he enrolled his daughter at school under his name.

Morabito reportedly obtained Uruguayan papers after presenting a false Brazilian passport.

He would be held in Uruguay on charges of identity theft and producing false papers, pending an Italian extradition request, the Uruguayan Interior Ministry said.

A 30-year jail sentence awaits him.

Federico Cafiero de Raho, chief prosecutor for the Calabria region, told the Associated Press that Morabito was "a key figure” in the 'Ndrangheta group.

He said Morabito had played "a major role” in cocaine trafficking between South America and Milan.

Police in Uruguay said they had confiscated a 9mm pistol, 13 mobile phones and a Portuguese passport from Morabito.

He was on the Italian Interior Ministry's list of five most-wanted organised criminals.

- with INM