December 5, 2023

ROME (AFP) – A convicted gangster who was one of Italy’s most wanted fugitives and is known as one of the world’s most powerful drug brokers, arrived in Rome on Wednesday, handed over to Brazil after 28 years in court.

Rocco Morabito took second place in the list of the most wanted and most dangerous gangsters in Italy. He was convicted in absentia two decades ago of drug smuggling as part of the organized crime syndicate “Ndrangheta”, which handles billions of euros (dollars) in the cocaine trade.

Italian police describe him as one of the best drug brokers in the world. Morabito, 55, must serve a 30-year prison sentence after being convicted in absentia by a Milan court in 2001.

He was arrested by Brazilian police in May 2021 in a joint operation with Italian and American investigators. Morabito was earlier arrested in Uruguay in 2017, but escaped from prison there two years later.

Italian police have been searching for him since 1994.

Anti-mafia prosecutors in Calabria say Morabito played a large role in cocaine smuggling between South America and Milan, a major distribution point for the drug to be sold elsewhere in Italy and across Europe.

In addition to drug smuggling, Morabito was convicted in Italy of committing mafia.

Authorities said at the time that when he was arrested in 2017 in Uruguay, Morabito was living in a luxury villa in a seaside resort using a false name and a false Brazilian passport. During his arrest in a Montevideo hotel, police also confiscated a 9mm pistol, 13 cell phones and a cache of cash, as well as a Mercedes coupe.

Still number 1 on Italy’s list of most wanted mafia bosses, Matteo Messina Denaro, who still wields supreme power in Cosa Nostra in Sicily despite being a fugitive since 1993.

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