Rocco Morabito, Italy’s second most wanted fugitive and a leading member of the powerful ‘Ndrangheta mafia, was flown to Rome on Wednesday after being deported from Brazil after ending nearly 28 years on the run.
Morabito, who was arrested in Brazil in May 2021, will serve a 30-year prison sentence for various drug offenses.
“He was a key engineer in the internationalization of (crime) gangs and became the property of cocaine brokers,” Nicola Mora, head of Parliament’s anti-mafia committee, wrote on Facebook.
The Interior Ministry said Morabito was included in a “special search program” for fugitives. Italy’s number one fugitive is Matteo Messina Denaro, the Sicilian Mafia boss who has been on the run since 1993.
Morabito, 56, was convicted of international drug trafficking in separate cases in the Italian cities of Milan, Palermo and Reggio Calabria. Investigators say he was the main person of ‘Ndrangheta’ in South America.
Headquartered in the southern region of Calabria, ‘Ndrangheta, the Italian toe, has surpassed Cosa Nostra to become the most powerful mafia group in the country – and one of the largest crime syndicates in the world.
Morabito, along with another fugitive drug smuggler, was arrested in the Brazilian city of Joao Pessoa, about four years after he managed to escape from prison in Uruguay.
He was tracked to Uruguay in 2017 and was living under an assumed name at the time, using a forged Brazilian passport.
In recent years, Brazil has become a major player in the transatlantic drug trade, with its gangs linking up with Italian, Dutch and Balkan players to transport record quantities of cocaine to Europe, due to high prices and increasing demand.