Italian mafia boss Rocco Morabito has escaped from prison in Uruguay, where he was awaiting extradition to Italy, the interior ministry has said.
Uruguay had agreed to extradite the notorious drug trader known as the “cocaine king of Milan” back to Italy.
The suspected head of the ‘Ndrangheta crime gang has been one of Italy’s most wanted fugitives since 1995.
He was arrested in 2017 in Punta del Este, where he had been living under a false identity for about a decade.
The ‘Ndrangheta mafia comes from Calabria in southern Italy, and is thought to control as much as 80% of Europe’s cocaine trade.
Morabito and three other inmates “escaped through a hole in the roof of the building” late on Sunday and robbed the owner of a nearby farmhouse for money, the ministry said in a statement (in Spanish).
“It is disconcerting and serious that a criminal like Rocco Morabito, head of the ‘Ndrangheta, has managed to escape from a prison in Uruguay while waiting to be extradited to Italy,” Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said in a brief statement.
He added he would “keep hunting Morabito, wherever he is, to put him in jail as he deserves”.
Police say Morabito, now aged 52, was behind the smuggling of hundreds of kilos of cocaine from Brazil to Italy.
He was being extradited on the basis of prior convictions for links to organised crime and drug trafficking – issued in absentia – rather than for a new trial, Uruguayan reports said at the time his extradition was announced.
Morabito was arrested in September 2017 while staying in a hotel in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, but had been living in a luxury villa near the resort town of Punta del Este, east of the capital.
He is currently the subject of a red Interpol notice for belonging to a criminal organisation dedicated to international drug trafficking from 1988 to 1994, the Uruguayan interior ministry said.