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Uruguay catches man who escaped along with Italian mob boss

June 26, 2019
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FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2017 file photo released by the Italian police, a man identified by police as longtime fugitive Rocco Morabito, looks down after being arrested at a hotel in Montevideo, Uruguay. The top Italian organized crime boss escaped during the night from the Uruguayan prison where he was awaiting extradition to Italy, Uruguay’s interior ministry said Monday, June 24, 2019. (Italian Police via AP)

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — Uruguayan officials said Wednesday they have captured one of the three men who escaped along with an Italian mob boss who was facing extradition.

The Interior Ministry said Leonardo Abel Sinopoli Azcoaga was caught at a bus station in the northwestern city of Salto after an anonymous call alerted investigators. Sinopoli hoped to reach Brazil and was being held for extradition to his native Argentina.

He escaped from a Montevideo jail on Monday with 52-year-old Rocco Morabito, who has been sentenced in Italy to 30 years in prison for drug trafficking. Morabito has been described as a key figure in the Calabria-based ’Ndrangheta mob, one of the world’s biggest movers of cocaine.

Morabito has been on the run from Italy since 1994. He was arrested at a hotel in Montevideo in 2017, although he had been living a life of luxury in the seaside city of Punta del Este under an alias for about a decade and using a false Brazilian passport

Italy’s ambassador to Montevideo, Gianni Piccato, said Morabito recapture is important because “he’s one of the heavyweight representatives” of the mob.

Uruguay’s government has said that Morabito and the three other inmates escaped through the prison roof in the dead of the night, then made their way “through a neighboring farm and robbed its owner.”

General Prosecutor Jorge Díaz told local Channel 12 Wednesday that the escape showed that, “there’s a series of indicators that things went really wrong.” He added that what concerns him is “possible police corruption.”

Díaz told The Associated Press that the security cameras at the prison were not working when Morabito escaped.

The other two remaining fugitives face charges in Brazil and Argentina.

The escape prompted the resignation of the director of Uruguay’s prison system.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said this week that Morabito’s escape is “disconcerting and serious,” and vowed to shed full light on the escape, ask for immediate explanations from the Uruguayan government, and “hunt down Morabito, wherever he is, to throw him in prison as he deserves.”

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