Uruguay recaptures Argentine who escaped with Mafia boss Rocco Morabito | News | DW | 26.06.2019
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Uruguay recaptures Argentine who escaped with Mafia boss Rocco Morabito

Leonardo Abel Sinopoli Azcoaga was one of four prisoners to escape the city-center prison in Uruguay while the security cameras were switched off. The Argentine was detained as he tried to cross the border into Brazil.

Uruguay's interior ministry announced Wednesday that one of the four prisoners who escaped Sunday night from the Carcel Central in the capital, Montevideo, had been recaptured.

Acting on an anonymous tip-off, police said they searched for 59-year-old Leonardo Abel Sinopoli Azcoaga in the northern border town of Salto, 492 kilometers (305 miles) inland from the capital. He was trying to find a ride to take him over the border into Brazil. Offers to pay for the drive had aroused suspicions, and Sinopoli was picked up by police at a shopping mall and bus station, carrying only a mobile phone.

Sinopoli had escaped from a Brazilian jail in 2001, also when he was also about to be extradited.

However, the main target of the police operation remained at large as of Wednesday.

Italian mobster at large

Italian Rocco Morabito has been described as a key figure in the drugs trade between South America and Italy for the Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta mob, which is responsible for moving much of the world's cocaine.

On the run since 1994, Morabito was arrested in the Punta del Este luxury beach resort in 2017 and was awaiting extradition to Italy for "international drug trafficking" where he had been sentenced in absentia to a 30-year prison term.

But as the security cameras were switched off, Morabito, Sinopoli and two others escaped from their cells and through a hole in the roof on Sunday night.

A woman in a neighboring apartment was the only witness to their escape. The 70-year-old said she was obliged to open her door for them to go out on to the street.

The director of Uruguay's prison system resigned as he fended off accusations of bribery and corruption in the service.

An international incident

Italian Ambassador Gianni Piccato said it was important Morabito be recaptured because "he's one of the heavyweight representatives" of the mob.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini described the escape as "disconcerting and serious," and asked for immediate explanations from the Uruguayan government. He said authorities should "hunt down Morabito, wherever he is, to throw him in prison as he deserves."

jm/se (AP, AFP)

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