Morabito has been on the run from Italy since 1994 and has been sentenced there to 30 years in prison for drug trafficking. Italian prosecutors say Morabito, 52, played a large role in operations between South America and Milan, which is a distribution point for illegal drugs.
The fugitive has also been described as a key figure in the Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta mob, one of the world's biggest movers of cocaine. "It's disconcerting and serious that a criminal like Rocco Morabito, a boss of Ndrangheta, has managed to escape from an Uruguay prison while waiting to be extradited to Italy," Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Twitter. "I'm making two pledges: shedding full light on the escape, asking for immediate explanations from the Montevideo government, and chasing Morabito, wherever he is, to throw him in prison as he deserves."
Morabito was arrested in 2017 at a hotel in the Uruguayan capital, although he had been living in a villa with its own swimming pool in the seaside city of Punta del Este. At the time, Uruguayan police confiscated a 9 mm gun, 13 cellphones and $54,000 in cash as well as a luxury Mercedes coupe. He had been living under an alias for about a decade and using a false Brazilian passport.
The other three men who escaped with him have been identified as Leonardo Abel Sinopoli Azcoaga, who had been detained for robbery and falsifying documents and is wanted by Brazil; Matías Sebastián Acosta González, who was awaiting extradition to Brazil; and Bruno Ezequiel Díaz, who had been detained for homicide after a request by Argentina.
Uruguay's police released photos of the four fugitives and asked for the public's help to find them.
Associated Press writer Giada Zampano in Rome contributed to this report.