Marital row exposes fugitive mafia boss in Uruguay

A worker from Uruguay's water utility, OSE, leaves a service cut-off notice at the home of Italian mafia boss Rocco Morabito in the Uruguayan resort town of Punta del Este, on September 5, 2017. Rocco Morabito of the 'Ndrangheta mafia was arrested on September 4, 2017 at a luxury hotel in Montevideo, Uruguay after 23 years on the run. (AFP)
Updated 06 September 2017

Marital row exposes fugitive mafia boss in Uruguay

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay: Fugitive Italian mafia boss Rocco Morabito had split from his wife and was searching for a new apartment when he was arrested by Uruguayan police, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Morabito, dubbed in Italian media reports as the one-time “king of cocaine” in Milan, was arrested at a hotel in downtown Montevideo in a dawn raid by police on Saturday.
He had taken a room in the hotel while he looked for new lodgings in the Uruguayan capital after he had fought with his wife, his lawyer Alejandro Balbi said.
Local media said registering for new accommodation would have helped expose Morabito, who had been on the run for 23 years.
Now Uruguay authorities are investigating how he managed to quietly live in the resort town of Punta del Este for the past 13 years without being detected.
So far their investigation has found that he had obtained Uruguayan residence papers after presenting a Brazilian passport in the name of Francisco Capeletto in 2004.
Until their recent separation, Morabito had lived with his wife — an Angolan national with a Portuguese passport named as Paula Maria De Oliveira Correia — and their daughter, according to the interior ministry.
By all accounts, he lived a quiet life in Punta del Este, a resort known as a playground for South America’s rich about 90 minutes drive north of Montevideo.
However, last February he threw a big coming-of-age party for his daughter who was turning 15 — a tradition in Uruguay — inviting classmates and their parents to one of the town’s trendy venues.
It seems the Uruguayan authorities had begun to take notice around then. The interior ministry said his arrest was part of a police operation code-named Calabria which began in March.
Morabito, a capo with the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta, Italy’s most feared organized crime gang, is being held in a Montevideo prison, accused of forging identity documents, pending the arrival of an extradition request from Italy.
The Italian justice ministry said extradition documents are being prepared.
Morabito’s family had been renting a house in a well-heeled part of Punta del Este since last June, the owner of the property Daniel Puig told AFP.
Real-estate broker Puig met Morabito three years ago when he sold him a 600-hectare country estate with a Tuscan style farmhouse located some 40 kilometers from Punta del Este.
The family lived there until last year.
Puig and other Punta del Este residents were stunned to learn of the real identity of their acquaintance.
“He’s not a drug dealer type, someone who goes out to restaurants, having a luxury car. He was low profile,” Puig said. Morabito even drove around in a “super modest Chinese car.”
“He was a good person. He lived for his daughter,” he said.
According to a man who worked for the family, Oliveira was an enthusiastic buyer of artworks, and the estate had many paintings, dinnerware and expensive objects.
Morabito, on the other hand, “liked to cook. The kitchen was full of spices,” said the man, who wished to remain anonymous.
Another neighbor described Oliveira as “an elegant lady, she seemed high-class. She wasn’t nouveau riche. And she didn’t speak about him.”
Oliveira has made no comment and has reportedly taken refuge in a hotel with her daughter.
Morabito arrived in trendy Milan from his hometown of Africo in Italy’s poor southern region of Calabria at the age of 23, and quickly carved out a reputation as the city’s “king of cocaine.”
Nicknamed ‘U Tamunga’ in reference to a German military vehicle, the Dkw Munga, in Milan the young Morabito became a charismatic figure who frequented bars and parties, according to Italian press reports.
He quickly came to the attention of Italian anti-Mafia investigators and they regularly tracked him delivering suitcases filled with millions of lira to Colombian drug traffickers in a Milan piazza.
Police finally moved in on his birthday as he made what would be his last delivery, in October 1994, but the capo managed to escape.
The following year he was sentenced in absentia to 28 years’ imprisonment for mafia association and drug trafficking. Later the sentence was extended to 30 years.


Australian court upholds sex abuse verdict of Cardinal Pell

Australian Cardinal George Pell (C) is escorted in handcuffs from the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne on August 21, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 21 August 2019

Australian court upholds sex abuse verdict of Cardinal Pell

  • Pell’s legal team had appealed his conviction on three grounds, but the three appeal judges only permitted the unreasonable verdict argument to be heard

MELBOURNE: Former Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell lost an appeal against his conviction for sexually abusing two 13-year-old choir boys and will remain in prison for at least another three years, an Australian court ruled on Wednesday.
Pell, the highest ranking Catholic worldwide to be convicted of child sex offenses, was sentenced in March to six years in jail after being found guilty on five charges of abusing the two boys at St. Patrick’s Cathedral while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in the late 1990s.
Supreme Court of Victoria Chief Justice Anne Ferguson said on Wednesday that two of the three judges hearing Pell’s appeal “decided that it was open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Cardinal Pell was guilty of the offenses charged” and rejected his appeal.
The jury in the trial heard testimony from a victim who described how Pell had exposed himself to the two boys, fondled their genitals and masturbated and forced one boy to perform a sex act on him. The other victim died in 2014.
“I am grateful for a legal system that everyone can believe in, where everybody is equal before the law and no one is above the law,” the surviving choir boy, now in his 30s, said in a statement read out by his lawyer, Vivian Waller of Waller Legal.
“The criminal process has been stressful. The journey has taken me to places that, in my darkest moments, I feared I could not return from,” he said in the statement.
Under the terms of his sentencing, Pell will be eligible for parole in October 2022, when he will be 81.
“Cardinal Pell is obviously disappointed with the decision today,” his spokeswoman, Katrina Lee, said in a statement, adding that he maintained his innocence.
She said his legal team was examining the judgment to determine whether to lodge a special leave application to the High Court of Australia to hear an appeal. Pell has 28 days to file the application.
There was no immediate comment from the Vatican.
Pell appealed his conviction to Victoria’s Court of Appeal on three grounds, but mainly on the argument that the jury’s verdict was unreasonable based on the evidence at the trial.
However the court ruled in a 2-1 judgment that the conviction was reasonable, with two judges saying the surviving victim was a “compelling witness, was clearly not a liar, was not a fantasist and was a witness of truth.”
“As might have been expected, there were some things which he could remember and many things which he could not. And his explanations of why that was so had the ring of truth,” said the two judges.
In contrast they said the evidence by people supporting Pell varied in quality and consistency.
They dismissed Pell’s argument that sexual abuse would have been physically impossible due to his heavy robes, saying “the robes were capable of being maneuvered in a way that might be described as being moved or pulled to one side or pulled apart.”
Outside the court in Melbourne, small groups of activists and victims of abuse cheered once they heard the verdict.
“Here we have today in our court, in Victoria, the Supreme Court, saying, ‘we believe the victim and we uphold the jury’s verdict’,” Chrissie Foster, a prominent advocate for victims who has followed the case, told reporters.
“No one is above the law,” she said.

STILL A CARDINAL
The pope has previously said he would wait for Australian civil justice to take its course before commenting on the case publicly.
Pell is still a Cardinal in the Catholic Church. Even if he resigns as a cardinal, he would still be a priest.
Before he could be dismissed from the priesthood, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) would have to find him guilty following a separate canonical trial or abbreviated procedure, known as an “administrative process.”
The CDF has been looking into the accusations against Pell since his conviction in Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the courts had done their job and the justice system must be respected. He also said he expected Pell would lose his Australian honors.
Pell was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2005 and awarded a Centenary Medal in 2001.
Pell’s legal team had appealed his conviction on three grounds, but the three appeal judges only permitted the unreasonable verdict argument to be heard.
The dissenting view from Justice Mark Weinberg said the victim “was inclined to embellish aspects of his account” and he said the evidence contained enough discrepancies and inadequacies to cause him to doubt Pell’s guilt. Weinberg said that in his view the convictions could not stand.
Pell’s case has attracted global attention as it brought a growing crisis of sexual abuse in the Catholic church spanning scandals in the United States, Chile and Germany right to the heart of the papal administration.
The Australian judges said Pell should not be made a “scapegoat for any perceived failings of the Catholic church nor for any failure in relation to child sexual abuse by other clergy.” They said his conviction and sentence was not vindication of the trauma suffered by other victims of abuse.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the Catholic church’s top body in Australia, said it accepted the court’s decision and acknowledged the pain that those abused by clergy have experienced through Pell’s trials and appeal.