Large cocaine haul discovered in Vatican car

The Vatican is red-faced after illegal drugs were found in a car bearing diplomatic plates associated with the Holy See.

French authorities found 4kgs of cocaine and 200 grams of cannabis on board.

The car belongs to retired Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, 91, emeritus librarian at the Holy See, who retired in 2003 and who is bedridden after a heart attack.

The cardinal had entrusted the car to two Italian men, aged 30 and 41, who had reportedly been told by his private secretary to take the car for a routine service.

Instead they drove to Spain, where they allegedly bought the cocaine and from there drove into France.

They reportedly believed that the car’s diplomatic status would place them above suspicion.

But on Sunday they were stopped at a toll station near Chambery in the French Alps, en route back to Italy, where police found the cocaine and cannabis hidden in suitcases and bags.

They were arrested and will appear in front of a French magistrate on charges of drug trafficking.

The Vatican confirmed the report, but said that as both men were Italian rather than citizens of the Vatican City State, it had nothing to do with the Holy See.

The Vatican also emphasised that none of its staff were involved.

“Cardinal Mejia is not well and obviously has nothing to do with this,” said Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ, the Vatican spokesman.

“It’s now up to the police to pursue their investigations.”

Pope Francis has often warned of the dangers of taking drugs, most recently in June when he called addiction an “evil”.

He is firmly opposed to the legalisation of any drugs, despite moves in many countries in the West, including several states in the US, to allow the personal consumption of soft drugs such as marijuana.

“I would reaffirm what I have stated on another occasion: no to every type of drug use. It is as simple as that,” he told a drug enforcement conference in Rome.

Drug trafficking “continues to spread inexorably”, he said, adding it was fuelled by “a deplorable commerce which transcends national borders”.

The Argentine Pope Francis visited Cardinal Mejia in hospital in Rome two days after being elected.


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