LYON: The Vatican was left red-faced on Tuesday after it emerged that a car bearing its diplomatic plates had been stopped in France with four kilograms of cocaine on board.
The car—which also contained 200 grams of cannabis—belonged to 91-year-old Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mejia, emeritus librarian at the Holy See, who retired in 2003 and who is currently bedridden.
Pope Francis, a fellow Argentinian, visited Mejia, who was confined to a hospital in Rome after a heart attack, just two days after being elected.
French radio reported that the cardinal’s private secretary entrusted the vehicle to two Italian men to take it for its annual check-up.
The two men promptly drove to Spain to buy the drugs, thinking that they would be protected by the diplomatic plates, according to RTL radio — a scenario not yet confirmed by legal sources.
The pair were picked up on Sunday at a toll station near Chambery in the French Alps on their way back.
Neither of the men has a Vatican diplomatic passport so the Vatican is not directly implicated, French legal sources told Agence France-Presse.
The Vatican confirmed that the car had been stopped in France with the drugs on board but stressed that no staff were involved in the incident.