Two Italian nationals were arrested when a diplomatic car with Vatican plates which was registered to 91-year-old Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Melia was found to be hauling nine pounds of cocaine, an estimated street value of approximately $650,000 dollars.
The two men, aged 30 and 41, were stopped near the French border in their Jaguar diplomatic car near Chambery, located in France’s Alps, when authorities found the copious amounts of cocaine, along with one-third of a pound of marijuana, according to UK’s Daily Mail.
The Vatican has confirmed that they had been notified as to what happened, but reiterated that the Cardinal had nothing to do with the illegal drug trafficking, according to Imedia news agency. A Vatican spokesman claimed the car was due for service and passed along by the Cardinal’s secretary to the two men for that reason only.
“Cardinal Mejia is not well and obviously has nothing to do with this. It’s now up to police to pursue their investigations,” said the Vatican spokesman.
Melia retired from his official position in 2003 and now retains the title of emeritus librarian at the Holy See.
In June, the Pontiff spoke out vehemently against the issue of legalizing recreational drugs, such as the one’s found in the diplomatic vehicle. “Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise,” Pope Francis said to the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome. Policies to legalize drugs, he said, are “not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.” He added, “To think that harm can be reduced by permitting drug addicts to use narcotics in no way resolves the problem.”