SHARE
COPY LINK

CRIME

Italians arrested over drug stash in Vatican car

Two Italian men are in French jail after they allegedly used an official Vatican vehicle to try to smuggle several kilos of cocaine and cannabis through France, according to media reports.

Italians arrested over drug stash in Vatican car
An official Vatican car was caught smuggling drugs through France. Photo: AFP

It must have seemed like the perfect cover to two suspected drug smugglers: an official Vatican vehicle with diplomatic license plates. However, things didn't exactly go according to plan.

The tale began when the personal secretary of 91-year-old Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia turned over the car to two Italian men last week for a tune up. They men allegedly did a lot more than change the spark plugs.

French daily Le Monde reported the pair, who are 30 and 41 years old, then drove the car to Spain and picked up four kilos of cocaine and 200 grams of cannabis and headed back to France, which is where their luck ran out.

Customs officers stopped the car for a routine check as it went through the tolls in Chambéry, near the border with Switzerland and Italy on Sunday. During a search of the car officers found the sizable stash of drugs.

The two Italians tried at first to claim they were simply chauffeurs and knew nothing about the illicit payload, but police didn't buy that and took them to jail.

Given that neither of the men hold a Vatican passport, there is nothing thus far that ties the Catholic Church directly to the bust.

For its part, the Holy See has confirmed that one of its cars was stopped for drugs by French customs officers, but has officially denied any employee or resident of the tiny state was directly involved, according to I.MEDIA, a Vatican news agency.

This story originally appeared on The Local France.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

MAFIA

Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

In its latest mafia sting, Italian police took down a large 'Ndrangheta ring in southern Calabria, placing 56 people under investigation including a regional councillor and a former head of the regional tourism board.

Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

The early-morning blitz by over 300 police focused on areas of Calabria – Italy’s poorest region – under the control of the Mancuso clan, a powerful branch of the infamous ‘Ndrangheta, many of whose top operatives are among hundreds of defendants in an ongoing ‘maxi-trial’.

Fifty-six people, many already in prison, were put under criminal investigation for a series of crimes including mafia-related conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping, bribery and possession of weapons, police and prosecutors said.

READ ALSO: ‘Ndrangheta: It’s time to bust some myths about the Calabrian mafia

Besides alleged mafia members, the operation also snared businessmen, a regional councillor released from prison days earlier, a former head of the regional tourism board and two civil servants, police said.

The incarcerated boss of the clan, Luigi Mancuso, also known as “The Supreme”, is the biggest mafioso in the massive mafia trial that started in January 2021.

Still, police said, his clan and affiliates, including the La Rosa and Accortini families, have continued to dominate illegal activities in the Vibo Valentia province, which is located right on the toe of Italy’s boot and is widely known as the ‘Coast of the Gods’ due to its stunning coastal views.

One mafia scheme involved the infiltration of a foreign tour operator in Pizzo Calabro, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

No one talks

In Calabria, the extent of the ‘Ndrangheta’s reach in the local economy has made it near impossible to eradicate it.

By controlling the bulk of cocaine flowing into Europe, the ‘Ndrangheta has surpassed Sicily’s Cosa Nostra in power and wealth. It has extended far beyond its rural roots and now operates internationally, with illegal gains reinvested in the legitimate economy.

In the area around Vibo Valentia, extortion of local businesses and the fixing of public tenders is also common.

The allegations against those arrested Thursday include the transport and sale of stolen farm machinery to Malta and Romania, police said.

The sting carried out on Thursday extended to other parts of Calabria, Palermo in Sicily and as far as Rome and Milan, police said.

READ ALSO: Meet Nicola Gratteri, the prosecutor leading Italy’s battle against the mafia

In a press conference, anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri, whose efforts to defeat the ‘Ndrangheta have forced him to live under police escort for over 30 years, called the group a “fierce mafia syndicate” controlling areas around the tourist resort of Tropea.

Francesco Messina, who leads Italy’s organised crime investigative unit (DAC), cited the economic power of the clan, which relies locally on “substantial” extortion activity.

The “total absence” of complaints to authorities was striking, Messina said, underscoring the ‘Ndrangheta’s power to intimidate.

By Alexandria Sage

SHOW COMMENTS