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. The 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, promptly 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.
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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.