by Stefania Fumo ROME
(Xinhua) -- A Nigerian national
masquerading as an American missionary priest was nabbed upon
landing at Rome’s international airport with three kilos of pure
heroin stitched into his laptop case, Italian police said Saturday.
That amount of heroin has street retail value of over one million
euros (about 1.2 million U.S. dollars), according to a police
The fake priest claimed he was returning from missionary work in
the African country of Mozambique. When customs agents at Fiumicino
Airport began taking his luggage apart, he brandished a cross
hanging around his neck and threatened the officers with
excommunication, saying they were committing sacrilege.
The incident points to a return to the consumption of heroin,
also known as "the poor man’s drug" because it costs just 20 euros a
The fact that the highly addictive opiate is so cheap makes it a
favorite among youth, the statement said.
Just over 10 percent of the overall population, or four million
people, used at least one illegal substance in 2016, according to a
government report on drug use in Italy published last year.
That rate was much higher among students, where it stood at
almost 26 percent or 640,000 individuals.
Also in 2016, over 143,000 people were in drug rehab programs,
with 68.1 percent being treated for heroin addiction, 17.3 percent
fighting a cocaine habit, and just over 11 percent trying to quit
In the same year, police carried out 23,734 drug busts and seized
almost 72,000 kilos of drugs.
Of these, cannabis made up 58 percent, cocaine made up 6.6
percent, and opiates (including heroin) were 0.7 percent.
As well, drug offenders made up 34.1 percent of the prison
population in 2016, the government report said.