Ecuadorean police found traces of cocaine on statues due to be sent to Canada from Ecuador's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the second diplomatic drug scandal to hit the country since 2012.
A routine inspection carried out with sniffer dogs revealed a small quantity of cocaine in a crate of statues of former Ecuadorean President Eloy Alfaro, reported El Comercio. The statues were due to be sent to the Ecuadorean embassy in Canada.
Police then conducted a more thorough search of crates inside the Ministry, many of which were meant to be sent to different locations around the world, but came away empty handed.
Deputy Foreign Minister Marco Albuja blamed the presence of the drugs on an anti-government plot. "This goes beyond drug trafficking," he said. "It is definitely malicious, it is related to discrediting our government."
InSight Crime Analysis
This is not the first time that Ecuadorean state cargo has been linked to drug trafficking. In early 2012, Italian police found around 40 kilos of cocaine hidden in crates of objects meant for a theatre production, which had been sent from Ecuador via the diplomatic bag service.
The case caused international scandal and severely embarrassed the Ecuadorean government. In response, the government introduced a new by-law tightening restrictions on the diplomatic bag service.
The quantity found on the statues bound for Canada is nowhere near the scale of the cocaine shipment sent to Italy. However, the case does raise suspicions that state cargo is still being used for trafficking. Meanwhile, the deputy foreign minister's far-fetched comments about an alleged anti-government plot indicate that the government is still sensitive over the issue.