It’s a salacious claim worthy of a subplot in a fictional tv show: A head of state touches down in India on a cocaine-filled airplane.
But social media posts sharing this allegation about Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to tell the whole story of where this allegation came from and why it lacks credibility.
“Busted: Trudeau’s plane filled with cocaine, psychedelic drugs!? Diplomat outs scumbag Canadian PM,” read a Sept. 27 Facebook post. The caption of another Facebook post that day said there were “reports of cocaine found” on Trudeau’s plane.
These posts were flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
Trudeau flew to India in September to attend the G20 summit. But we found no evidence to support the claim he did so on a plane filled with cocaine. There were no announcements of government investigations and Trudeau’s office dismissed the claim in a statement.
“This (is) absolutely false and a troubling example of how disinformation can make its way into media reporting,” Trudeau’s team said, according to the Toronto Sun.
The claim got its start when India’s former ambassador to Sudan, Deepak Vohra, appeared on the Indian TV show Zee News Sept. 21. Vohra told journalist Deepak Chaurasia that there was a “credible rumor” that Trudeau’s plane was “full of cocaine” when he arrived in New Delhi for the G20 summit.
“When Justin Trudeau came to India for the G20 this month, his plane was full of cocaine. He did not come out of his room for two days,” Vohra said, offering no evidence to support the claim.
NewsMobile, an Indian fact-checking site and signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network, reported that senior Indian government officials said the claim was false.
Vohra’s description of the plane came amid high-profile tension between Canada and India. On Sept. 18, Trudeau accused India of being involved in June’s fatal shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, on Canadian soil, The New York Times reported. Officials in India called the allegation “absurd.”
Canada expelled a senior Indian diplomat, sparking a retaliatory move from India, which expelled a senior Canadian diplomat. India also issued travel warnings and stopped issuing visas for Canadians, according to The Independent.
The Toronto Star newspaper reported that Trudeau has been the target of disinformation since he claimed India was involved in the killing, and the newspaper specifically cited the cocaine story as an example.
With no evidence to back this claim, we rate the statement that Trudeau’s plane was filled with cocaine when he landed in India for the G20 summit False.