Three Canadian passengers who documented a 51-day luxury cruise on social media pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges after their suitcases were found to contain a $16.5 million cocaine haul.
Melina Roberge, 23, and Andre Tamine, 64, initially maintained their innocence, and a trial was scheduled to start this week. But the two submitted guilty pleas earlier this month to Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court for a charge of jointly commissioning the importation of a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug. They were refused bail.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Roberge shared a cabin with Isabelle Lagace, 28, a former adult film actress who received a seven-and-a-half year sentence last November after admitting her part in the smuggling operation.
The Sea Princess cruise—intended to last a total of 68 days—reportedly began in the UK, and made multiple stops including in the U.S., Bermuda, South America, Tahiti, and New Zealand. The young women frequently took to their social media profiles to share carefree bikini shots in exotic locales.
When the ship docked in Sydney Harbour on August 28, 2016, Australian Border Force officers reportedly entered the women’s cabin and found 30kg of cocaine in a bag. In his room, Tamine had around 70kg of the drug. The three Canadians were carrying a whopping 200 pounds of it in total, distributed across four suitcases.
Crown Prosecutor Lincoln Crowley reportedly told the court, “It is, in effect, a floating warehouse.”
Australian authorities believe they were working with a “well-organized crime syndicate,” and continue to investigate the record-breaking seizure.
The Daily Telegraph additionally reports that Lagace said her role was to shepherd the bag through customs at each port and then hand it off to someone else.
Prior to their bust, the trio had been flagged by border control agencies in Canada, the U.S., and New Zealand as high-risk travelers.
Roberge will be sentenced next month while Tamine will wait until October to learn his fate. The pair could be facing life imprisonment, which is the maximum penalty for smuggling a commercial quantity of cocaine in Australia.
[Feature image: Melina Roberge and Isabelle Lagace/Instagram]