Wednesday 28 September 2016

Women who boasted of lavish 'selfie cruise' on Instagram in €20m drug bust

James Rothwell

Published 01/09/2016 | 07:45

Melina Roberge, 23, and Isabelle Lagacé, 28
Melina Roberge, 23, and Isabelle Lagacé, 28

A lavish cruise around the world which set off from Britain has ended in misery for two young Canadian women after they were arrested for allegedly smuggling €20m worth of cocaine into Sydney.

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Melina Roberge, 23, and Isabelle Lagacé, 28, are facing life imprisonment after they were accused of bringing in 200lbs of the drug into Australia.

Before their arrest, the women had documented their lavish €13,000 trip on social media, posting images of themselves riding quad bikes, hiking in Peru and posing in bikinis. 

Several of their posts on the networking site Instagram appear to have been ripped straight from a travel brochure, such as one image of Ms Roberge posing in a beachside cave alongside the caption “Gone to a place very peaceful, leave a message after the tone.

Before their arrest, the girls had documented their lavish €13k trip on social media
Before their arrest, the girls had documented their lavish €13k trip on social media

Both appeared in court in Sydney on Monday alongside 63-year-old Canadian Andre Tamine, who is facing the same charges.

The trio had set off on a Princess Cruise liner from Southampton which sailed to Canada, the USA, Peru and New Zealand before arriving in Australia.

But before they went ashore in Sydney, the group was ambushed by sniffer dogs and border agents who carried out a search of the ship's 2,000 compartments.

Police eventually searched the trio's suitcases, where they reportedly found a massive drug haul that was described by Australian Border Force commander (ABF) Tim Fitzgerald as the largest ever recovered from a boat.

In this photo released by Australia Boarder Force, a suitcase filled with cocaine after it was seized by customs onboard the MS Sea Princess in Sydney Credit: ABF
In this photo released by Australia Boarder Force, a suitcase filled with cocaine after it was seized by customs onboard the MS Sea Princess in Sydney Credit: ABF

It was unclear on Wednesday how police were alerted to the alleged smuggling bid, but according to Canadian media all three suspects had been identified as "high risk travellers" by border agencies.

They are yet to enter a plea but could all face life imprisonment if convicted under Australia's tough smuggling laws.

Melina Roberge, 23, and Isabelle Lagacé, 28
Melina Roberge, 23, and Isabelle Lagacé, 28

The ABF said it had co-operated with several other border agencies and thanked the efforts of both the US Department of Homeland Security and the Canadian Border Agency. 

On her Facebook page, Ms Roberge describes herself as a manager at a jewellery store in Montreal, while Ms Lagacé is understood to have worked at the Bureau de Poste café in Quebec.

All three suspects are due to appear again in court in October.

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