Women who boasted of lavish 'selfie cruise' on Instagram plead guilty to smuggling cocaine worth $21m into Sydney
Two Canadian cruise ship passengers have pleaded guilty to smuggling cocaine worth $21 million (AUD) (€13 million) into Sydney on a cruise ship which set off from Britain.
Melina Roberge, (24), and Andre Tamine, (63), both from Quebec, changed their plea shortly before they were due to stand trial on drug importation charges.
Another passenger, Isabelle Lagacé, (29), had already admitted in November last year to importing the drugs and was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.
Ms Roberge, who had shared a cabin with Ms Lagacé on the two-month round-the-world voyage which cost £11,000 (€12,480) per head, initially told told police she had no knowledge of the drugs.
The pair had documented their extravagant 51-day trip aboard the Princess Cruise liner from the UK to Australia on Instagram, stopping at destinations including Canada, South America and New Zealand.
Australian Border Force (ABF) police found 200lbs of cocaine stashed in suitcases when they boarded the vessel at Sydney Harbour with sniffer dogs in August 2016.
They discovered 77lbs of cocaine in a cabin shared by the two female passengers and an additional 130lbs in Mr Tamine’s room.
ABF had identified the trio as “high risk travellers” on board the vessel which was under increased scrutiny due to the large number of ports it had stopped at. They concluded the trio were part of a “very well organised syndicate”.
Ms Lagacé, a former adult actress, claimed she was forced to transport the drugs to clear a $20,000 (AUD) (€13,000) debt, calling it an “error in judgement” that would haunt her for the rest of her life.
“It pains me to know my most defining years of womanhood will be spent in jail,” she told a court after being sentenced.
“I feel remorse and anger at myself about being involved with people who are part of a dirty, dirty drug trade.”
ABF commander (ABF) Tim Fitzgerald said it was Australia’s largest ever drug seizure on a boat or plane.
“These syndicates should be on notice that the Australian Border Force is aware of all of the different ways they attempt to smuggle drugs into our country and we are working with a range of international agencies to stop them,” added ABF Assistant Commissioner Clive Murray.