Quebeccans Melina Roberge, 22, and Isabelle Lagacé, 28, live it up
Travel on $20,000-a head the Sea Princess cruise for two months
Frolick in bikinis on the beaches and waterfalls of the North America, the Caribbean and South America- Bermuda, Tahiti, Peru, Colombia…
Roberge and Lagacé document their lavish holiday in social media
The two Canadian women arrested smuggling $23.3 million worth of cocaine into Sydney on the Sea Princess cruise ship
kilograms of cocaine found in the suitcases of André Tamine, 63, Isabelle Lagacé, and Melina Roberge
Tracked and arrested through cooperation of several national enforcement agencies
Facing life imprisonment
Melina Roberge and Isabelle Lagacé, living life on the ‘Large’ side
Three Quebecers charged with smuggling $30M in cocaine on cruise ship in Australia
A search of the ship’s nearly 2,000 compartments allegedly lead to the discovery of 95 kilograms of the drug in the suitcases of André Tamine, 63, Isabelle Lagacé, 28, and Melina
A dream cruise across half the globe has ended with a nightmare for three Quebecers who could face life in prison in Australia after local authorities allegedly discovered the equivalent of $323.3 million worth of cocaine in their luggage.
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It was the last stop in a long voyage. When the MS Sea Princess reached Sydney harbour Sunday, after nearly two months of crossing two oceans, there were border agents, the Australian Federal Police, and sniffer dogs waiting.
The authorities weren’t there by accident. An exchange of information among several partners, including the Canadian Border Service Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security led them to focus on this specific ship.
The alleged drug ring Andre Tamine, Isabelle Legace and Melina Roberce, were on the Sea Princess cruise liner
Melina Roberge, 22, (left) and Isabelle Lagacé, 28, (right) were arrested on Sunday on suspicion of smuggling $30 million (US$23 million) worth of cocaine into Australia
A search of the ship’s nearly 2,000 compartments allegedly lead to the discovery of 95 kilograms of cocaine in the suitcases of André Tamine, 63, Isabelle Lagacé, 28, and Melina Roberge, 22 — all originally from Quebec.
The two women were travelling together and left a steady record of their journey on social media. The investigators have not determined if they were also working alongside the man who was arrested. The three suspects were identified by the border agency as “high-risk travellers.”
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Australia has a reputation for having higher local prices for cocaine, and the authorities estimated that the value of the drugs they discovered was $23.3 million ( $30.5 million Canadian), a record seizure from a cruise ship in the country.
“The maximum sentence for this charge is life in prison,” the Australian Border Services said in a press release, which made reference to an international drug syndicate that is still subject
to investigation and could lead to other arrests.
Investigators are trying to determine through which port the drugs were brought onto the ship. The three accused got on the ship in England in early July, but the cruise later travelled to several ports in North America, the Caribbean and South America — notably Colombia and Peru, two countries known for cocaine production.
Cocaine seizures have been on the increase in Australia in recent years. A report on illicit drugs published on Aug. 6 by Australia’s criminal intelligence commission said the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands and Canada are among the countries that send the most cocaine shipments to the country.
In 2011, the Sûreté du Québec noted for the first time that Canadian and Quebec-based cocaine traffickers had an interest in Australia, during an investigation targeting a consortium of individuals linked to the Hells Angels and an Irish organized crime group in Montreal.
According to sources, during a raid investigators found accounting documents at one of the members that led them to believe there were ties to a distribution ring in Australia.
During the bail hearing for this individual in May 2015, a Sûreté du Québec investigator explained that in this region of the world, a kilogram of cocaine cost three times as much as in Canada “because of the difficulty of getting it in.”
The investigator also noted that in their probe, one of the members, Frederic Lavoie, who has since been killed, exchanged encrypted text messages with an individual who asked if he had any drug mules available to send to Australia, and to obtain $160,000 for each kilogram of cocaine.
Lagacé in a rock pond
Two young women documented a luxury trip around the world on social media – before they allegedly tried to smuggle millions of pounds of cocaine into Australia.
Pictures of Melina Roberge and Isabelle Lagace taking in exotic sights during a two-month cruise were posted on Instagram throughout their trip.
But when they touched down in Sydney, Australia, authorities uncovered one of Australia’s largest drug busts ever.
Roberge, 22, Lagace, 28, and Andre Tamine, 63, all from Quebec, Canada, were arrested when 95kg of cocaine was allegedly found in their suitcases, reported worth#23.3 million
Lagacé on a beach in Tahiti
However a look at their social media accounts shows the women having the time of their life in the months leading up to their arrest.
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Pictures show them taking part in a range of activities from drinking coconuts on the beach to riding quad bikes through the desert while on the $20,000 (U.S$15,000) cruise.
Roberge’s Instagram account is flooding with images of the young woman wearing little more than a bikini, in exotic locations such as Ecuador and Peru.
In Peru the 22-year-old went hiking, posed for photographs with local children and also tried her hand at quad-biking, with one image showing her standing atop a bike.
‘Traveling is one thing … But traveling with an open mind, ready to taste everything, see everything, learn everything and get yourself out of your comfort zone .. Is probably the best therapy and lesson ever,’ she wrote alongside an image taken in Chile.
Large volume drug importation into Australia could attract a sentence of life imprisonment
Roberge getting a tattoo in French Polynesia with the caption #dumbanddumber
Roberge atop a mountain in Ecuador
‘I used to be afraid to get out of my little town and now I feel like I don’t want to see that little town anymore cause it’s beautiful out there and it’s sooo worth it,’ the caption read.
Similarly, Lagacé’s Facebook and Instagram feature dozens of bikini-clad travel photos, the most recent of which was taken in Tahiti with the caption: ‘Collect moments, not things’.
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The pair also stopped off at the capital of French Polynesia, Papeete, during their round-the-world trip, where Roberge got a tattoo, which ‘means the protection of the traveler’.The trio allegedly had 95kg of cocaine, which was allegedly found by sniffer dogs and police in their suitcases
After Roberge, Lagacé and Tamine were arrested on Sunday, ABF Regional Commander Tim Fitzgerald said the drug bust was the nation’s largest ever narcotics bust through passenger transportation.
‘This is the biggest seizure of narcotics through a passenger stream, so either through the airport or cruise ships, this 95kg of cocaine is the largest seizure we’ve seen in Australia,’ Fitzgerald told AAP.
The girls shared many bikini shots of themselves on social media
It is believed all 95kg were destined for Australia.
The Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force undertook the drug raid in cooperation with the US Department of Homeland Security Investigations, New Zealand Customs Service and the Canada Border Services Agency.
The penalty for smuggling a commercial quantity of cocaine includes life imprisonment and the trio will remain in custody until their next court appearance on October 26.