2 Canadian Women Accused of Smuggling $22 Million in Cocaine into Australia on Cruise Ship

Over 200 pounds were seized by Australian Border Protection.

ByKatelyn Marmon
September 01, 2016, 12:00 AM

— -- Mélina Roberge and Isabelle Lagacé spent their summer travelling to some of the world’s most idyllic vacation destinations -- from Tahiti to the cliffs of Bermuda to Peru -- on a two-month luxury cruise around the globe, costing approximately $20,000 per-person. The globe-trotting duo documented their escapades on Roberge's Instagram account. For two women in their twenties, it looked too good to be true.

And in this case, it appears it was.

When the Sea Princess, the cruise facilitating the women's travels, docked in Sydney Sunday, it was greeted by Australian Border Protection officers and detector dogs. The officers searched the ship's 2,000 cabins and say they discovered 95 kilograms (209.4 pounds) of cocaine packed in locked suitcases.

The haul has been valued at $31 million Australian (approximately $22 million U.S.). It was Australia’s largest seizure of narcotics carried by passengers of a cruise ship, Australian Border Force commander Tim Fitzgerald said.

Roberge, 22, and Lagacé, 28, are charged with importing a commercial quantity of cocaine. Another individual, André Tamine, 63, who had some of the cocaine in his possession, was arrested and charged as well. All three are natives of Quebec, Canada. They will remain in custody until their next court appearance on October 26. The maximum penalty if convicted of this offense is life imprisonment.

The women first boarded the extravagant cruise ship, two months ago in the U.K. and visited 11 countries, many in South America, including Colombia and Ecuador, before reaching Sydney. The drug bust was a massive international law enforcement operation, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, that was tracking this ship. The seizure of drugs disrupted the supply of cocaine to Sydney and beyond, according to Australian Federal Police Superintendent Conrad Jensen.

The cruise liner told ABC News it is cooperating with authorities and has launched an internal investigation.

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