The two Quebec women facing life in prison in Australia after police found more than $30 million worth of cocaine in their suitcases looked like they were having the time of their lives on the way there.
Melina Roberge and Isabelle Lagace, both in their 20s, spent the last two months on the MS Sea Princess, a massive luxury cruise that takes 2,000 passengers on numerous stops from Southampton in the UK to Sydney, Australia. Tickets for the cruise cost $20,000 each.
But when they arrived at their final stop on Sunday, Australian federal police found 200 pounds of cocaine in their luggage, and that of another Quebecer, 63-year-old Andre Jorge Tamine.
Authorities haven’t disclosed how the two women and the man are connected. All of them have been charged with importing a commercial quantity of cocaine, and could face life in prison if they’re found guilty.
It’s the largest drug bust Australia has ever seen on a boat or plane.
Before they got caught, the women documented the entire journey on Instagram and Facebook, looking joyful in Times Square in NYC, drinking out of coconuts in French Polynesia, and enjoying Irish coffees in Ireland.
On August 4, Melina Roberge posted a photo of herself standing on an ATV in Paracas, Peru. “It was just really crazy!” she wrote on the photos’ description on Facebook with the hashtags #bucketlist #quad. Other stops include Chile, Bermuda, and Ecuador.
According to Roberge’s Facebook profile, she works at the Pandora jewelry store in downtown Montreal. Lagace’s profile is private.
On Saturday, the day before her arrest, Roberge posted a photo of the phrase “When you wake up and need a nap.” On Tuesday morning, followers commented on the photo “jokes girl what were you thinking” and #prisonavie.
Journal de Montreal reported this week that Canada Border Services Agency and the US Department of Homeland Security Investigations were in communication with their counterparts in Australia before they docked. The three suspects have now been classified as “high-risk” travellers by these agencies.
Cocaine is notoriously expensive in Australia, around five times more expensive than it is in Canada, and seizures of the drug at the border have spiked in recent years.