It’s a story that has drug mules written all over. Two Canadian girls, traveling with a 63-year-old Canadian man have been charged with one of the biggest high seas cocaine busts Australia has ever seen, according to Australian Border Force Commander Tim Fitzgerald, reports CBC News.
The trio appeared in Sydney Central Court this week and did not enter pleas according to the CBC. There are still many gaps in this very fresh story. In a worldwide public press release, the Australian Border Force is still referring to this as an “ongoing investigation”, which does not happen after a drug kingpin has been caught.
23-year-old Melina Roberge is from Montreal, Quebec, and lists on her Facebook page that she works as a cashier in a jewelry shop where the most expensive item is worth $85 Canadian dollars, or, approximately $65 USD based on today’s exchange rate at Xe.com.
One of Melina’s most recent Facebook posts is a photo for her mom. She had just climbed 100 steps in Chile. In French she posted, “Après avoir monté 100 marches, voilà ta photo mom” which translates to, “After climbing 100 steps, here’s your picture, mom!”
28-year-old Isabelle Lagace is a café barista in a Montreal café according to multiple reports, but her Facebook page has gone radio silent since this news broke.
They are now facing life in an Australian prison if convicted, after embarking on an $11 thousand pound around the world cruise as reported by the Telegraph. That vacation cost, per person, works out to approximately $14 thousand USD per Xe.com.
Very little is known about 63-year-old Andre Tamine of Montreal, Quebec, the third charged in this story and the man the young girls were reportedly traveling with. He does not have the same social media presence that the young girls do. He doesn’t have one at all.
The Rolling Stones Magazine has referred to the two girls as the “worst drug smugglers of all time.” Why? Because they chronicled their $14,000 vacation on Instagram. Who wouldn’t?
The young ladies, along with the 63-year-old man, began their vacation to an Australian prison cell in Dover, England, in early July according to the Washington Post. It was supposed to be a 49-day trip and became one of the world’s most talked about high seas cocaine busts. If convicted of smuggling $30 million dollars of cocaine, it could be a lifetime ticket to an Australian prison.
The Journal de Montreal has created a sketch of the timeline of events for the cocaine bust, though there are still many gaps in the story. On July 11 of this year, the two young women ordered their first Irish coffee in a port southwest of Ireland. By July 20, their Instagram photos showed them in New York City in Times Square.
On July 23, Melina was posting about how amazing Bermuda was. By July 30, they had seen Ecuador. Two weeks ago, Melina got a tattoo around her ankle, one that meant, protection of the traveler, as she relayed in a subsequent Instagram post.
Talk about tattoo regret. No matter what happens now, she will look at that tattoo and remember this experience and “protection” for the rest of her life.
August 11 was the now famous Chile stair climb photo for Melina’s mom. It wasn’t the only post to her mom. By August 17, her friend Isabelle Lagace was enjoying coconuts in Tahiti. On August 19, a post of Melina holding a rock that spelled out “Mom” was posted to her Facebook page.
What the girls and likely their travel companion did not know, was that they were being tracked by multiple border control agencies the entire time having been flagged as “high-risk travelers” according to the Washington Post. These included but were not limited to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).
It is unclear at this time what made them high-risk travelers. Having traveled to the United States from Canada, it is clear that something tipped off all international border control agents very early in the days of travel and long before they arrived in any world-renowned drug ports like Columbia or Peru.
Princess Cruises was the name of the cruise line they were traveling with. It is a cruise line based out of California, reports the Washington Post. The MS Sea Princess had been to 17 cities in 11 countries before the Sydney, Australia, port arrival on August 28.
There were reportedly 1,800 passengers on board on August 28 when Australian Border Force entered the vessel with canine assistance. It did not take long for the dogs to find suitcases stuffed with 95 kilos of cocaine, which is approximately 209 pounds of cocaine, reportedly worth $30 million Canadian dollars and $23 million USD, as The Inquisitr previously reported.
The Australian Border Force posted a picture of some of the evidence to their Facebook page, noting that the suitcases were crammed so tightly with drugs there wasn’t even room for a toothbrush.
It’s a peculiar story. The women clearly had enough room for expensive dresses, bikinis, boat wear, cell phones, chargers, makeup, and jewelry in some of their suitcases. But the suitcases where the drugs were found did not have enough room for a toothbrush, according to the Australian Border Force.
It is unclear what tipped them off to these three travelers, to begin with. The Journal de Montreal reported that cocaine in Australia is five times more expensive than it is in Canada or the United States. That means that whoever was planning on selling this load, was expecting to rake in approximately $100 million USD.
It doesn’t seem like the kind of operation that two young women working in a café or jewelry shop in Montreal can organize. That is one of the reasons why the Australian Border Force is referring to this as an ongoing investigation.
It is clear that the Australian Border Force is not considering the young women as the kingpins of the operation. In a press release issued August 29, the Australian Border Force (ABF) had strong words for the “syndicates” they believe this drug bust is attached to.
“These syndicated 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.”
They also reported that the investigation is ongoing, meaning, the charges laid now are just one baby step in what they believe to be a larger operation.
“Today’s successful operation has resulted in three arrests and we will not rule out further activity as we continue our investigations. The AFP is committed to working with its partner agencies to protect the community by stopping these dangerous drugs making their way to Australian communities, and bringing those responsible to justice.”
Watch Tim Fitzgerald of the Australian Border Force in this video here of the luggage being examined. He says, “a significant amount of time went into identifying these high-risk passengers.”
Clearly, with United States Homeland Security and Canadian Border Services Agencies assisting in this investigation from early on, the young ladies and their traveling companion were being watched long before they made port.
Something had tipped off agents very early in their vacation. Whether that tracking began before they started the cruise remains to be seen, but it does suggest the drugs likely came into the picture very early in the vacation and maybe even before.
The trio will appear in court again on October 26 of this year to answer to these drug crimes and will remain in Australian jail until they do. We will be following this story and will bring you updates as they come in.
[Photo by Australian Boarder Force/AP Images]