Three Canadians appeared in court this week to enter pleas on what has been referred to as one of the largest high seas cocaine busts in Australian history. As the Inquisitr previously reported, two young Canadian women in their twenties and 63-year-old Andre Tamine of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, were arrested and charged in a high seas cocaine bust after they were allegedly found on board a cruise vessel with $30 million dollars in cocaine in Australia in August 2016.
The Sydney, Australia, port was a stop on day 51 of their 68-day tour aboard the MS Sea Princess, a cruise that began in July 2016. After a multi-agency investigation, the cruise ended for the three Canadians in August 2016 when drug canines and multiple law enforcement officers boarded the ship and arrested them. The three Canadians appeared in court this month to enter pleas.
Twenty-eight-year-old Isabelle Lagace appeared in Sydney High Court earlier this month and entered a guilty plea in the cocaine bust related charges, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. She pled guilty to importing a commercial amount of cocaine that amounted to approximately 95 kilograms and faces life imprisonment in Australia. Isabelle Lagace will appear in court again in February for sentencing.
This week, her traveling companion, 23-year-old Melina Roberge, appeared in Sydney High Court and entered a plea of not guilty on the cocaine bust charges reports the National Post. During her hearing, Melina reportedly “wailed” and sobbed in open court multiple times, according to the Toronto Sun. Melina Roberge became known for her posts to her mother during her journey aboard the MS Sea Princess, at one point posting a picture of a rock on Facebook that had the word “Mom” printed on it, as The Inquisitr previously reported.
That post has since been removed from Facebook.
Melina pled not guilty in court this week, with her lawyer arguing that she had nothing to do with the alleged smuggling and did not know that there were drugs on board, reports the Toronto Sun. She said she was “oblivious” to the drug smuggling plot, a claim that the Magistrate of the High Court reportedly “scoffed” at.
“It is clear there was a large quantity of the substance which appeared to be in safekeeping in the room shared by Ms. Lagace and Ms. Roberge. The cabin space was tiny. The suitcase was reasonably large. All other suitcases in the cabin were emptied. It is also clear that Ms. Roberge and Ms. Lagace shared the cabin for at least 39 days.”
The Crown Prosecutor for the case, Lincoln Crowley, reportedly referred to the crime as a “floating warehouse” of drugs.
Sixty-four-year-old Andre Tamine will stand trial in the New South Wales District Court next year. The National Post reports that Australian Border Force Commander Tim Fitzgerald said drug detection canine units aided the police in finding the drugs on board. The Magistrate, or judge in this hearing, said that it was “highly improbable” that anyone other than the young ladies stored the drugs in the suitcases without the defendant’s knowledge reports the National Post.
During the travels, Melina Roberge got a tattoo on her ankle that allegedly meant “protection of the traveler,” as The Inquisitr previously reported. She also reportedly walked the stairs in Chile and posted to Facebook that “this was for you, Mom!” Now, Melina will face charges at trial on February 3, reports the Toronto Sun. Andre Tamine will also face trial next month, and Isabelle Lagace will face sentencing. The Sydney, Australia, arrests of the three Canadians came after a coordinated effort between Canadian Border Services Patrol units, United States Customs and Border Protection officers, Australian Federal Police, and Australian Border Force Units.
[Featured Image by HOGP/ Australian Border Force/ AP Images]