On 18 April 2018, 23-year-old Canadian national Melina Roberge was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment, to serve a minimum four years and nine months, after pleading guilty to her part in smuggling nearly 72 kilograms of cocaine into Australia on board a luxury cruise liner in August 2016, with an estimated value of $21.5 million.
Ms Roberge, one of three people caught in the drug operation, initially denied being involved, however on 23 February this year, she pleaded guilty to her part in importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug just days before her expected trial.
On 9 July 2016, Ms Roberge, along with her two co-offenders, Andre Tamine, 63, and Isabelle Lagace, 30, boarded the Sea Princess cruise ship at Dover, England. The vessel then travelled to Ireland, America, Bermuda, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Chile before arriving in Australia on Sunday 28 August 2016.
When the vessel berthed in Sydney Harbour, Australian Border Force (ABF) officers boarded and used sniffer dogs to search a number of passenger cabins on the ship. During the search, approximately 72 kilograms of cocaine was found hidden in suitcases, in two separate cabins; one occupied by Ms Roberge and Ms Lagace, and the other by Mr Tamine.
The operation to seize the cocaine involved the ABF and the Australian Federal Police, in cooperation with the US Department of Homeland Security Investigations, New Zealand Customs Service and the Canada Border Services Agency. The prosecutions were conducted by the CDPP.
On 3 November 2017, Ms Lagace was sentenced to a maximum seven years and six months’ imprisonment. Andre Tamine has pleaded guilty to his role in the attempted smuggling and will be sentenced later this year.
Ms Roberge will be eligible for parole in May 2021 and is likely to be deported on her release.
On 18 April 2018, Melina Roberge was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment, to serve a minimum four years and nine months, in relation to:
- 1 count of jointly committing an offence with others—importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely cocaine, contrary to section 307.1 with section 11.2A of the Criminal Code.
In handing down her sentence, Judge Kate Traill accepted Ms Roberge's "genuine contrition and remorse" and noted the Canadian had a very good chance of rehabilitation.
She said there was no evidence beyond reasonable doubt that the Canadian ever touched or knew the exact amount of cocaine being carried.
However Judge Traill was very critical of Ms Roberge’s motivations for committing the offence, which included taking photos of herself in exotic locations and posting them on Instagram to get likes.
She said it was “sad that a 22-year-old was prepared to be involved in the import of cocaine so she could post glamorous photos of herself on social media. She wanted to be the envy of others. I doubt she is now the envy of others. This highlights the negative influence of social media on young women such as the offender.”