Three Canadian cruise ship passengers on their way to Sydney were arrested this Sunday by Australian police after 95 kilograms of cocaine were found in their suitcases.
23-year-old Isabella Lagacé, her 28-year-old friend, Melina Roberge, and a 63-year-old man, Andre Tamine were charged with trying to import drugs into Australia. Australian Border Force officers uncovered a locked suitcase with approximately $30 million in Australian currency ($22 million U.S.) during their search of two passenger cabins, according to the Toronto Star and the Sydney Morning Herald. According to the Daily Telegraph, the seizure may be the biggest in Australian history from a cruise ship or plane.
The trio, originally from Quebec, were on day 51 of a 68 day cruise aboard the Sea Princess when police stopped them as part of a joint investigation which included the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Canadian Border Service Agency. The Australian Border Force stated that they were allegedly working with a "very well-organized syndicate" that has counterparts in the US, Canada and New Zealand.
The two women had been documenting their cruise on Instagram for two months leading up to the arrests.
"Traveling is one thing ... But traveling with an open mind, ready to taste everything, see everything, learn everything and get yourself out of your comfort zone… Is probably the best therapy and lesson ever," Roberge posted on Facebook from her vacation.
Photos of the two young women sunbathing, exploring caves and drinking out of coconuts are strewn about their social media accounts.
The investigation is still on-going as the Australian Federal Police haven’t yet ruled out making further arrests. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the maximum penalty for importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug is life imprisonment.
Roberge, Lagacé and Tamine formally refused bail in Sydney’s Central Local Court on Monday, August 29 and remain in custody until their court date in October.