A Canadian woman dubbed the “cocaine babe” for her role in importing almost 24 kilograms of pure cocaine into Australia has been sentenced to a maximum eight years in jail.
Melina Roberge was arrested on August 28, 2016 after Australian Border Force officers raided the luxury cruise liner Sea Princess while it was docked in Sydney Harbour, discovering the cocaine packed in suitcases.
The 24-year-old was sentenced to a minimum four years and nine months behind bars, but factoring time already served will be eligible for parole in May 2021.
In handing down her sentence, Judge Kate Traill accepted Roberge’s “genuine contrition and remorse” and noted the Canadian had a very good chance of rehabilitation.
But the judge slammed the then 22-year-old’s motivations for committing the offence.
The court heard Roberge willingly participated in the importation of an estimated $21.5 million worth of cocaine during a cruise around the world.
The court heard the cruise was part of her reward for her involvement in the plot, that she hoped could be used to help her gain Instagram likes and promote a glamorous lifestyle.
Judge Traill said there was no evidence beyond reasonable doubt that the Canadian ever touched or knew the exact amount of cocaine being carried.
The court also heard that her role on the cruise was to keep attention away from her co-accused, Isabelle Legace, who was sentenced to a maximum of seven-and-a-half years behind bars in November as part of the drug racket.
The third co-accused, Andre Tamine, 63, has also pleaded guilty to his role in the attempted smuggling and will be sentenced later this year.
The three were caught in a sting carried out by Australian Border Force in collaboration with international partners.
The group’s stories have attracted significant attention overseas, with Roberge dubbed the “cocaine babe” by the media.
‘Sad they seek to obtain such a vacuous existence’
In sentencing Roberge, Judge Traill said the lure of Instagram likes had a huge impact on the 24-year-old’s decision making.
“This is a very sad indictment on her relative age group in our society who seem to get self worth by likes on Instagram which can make them a marketable commodity,” Judge Traill said
“It is sad they seek to obtain such a vacuous existence where how many likes they receive is their currency.
“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.”
As the sentence was handed down, Roberge nodded and wiped away tears, before sobbing and hugging her lawyer after the court adjourned.
Roberge was one of three Canadians charged over the drugs. She initially entered a not guilty plea but changed her plea to guilty shortly before the trial was due to commence.
The judge accepted this was because of a change in barristers, and had she been given different advice, she would have entered a plea of guilty sooner.