A Canadian drug mule says she was recruited by her “sugar daddy” to be a decoy in a group who tried to smuggle $21 million worth of cocaine into Australia on a luxury cruise ship.
Melina Roberge pleaded guilty in February on the eve of her trial for importing the cocaine on board the Sea Princess which docked in Sydney in August 2016.
Roberge, 24, was one of three people arrested in the largest drug seizure ever on a cruise ship landing in Australia.
One of her accomplices, Isabelle Lagace, was sentenced in November to at least four-and-a-half years in jail after admitting she tried to smuggle 30 kilograms of cocaine to clear a $20,000 debt.
Andre Tamine has also pleaded guilty and is due to be sentenced later this year.
In an affidavit tendered to the court, Roberge wrote that at the time she was “a stupid young woman who was governed by a superficial desire to take pictures of myself in exotic locations and post them on Instagram to receive likes and attention”.
“I have devastated so many people in the process.”
Roberge told the NSW District Court at her sentencing hearing on Wednesday that she initially said no when her “sugar daddy” asked her to carry drugs on the cruise.
She then agreed when told she could enjoy a free holiday in helping the group, after learning that another person had dropped out.
“I was meant to just be there and look like I was on holiday and look like a cover for everyone else,” she said.
“Other people would be there to look after the drugs.”
The statement of facts says Roberge met her “sugar daddy” in 2015, and they began an intimate relationship while she worked as an escort for him.
He invited her on a trip to Morocco in May 2016 where she worked as an escort, and it was on this trip that he first asked her to be involved in the drug-smuggling trip.
She began to cry when saying she made the decision without thinking about the consequences, and said she had since met people in jail who struggle with drug addictions.
“I do not want to be part of that. I want to be able to help them,” she said.
She declined to name her “sugar daddy” in court, citing fear for her family and friends in Canada.
Crown prosecutor Tom Muir said Roberge was aware of what she was doing, and she was aware the drugs were in her cabin.
“She was not doing it for debt,” he told the court.
“It’s for the lifestyle she wants to enjoy.”
Her barrister Avni Djemal said she played no part in dealing with the drugs and had been young and naive.
Mr Djemal said she was “one of the most co-operative prisoners in the system” with a high chance of rehabilitation.
Roberge will return to the NSW District Court next Wednesday when a date for her sentencing will be determined.