Quebec man sentenced to 8 years, 5 months in Australian prison for smuggling cocaine

A Quebec man has been sentenced to eight years and five months in prison for his involvement in an international drug smuggling operation, after he was arrested in 2016 along with two young Quebec women posing as travellers.

André Tamine, 65, was convicted Monday for bringing several suitcases of cocaine into Australia on a luxury cruise ship.

Judge Catherine Traill of the Australian District Court of New South Wales revealed that Tamine had been offered €100,000, about CAN $150,000, to participate in the smuggling.

He was arrested on that ship, the MS Sea Princess, after being found with over 65 kilograms of cocaine once the ship had docked in Sydney in August of 2016.

Tamine was arrested along with fellow Quebecers Mélina Roberge and Isabelle Lagacé, two young women who made headlines around the world for posing as travellers on a luxury cruise, when in reality they were involved in an international drug-smuggling operation.

Their Instagram posts from the cruise are riddled with likes on selfies taken around the world.

The two women, now respectively 25 and 30, shared a cabin on the cruise ship.

Australian Border Force
Australian Border Force

The operation ended in Australia with the seizure of nearly 100 kilograms of cocaine, one of the country's largest drug busts.

It's estimated that much cocaine would have sold for $60 million Cdn on the Australian black market.

All three of them pleaded guilty. Lagacé was sentenced to seven years in prison, and Roberge was sentenced to eight years.

Roberge told the court in April that she went on the trip so she could get attention on social media, a fact Judge Traill referred to as "sad indictment" on people her age.

"It is sad they seek to attain such a vacuous existence where how many likes they receive is their currency," Traill said at the time.

'I know what I did was wrong'

Tamine is the last of the three to be sentenced. Sniffer dogs found 30 kilograms of cocaine in the women's cabin, and 65 kilograms in Tamine's cabin.

The drugs in Tamine's cabin had a CAD $23 to $29 million street value, the judge said.

In his letter to the court, Tamine said he was embarrassed and humiliated.

"I stupidly did as others told me to do, rather than stand up for myself," he said. "I know what I did was wrong."

"The entire experience has been frightening," Tamine said. "I was a visitor in this great country and my actions do not reflect my respect for it."

The offender speaks little English and finds life in prison difficult, the judge said.

He will have to serve at least five years in a Sydney detention centre before being eligible for parole in March 2022.