Published: Fri, May 25, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Australian grandmother Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto sentenced to death for drug trafficking

Australian grandmother Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto sentenced to death for drug trafficking

An Australian woman was sentenced to die by a Malaysian appeals court on Thursday after being convicted of drug trafficking in the country.

She was caught with 1.1 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine at Kuala Lumpur International Airport en route from Shanghai to Melbourne in 2014.

She said she had been fooled into carrying the bag after travelling to China to see someone she met online called "Captain Daniel Smith", who had claimed to be a U.S. serviceman.

After three years in prison, she was found not guilty of drug trafficking in December 2017, with the court accepting her argument that she had been unaware of the presence of drugs in her luggage.

She was initially found cleared of any wrongdoing but on Thursday an appeals court overturned the verdict and sentenced her to death.

Exposto said she thought she was carrying a bag full of clothes for him.

She had traveled to China to meet up with a man who said he was an American service member with whom she had developed an online romance.

He told Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto that she had one more round of appeal in the Federal Court.

Mr Abdullah responded, telling the court Exposto was an innocent carrier hoodwinked by an internet romance scam.

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When officials looked closer, they noticed the stitching inside did not match that of the backpack and when they ripped it open, they found grey packages inside, customs official Mohd Noor Nashariq told the Shah Alam High Court past year.

Australian Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto is escorted by police during a court hearing in Shah Alam, Malaysia, on December 27, 2017.

"I wish you good luck", he said in giving the unanimous ruling.

"And that's the tragedy - this is a very innocent person, in my opinion, who's had to suffer an terrible lot for being a victim of a crime", she said.

Exposto was acquitted of drug trafficking on December 27 previous year but faced a prosecution appeal against the acquittal on charges of trafficking 1.5kg of methamphetamine into Malaysia.

BBC News reports the judge had called her "naive", but added that her "feelings of love.[had] overcome everything". "She was a drug mule".

The prosecution in the appeal argued Exposto had been wilfully blind, that her defence was made up and she had engaged in a "sly game", News Corp reported.

There are at least 900 people on death row in Malaysia, officials have said, but executions have been rare in recent years.

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