PUTRAJAYA: An Australian grandmother who claims she was tricked into smuggling drugs into the country after falling for an online romance scam was today sentenced to death.
This follows the Court of Appeal ruling which allowed the government’s appeal to overturn the decision of the trial court last year.
“We find there is merit in the appeal and set aside the acquittal. You are convicted and will suffer death by hanging,” said Justice Mohtaruddin Baki who chaired a three-man bench.
He told Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto that she had one more round of appeal in the Federal Court.
“I wish you good luck,” he said in giving the unanimous ruling. Also on the bench were Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil and Rhodzariah Bujang.
The 55-year-old was calm and composed when the verdict was delivered after a brief recess.
The prosecution maintained she was guilty of the crime due to “wilful blindness”.
“The accused closed an eye to the truth as she should have checked what was in the bag,” government lawyer Muhammad Azmi Mashud told reporters.
Also appearing for the government was Mohd Zain Ibrahim while lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah represented Exposto.
She was arrested in December 2014 at Kuala Lumpur airport with 1.1kg of crystal methamphetamine stitched into the lining of a bag given to her by a man in Shanghai.
Exposto maintains she did not know about the hidden stash of “ice”. 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 US serviceman.
Under the Dangerous Drugs Act, anyone caught with at least 50g of crystal meth is considered a trafficker and is subject to the death penalty.
In December, trial judge Ghazali Cha, in his verdict at the High Court in Shah Alam, accepted the defence’s argument that Exposto did not know the bag contained drugs and found her not guilty.
“I agree with the defence lawyer that the accused did not have knowledge about the drugs,” he said, adding she was innocent.
After engaging in a long online romance, Exposto had travelled to Shanghai to see “Smith”.
But she did not succeed in meeting her supposed love interest while there and ended up being given a bag by a stranger, who asked her to take it to Melbourne.
When she arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport to change flights, she mistakenly went through immigration as she was unfamiliar with the airport.
She voluntarily offered her bags for customs inspection and the drugs were discovered.
Two Australians were hanged in Malaysia in 1986 for heroin trafficking – the first Westerners to be executed in the country – in a case that strained relations between the two countries.