Aussie grandma sentenced to death for trafficking

26 May, 2018, 06:29 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
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A SYDNEY grandmother has been sentenced to death by hanging in Malaysia after an appeal court unanimously overturned her earlier acquittal on drug smuggling charges.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, a 54-year-old Sydney resident, was in transit at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in 2014 when she was caught with a backpack filled with the drugs.

The court has previously heard Ms Exposto fell victim to an internet romance scam and that she was tricked into believing she was in Shanghai to lodge documents for her online boyfriend's retirement from service in the USA army.

Customs officers discovered the drugs stitched into a compartment of her backpack, after she went through customs under the impression that she had "nothing to hide", says her lawyer.

But prosecutors filed an appeal this year and the courts overturned her acquittal.

Malaysia is amending laws that no longer bind judges to hand down mandatory death sentences for drug mules.

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Judge wishes her good luck as she has a final round of appeal in the Federal Court.

Exposto's lawyer, Shafee Abdullah, responded, telling the court that Exposto was an innocent carrier hoodwinked by an internet romance scam.

In Malaysia, there is now a mandatory death penalty for anyone found with more than 50g of an illegal drug.

She was acquitted after the judge found she was scammed by her online boyfriend and was unaware she was carrying the drugs.

Yesterday Exposto's lawyer, Shafee Abdullah, told her it was a temporary setback and "you will win and you will walk away" following the further appeal.

The lawyers claimed she did not know the drugs were there, saying she had "never seen drugs in her life", and volunteered her bag to be scanned by an airport X-ray machine.

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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.

In a statement yesterday Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said "Australia opposes the death penalty in all circumstances for all people" and Exposto would continue to receive full Australian consular assistance.

Malaysia, like other countries in Southeast Asia, imposes harsh penalties for drug offences.

Exposto had been released on bail in January in Malaysia after avoiding the death penalty late a year ago.

En route from Shanghai to Melbourne, Exposto said a friend of the man had asked she take a black backpack across with her.

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