Australian granny skirts death row for drug trafficking in Malaysia

Australian Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto leaves following her release at the High Court in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Dec 27, 2017. Source: Reuters

AN Australian grandmother escaped the death penalty on Wednesday after a Malaysian court found her not guilty of drug trafficking.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 54, was found with more than 1kg of methamphetamine in her backpack while in transit in Kuala Lumpur en route to Melbourne from Shanghai in December 2014.

Under Malaysian law, anyone found guilty of possessing more than 50g of illegal drugs is considered a trafficker and faces a mandatory death penalty.

The law was amended last month to do away with the mandatory death sentence, allowing judges to use their own discretion. But the changes have not yet come into effect.

SEE ALSO: Malaysia to remove mandatory death penalty for drugs 

Exposto’s lawyers said she was the victim of an Internet romance scam and was lured into carrying a bag containing drugs unknowingly by a friend of her online boyfriend.

“I agreed with the defence’s argument that the accused had no knowledge of the drugs that were in her bag,” Judge Ghazali Cha said on Wednesday.

Exposto’s conduct during her arrest showed “she was naive and her behaviour was that of an innocent person,” he said.

According to News.com.au, her online lover who identified himself as “Captain Daniel Smith,” claimed to be a US soldier stationed in Afghanistan.

Exposto earlier testified a friend of “Smith” asked her to take the bag to Melbourne from Shanghai as a last minute request at the airport.

Exposto was quoted as saying:

“He (Smith) made me feel loved, he made me feel wanted.”

“Smith would sing to me a few times a day and send love poems as well.”

The judge referred Exposto to Malaysia’s immigration department for deportation.

SEE ALSO: Death penalty: Wrongful convictions and unfair sentencing in Malaysia 

“I’m happy now that I’m free,” Exposto said in brief comments to reporters.

Three Australian nationals have been executed by Malaysia for drug trafficking: Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers in 1986, and Michael McAuliffe in 1993.

Additional reporting by Reuters

Categories: AustraliaMalaysiaNews
Tags: australiaDeath Sentencedrug traffickingmalaysia