Drug acquittal overturned, Aussie grandma gets death

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto was arrested in December 2014 with 1.1kg of crystal meth stitched into a compartment of her backpack.
Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto was arrested in December 2014 with 1.1kg of crystal meth stitched into a compartment of her backpack.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • An Australian grandmother who insisted she was tricked into carrying drugs into Malaysia after falling for an online romance scam was yesterday sentenced to death after an earlier acquittal was overturned, her lawyer said.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto was arrested in December 2014 while in transit at Kuala Lumpur airport with 1.1kg of crystal methamphetamine stitched into a compartment of her backpack.

The 54-year-old was cleared in December of trafficking after a High Court judge ruled she did not know she was transporting the drugs. But prosecutors challenged the decision and an appeals court overturned the acquittal yesterday, her lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said.

Anyone caught with at least 50g of crystal meth is considered a trafficker in Malaysia, and death by hanging is mandatory in a conviction.

The mother of four argued 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.

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. She voluntarily offered her bags for Customs inspection and the drugs were discovered.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2018, with the headline 'Drug acquittal overturned, Aussie grandma gets death'. Print Edition | Subscribe