Australian mum charged with drug trafficking in Malaysia has court proceedings pushed back

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Court proceedings in the case of an Australian woman charged with the capital crime of drug trafficking in Malaysia were pushed back by a month on Friday due to delays completing a chemist report on the alleged contraband.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, a 52-year-old mother of four, was arrested on Dec 7 after arriving at Kuala Lumpur International Airport en route from Shanghai to Melbourne with a bag containing what authorities said was crystal methamphetamine, or "ice".

A chemist report on the substance was to be submitted to the court on Friday but was not yet ready, and a new date was set for March 26, said defence lawyer Tania Scivetti. If "ice" is confirmed, the case is expected to be elevated to a higher court that can handle death-penalty cases.

Ms Scivetti said the case could stretch to at least the end of the year if illegal drugs are confirmed. "She is in good spirits. She wants to get out of prison quickly," Ms Scivetti said. Defence lawyers say their client was duped into carrying a bag - which she believed contained only clothing - by a stranger who asked her to take it to Melbourne.

She had traveled to Shanghai after falling for an online romance scam by a person claiming to be a United States serviceman, according to lawyers.

Customs officers discovered 1.5kg of suspected "ice" hidden in the bag.

The defence is yet to enter a plea until the case reaches a higher court.

Drug-trafficking carries a mandatory sentence of death by hanging upon conviction.

Two Australians were hanged in 1986 for heroin trafficking - the first Westerners executed in Malaysia - in a case that strained bilateral relations.

Few people have been executed in Malaysia in recent years.

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