Australian Grandmother Receives Death Penalty For Smuggling Meth

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto said she had been fooled into carrying the bagMore

An Australian woman accused of drug trafficking in Malaysia was sentenced to death by hanging after an appeals court on Thursday overturned a lower court's acquittal, her lawyer said.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto has been sentenced to death by hanging after she was found with more than three pounds of crystal methamphetamine (street name "ice") in the seams of her backpack.

Prosecutors had sought the appeals court conviction, which overturned the earlier acquittal of Maria Exposto, 54, of charges of smuggling the drugs in a backpack in December 2014, after she said she was duped in an online scam.

Exposto had said she went to Shanghai to meet a US serviceman with whom she had an online romance, and had been asked to carry a bag full of clothes.

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.

The ruling comes despite changes to Malaysian law previous year which made the death penalty no longer mandatory for drug mules.

She had claimed she was the victim of a set-up after she was found with the drugs in her bag after arriving on a flight from China in 2014.

However, she was unable to leave the country after case prosecutors made a decision to repeal the case, asking that the older woman instead be sentenced to death. "I am shocked with the decision", he said.

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Malaysian lawmakers have voted to amend legislation so that capital punishment is no longer mandatory in drug-trafficking cases.

They were the first Westerners to be executed under the country's renowned anti-drug laws which were introduced in 1983.

He called the ruling "perverse" and told AFP that he believed there was "an overwhelming case for the defense".

Exposto was acquitted of the crime in December 2017 when the judge ruled she had been groomed for two years by the man, with whom she had fallen in love, and been scammed into carrying the rucksack, which had been given to her in Shanghai.

AFP reported that changes to the death penalty have not yet taken effect, as they must be approved by the upper house of Malaysia's parliament.

"An appeal will be filed in the Federal Court - the final appeal", lawyer Muhamed Shafee told CNN.

In 2013 Dominic Bird, a former truck driver from Perth, was acquitted of drug trafficking charges after he was allegedly caught with 167 grams of crystal methamphetamine.

In a statement on Thursday 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. She said she was unaware that the bag also contained drugs.

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