Sydney Mum Escapes Death Penalty In Malaysia
A Sydney mother has avoided a mandatory death sentence after being found not guilty of smuggling crystal methamphetamine into Malaysia, but prosecutors plan to appeal the ruling.
Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto was found not guilty on Wednesday in Malaysia's High Court by Judge Dato Ghazali.
The mother of four claimed she was the victim of a set-up after she was found with 1.1 kilograms of methamphetamine in her bag after arriving in Kuala Lumpur on a flight from China.
The prosecution has lodged an appeal, despite earlier reports they had agreed to Exposto's immediate deportation.
The judge found that an online boyfriend had scammed Exposto.
Her lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, said the judge was convinced of her innocence after hearing his client did not try to bypass searches at the airport.
"The judge described her as naive, not merely innocent but naive," he told reporters on Wednesday.
Exposto's lawyers said she fell victim to an internet romance scam and she believed she was in Shanghai to lodge documents for her online boyfriend's retirement from service in the US army.
She claimed she was handed a black backpack at the last minute and thought there were only clothes inside.
Customs officials found stitching at the back of the backpack and when they opened the stitching, the drug packages were found inside, the Shah Alam High Court was told last year.
But it was Exposto's willingness to go through the customs checkpoints, Abdullah said on Wednesday, that convinced the judge she was unaware she was carrying drugs.
"It was almost as though she asked for trouble as a trafficker," he said, noting she was not required to go through the checkpoints.
"But because she was not a trafficker - she was an innocent carrier tricked into carrying a bag - she did all these innocent things."