Grandmother sentenced to death by hanging for drug smuggling

Exposto was incarcerated at Kajang Women’s Prison Kuala Lumpur

An Australian grandmother who claims she was tricked into smuggling drugs into the country after falling for an online romance scam was today sentenced to death.

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.

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

On Thursday, the acquittal was overturned and Exposto was sentenced to death, according to AFP.

Sydney woman Maria Exposto has been sentenced to death in Malaysia for drug smuggling. However, prosecutors appealed the decision, which effectively barred her from returning home to Sydney.

According to SBS, Exposto's lawyers said she had gone to Shanghai to file documents in relation to her boyfriend's retirement from service in the United States army.

The ruling came despite changes to Malaysian law in 2017 which made the death penalty no longer mandatory for drug mules.

Malaysian courts had initially acquitted the grandmother, after her lawyer successfully argued that Exposto was the victim of an online scam.

The three judges unanimously found Exposto guilty but said she had a right of appeal and wished her luck, according to AAP citing media reports.

She was caught in Kuala Lumpur International Airport in December 2014. She told the court that she had agreed to take the backpack from the stranger because she was told it carried her online boyfriend's clothes.

Yesterday Exposto's lawyer, Shafee Abdullah, told her it was a temporary setback and "you will win and you will walk away" following the further appeal.

Exposto's lawyer Shafee Abdullah said he was totally shocked by the reversal of the judgment, which he described as perverse.

Kuala Lumpur Airport customs officers discovered the drugs stitched into the lining of a backpack after noticing an existence of something "green" during scans of her luggage. In 1986, Australians Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers became the first non-Asians to be executed in the country when they were hanged for heroin trafficking.

Exposto said that Smith had asked to marry her in September 2013; however, she had never actually met him, nor could the courts prove that he even existed.

"Australia opposes the death penalty in all circumstances for all people", Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement to CNN.

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