Mum-of-four sentenced to die by hanging in Malaysia over crystal meth stash

A mum-of-four has been sentenced to die by hanging in Malaysia after being caught with a stash of crystal meth at an airport.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, from Australia, was today convicted of drug trafficking charges by the Court of Appeal of Malaysia.

She had been cleared of trafficking last December, but the court unanimously overturned the acquittal and found her guilty.

She has now been sentenced to death, her lawyer said.

Exposto had been arrested at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in 2014 while in transit from Shanghai, China, to Melbourne.

She was found with 1.1kg (2.4lbs) of crystal methamphetamine stitched into the compartment of a backpack she was carrying.

The 54-year-old had claimed she was tricked into carrying the drugs into Malaysia after falling for an online romance scam.

And five months ago, she was cleared of trafficking after a High Court judge ruled she did not know she was transporting the drugs.

But prosecutors challenged the decision and her acquittal was today overturned by a panel of three judges, reports.

Exposto was found guilty by the judges, her lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told AFP, as he slammed the ruling as "perverse".

Anyone who is caught with at least 50 grams (1.75 ounces) of crystal meth is considered to be a trafficker in Malaysia. And death by hanging is mandatory in the case of a conviction.

Shafee said Exposto, a grandmother from Cabramatta West, Sydney, would make a final appeal to the country’s top court.

“I thought there was an overwhelming case for the defence," he said. "I am shocked with the decision."

Exposto had been released on bail, but had to stay in Malaysia as prosecutors appealed against the verdict.

She had argued she had been fooled into carrying the bag containing crystal meth after falling for an online scan.

She said she had travelled to China to see someone called “Captain Daniel Smith” who had claimed to be a US serviceman.

But she did not meet him while there. Instead of seeing the ‘soldier’ she had met online, she was allegedly given a black backpack by one of ‘his friends’, who asked her to take it to Melbourne.

Exposto claimed she thought there were only clothes inside the bag, which was found to contain drugs by customs officers.

Malaysian lawmakers have voted to amend legislation so that death sentences are no longer mandatory in drug-trafficking cases.

However, the changes have yet to come into force.

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