The Sydney grandmother sentenced to be hanged in Malaysia for drug smuggling has told her lawyer she isn’t losing sleep because “it’s obvious I’m innocent”.
Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto’s faith in the Malaysian justice system remains untroubled despite an appeals court last week overturning her acquittal at an initial trial in December.
Bizarrely, the appeals judges wished the 54-year-old Cabramatta mother of four ‘good luck’ after ruling that she has a date with the gallows.
Her lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, immediately filed an appeal, telling Network Ten on Friday that his client was confident she would be found innocent a second time and fly home to her family in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta.
Ms Exposto’s attitude was “very encouraging”, he said.
“She said, ‘Not to worry, we got another appeal, and with your team … we will win the case … because I’m innocent. It’s obvious I’m innocent’.”
Exposto was arrested with 1.1kg of crystal methamphetamine in December, 2014, while in transit at Kuala Lumpur airport, where the contraband was found sown into a concealed pouch in the backpack she was carrying.
Her arrest capped a saga of deception and disappointment that began several months earlier, when she struck up an online relationship with a man who went by the name “Captain Daniel Smith” and portrayed himself as a US serviceman.
Ms Exposto accepted an invitation to fly to Shanghai to meet her online lover, but “Captain Smith” never turned up.
Another man gave her the backpack, she said, after she told him she would soon be returning to Melbourne.
Upon landing in Kuala Lumpur to change planes she took a wrong turn that changed everything.
Instead of heading for the transit lounge, where she would most likely not have attracted attention leading to a bag search, Ms Exposto ended up lost and baffled in the Customs section and was ordered to present her bags for inspection.
— Nine News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) May 24, 2018
At Ms Exposto’s first trial in December trial the judge found she had been scammed by the still-unidentified “Captain Smith” and ordered that she be set free.
Prosecutors immediately lodged an appeal, arguing she had been either wilfully blind to the possibility she was being used as a drug mule or was actively involved in smuggling drugs.
Ms Exposto was playing “a sly game”, they told they court, by attempting to cast herself as a gullible innocent.
More than 900 people are awaiting execution in Malaysia, despite lawmakers voting to scrap mandatory capital punishment in drug-running cases. That reform, however, has stalled in the country’s upper house.
Two Australians – heroin smugglers Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers – were the first Westerners to be executed in Malaysia when they went to the gallows in 1986, straining relations between Canberra and Kuala Lumpur.