A SYDNEY grandmother has been sentenced to death by hanging in Malaysia after an appeal court unanimously overturned her earlier acquittal on drug smuggling charges.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 54, from Cabramatta West, was today found guilty by three judges in the Court of Appeal.

The mother of four was caught with 1.5kg of crystal methamphetamine, also known as ice, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on December 7, 2014.

"We find the merits of the appeal, we allow the appeal and set aside the judgment of the judge and find her guilty as convicted. The only sentence under law is death by hanging," the judges found.

Court of Appeal judge Mohtarudin Baki, told Ms Exposto: "The only sentence under the law is death by hanging. You have another round of appeal and we wish you luck."

Ms Exposto's lawyer Shafee Abdullah today told the court her client would exercise her right for a further appeal.

"You will win and you will walk away," Ms Abdullah told Ms Exposto.

The court has previously heard Ms Exposto fell victim to an internet romance scam and that she was tricked into believing she was in Shanghai to lodge documents for her online boyfriend's retirement from service in the US army.

The man apparently identified himself as "Captain Daniel Smith," and claimed to be a US soldier stationed in Afghanistan. Ms Exposto testified a friend of Mr "Smith" asked her to take the black backpack to Melbourne from Shanghai as a last minute request at the airport.

Exposto was incarcerated at Kajang Women’s Prison, Kuala Lumpur.
Exposto was incarcerated at Kajang Women’s Prison, Kuala Lumpur.

She claimed she thought there were only clothes inside.

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.

The search by Customs officials was voluntary at the time and Mrs Exposto opted to give her bags up for a search.

When officials looked closer, they noticed the stitching inside did not match that of the backpack and when they ripped it open, they found grey packages inside, customs official Mohd Noor Nashariq told the Shah Alam High Court last year.

Mrs Exposto was married at the time but her relationship with her husband was getting "a bit sour" when her online boyfriend asked her to marry him in September 2013.

Malaysia is amending laws that no longer bind judges to hand down mandatory death sentences for drug mules. But that law has not yet been gazetted.

The mandatory sentence is death by hanging for anyone found guilty of carrying more than 50 grams of an illegal drug. When the drugs were found in 2014 she reportedly said she had "never seen drugs in her life".

In 1986, Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers were hanged after being found guilty of trafficking heroin.

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


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