Wednesday, 29 April 2015
Source: ABC News (15 December 2014)
An Australian mother of four has appeared before a closed court in Malaysia after being arrested at Kuala Lumpur airport with 1.5 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine.
Sydney woman Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 51, was stopped at the airport on December 7 as she tried to board a flight to Melbourne.
Anyone with at least 50 grams of methamphetamine is considered a trafficker in Muslim-majority Malaysia, which imposes a mandatory sentence of death by hanging upon conviction.
Ms Pinto Exposto appeared in court on Sunday and has been remanded in custody.
She is likely to be officially charged next week.
Her lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said Ms Pinto Exposto did not know the crystal methamphetamine, also known as ice, had been placed in her luggage and she thought she was carrying retirement papers for a US army soldier.
"It is a very strong chance she is one of those naive and innocent mules that has been used by some unscrupulous people," he said.
"She doesn't seem to know what's going on.
"She doesn't even have to leave the airport at Kuala Lumpur because she is in transit."
She is receiving consular assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is due to reappear in court on December 19.
Hundreds of people are on death row in Malaysia, many for drug-related offences, though few have been executed in recent years.
Two Australians were hanged in 1986 for heroin trafficking - the first Westerners to be executed in Malaysia.
Last year Dominic Bird, a truck driver from Perth, was acquitted on drug trafficking charges after he was allegedly caught with 167 grams of ice.
His lawyers argued that a government chemist had made a mistake when analysing the substance found on Bird.
He was freed and allowed to return home.