Asia Pacific

Australian mother of four provisionally charged with drug trafficking after being stopped in Malaysia with 1.5kg of ice

A mother-of-four has been charged in Malaysia with the capital crime of drug trafficking, but her lawyers insisted she was innocently duped into carrying a bag that appeared to contain only clothing.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 51, was on Friday provisionally charged with carrying 1.5kg of crystal meth in Kuala Lumpur airport, which carries a mandatory death sentence if she's convicted.

Lawyers for the Sydney suburban mother say she is an innocent victim and her actions don't add up to that of a drug courier.

Despite the seriousness of her situation, Mrs Exposto appeared calm in court, dressed in a white shirt and denim overalls.

Lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told reporters her chance of acquittal was 'more than 50 per cent' because of evidence she had no knowledge of the drugs in the bag.

The bag was handed to Mrs Exposto at the last minute as she was leaving Shanghai by a friend of her boyfriend, a US soldier serving in Afghanistan.

She was there to execute documents for her boyfriend's retirement from service and was to return to Melbourne via Kuala Lumpur.

When she looked inside the bag she saw only clothes.

The drugs were stashed inside a secret compartment, and weren't heavy enough for her to notice a discrepancy, her lawyer said.

'She didn't have to put it through the scanner. If you have been through KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport), not everybody is asked to put their bag (forward). Normally customs will select at random or on suspicion,' Mr Shafee told reporters.

'She wasn't even asked.

'If she was a person conscious of the contents, she would … probably put the bag that was without the drugs.'

Mrs Exposto was extremely concerned about the charges she faced.

'Her remark to me was, 'but I'm innocent',' he said.

'Very clearly, she said 'I'm innocent', and she exhibited a very good demeanour of a responsible mother.

'And she told me one thing, she said, "I cannot be involved in this because I've told my children". Even when they were growing up, if they ever got involved in drugs, she would personally kill them. She said that.'

A relative of Mrs Exposto revealed the family's shock at hearing the news she had been arrested.

Joao Noronha said the grandmother is his wife's auntie, and he and his family lived in her Cabramatta West home, in Sydney's south-west, for a year with their children.

Mr Noronha refuses to believe Mrs Exposto willingly smuggled any drugs.

'It's not like her, the Maria that we have known for more than 20 years is not a drug user and not a drug dealer,' he told Daily Mail Australia from his home in Dili, East Timor earlier this month.

'I believe that my auntie is just a victim in this case.

'I believe that she does not even know types of drugs at this time like the 'ice',' he continued adding that he had never heard of the methamphetamine either.
Mrs Exposto has a 'nice, quiet' husband and four sons, who Mr Noronha described as 'good boys'.

He described her as 'easy going, very friendly' and someone with many friends who enjoys making jokes.

The grandmother-of-two stays with Mr Noronha and his wife Ladhy in their East Timor home when she comes to visit, and is very close to their family.

'Maria is very close to us in Timor, every time she comes to Timor she lives with us.'

The lawyers had also received a petition from the woman's friends in East Timor, where she had worked for a group advocating against human trafficking.

The Sydney woman will be held in a women's remand centre before her next court appearance on January 23 when the charges will be formalised.

The last Australian to be executed in Malaysia for drug offences was Michael McAuliffe in 1993.


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