Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 55, an Australian woman who was sentenced, walked free after winning her final plea against the death penalty in Malaysia. She was arrested in December 2014 after being caught for trafficking crystal methamphetamine while in transit through Kuala Lumpur.

Exposto was caught carrying 1.1 kg of crystal meth in her backpack while traveling back to Australia in 2014. She was initially cleared of charges in 2017 by the court when the judge said that she was innocent and did not know that she was carrying drugs. But, the acquittal was overturned later after the prosecution appealed. She spent 18 months on death row before the Federal Court in Putrajaya accepted her appeal.

Malaysian police officers gather in front of the gate of the morgue at Kuala Lumpur General Hospital
Picture for representation Reuters

The Malaysian government has placed a moratorium on executions while reforms are being made to the legislation on the mandatory death penalty on drug and other offenses. Exposto had maintained her statement that she was duped into carrying the bag by her online boyfriend's friend.

She had traveled to China to sign papers that would enable her boyfriend, Captain Daniel Smith, who claimed to be a soldier stationed in Afghanistan, to be married to her. The friend told her that the bag consisted of gifts for his family back in Australia.

Internet Scams

In a statement her lawyer, Shafee Abdullah said that this was an example of women being scammed on the internet. Furthermore, her lawyer said that she was innocent and had always believed the same. The main argument placed by the defense was that she had placed the bag for screening while in transit through Malaysian Airport which showed that she was innocent. She is expected to leave for Australia after obtaining immigration exit pass on Wednesday.

Strained ties with Australia

This is the fourth case that had an Australian citizen in death row over drug trafficking. According to the Malaysian laws, anyone found with 50g or more of crystal meth will be considered a trafficker. Three Australians have been put to death over drug trafficking in Malaysia which has caused a strain in the relations between the two countries.