PUTRAJAYA, May 29 — The Court of Appeal erred in concluding that Australian national Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto’s case was just one of the mundane cases involving drug mules mounting the defence of innocent carrier, the Federal Court ruled.
In her 33-paged judgment dated March 26, Chief Justice Tan Sri Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat said the appellate court further erred in concluding that the innocent behaviour displayed by Exposto was merely to thwart detection.
She also said the facts of the case did not warrant the application of the doctrine of willful blindness to Exposto, adding that the woman could not be said to have shut her eyes to the obvious when there was nothing or even remotely suspicious, to begin with.
Justice Tengku Maimun said the Court of Appeal had also failed to appreciate the fact that Exposto was a victim of an internet romance scam and she was deceived by one Captain Daniel Smith whom she had known for two years through the internet.
She said the totality of the evidence established that Exposto had fallen in love with Smith and that she trusted him completely such that she did not realise that she was initially a victim of a financial scam and later on a victim of a more devious scheme, i.e. to carry illegal drugs across borders.
On November 26 last year, the Federal Court five-member bench led by Justice Tengku Maimun acquitted and discharged Exposto, 56, for trafficking in 1142.8 of methamphetamine.
The Federal Court had allowed Exposto’s appeal to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal in overturning her acquittal.
Exposto was acquitted and discharged by the Shah Alam High Court in December 2017.
The appellate court in 2018 convicted Exposto and sentenced her to death after allowing the prosecution’s appeal to set aside the High Court decision.
The mother of four children was charged with trafficking in the drugs at the passengers’ inspection branch 1 at the international arrival hall in the main terminal of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at about 3.40pm on December 7, 2014.
In her judgment, Justice Tengku Maimun also said the trial judge had made a correct conclusion that Exposto’s conduct was consistent with that of an innocent person.
She said the court found that the Court of Appeal had erred when it reversed the findings of the trial judge.
“The findings of the learned trial judge was correct and the Court of Appeal ought not to have disturbed those findings as there was no ground for appellate intervention.
She also said the appellate court had failed to sufficiently and judicially appreciate the defence which rendered the conviction unsafe. — Bernama