06/14/2018 - Oz news: An expert witness who testified on behalf of a Sydney 'drug mule' says she is innocent

Professor Monica Whitty's testimony helped secure Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto's initial acquittal, before an appeal court overturned it yesterday and sentenced the Cabramatta woman to death by hanging.

The three judges sitting in Kuala Lumpur unanimously found the 54-year-old guilty but said she had a right of further appeal on the methamphetamine charges and wished her luck.

Ms Exposto has claimed she was the victim of a set-up.

Prof Whitty who is a 'cyberpsychologist' and whose research over the last 15 years has focused on the ways individuals behave in cyberspace told A Current Affair host Tracy Grimshaw she had interviewed Ms Exposto, 54, and had long experience researching romance scams in the past 10 years.

She said Ms Exposto clearly fit the profile of a scam victim and was "quite naive".

"I don't think she probably even knew what ice was, to be honest," she said.
Prof Whitty pointed towards Ms Exposto choosing to go through customs, and presenting her bags for inspection, as being atypical of an intentional drug smuggler.

She said the case should be looked at in the context of a romantic scam.

"Criminals will groom these individuals and they will talk to them morning, noon and night, and they develop a very close and trusting relationship," she said.

"Eventually, they are socially isolated from their friends and family, and they're far more likely to comply with requests."

She said Ms Exposto was "lovely, kind and warm".

In a statement yesterday Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said "Australia opposes the death penalty in all circumstances for all people" and Exposto would continue to receive full Australian consular assistance.

On December 27 last year Exposto was acquitted of drug trafficking but faced a prosecution appeal against the acquittal on charges of trafficking 1.5kg of methamphetamine into Malaysia. Malaysia still sees drug smuggling as a capital offense.

She had claimed she was the victim of a set-up after she was found with the drugs in her bag after arriving on a flight from China in 2014.

She was acquitted after the judge found she was scammed by her online boyfriend and was unaware she was carrying the drugs.

The prosecution in the appeal argued Exposto had been willfully blind, that her defence was made up and she had engaged in a "sly game", News Corp reported.