SEPANG - An Australian woman faces a possible death sentence for drug trafficking in Malaysia after a prosecutor said Thursday a chemist's report confirmed the substance found in her bag was crystal methamphetamine.
Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, a 52-year-old mother of four, was arrested on December 7 at Kuala Lumpur airport with 1.1 kilograms (2.4 pounds) of the drug, also known as ice, court documents showed.
Prosecutor Hasifulkhair Jamaluddin told the magistrate's court that Exposto had been trafficking methamphetamine based on the chemist's report. Magistrate Noor Hafizah Salim then ordered the case to be transferred to the high court.
Malaysia has a mandatory death penalty by hanging for anyone found guilty of carrying more than 50 grams of a drug.
Authorities previously said Exposto was trafficking 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine.
Exposta, who was wearing a white blouse and black pants, looked nervous when the amended charge was read to her.
The defence is yet to enter a plea until the case reaches the high court since the lower magistrate's court has no jurisdiction to hear death penalty cases.
Later as she was being led out of the detention room in handcuffs, the Australian told AFP that she was innocent and nodded her head three times.
"Yes (I am innocent)," she said with a smile.
No date has been set for the high court hearing but defence lawyers said the trial could begin later this year.
"We are confident that we can show her innocence at the trial," Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, her counsel, told AFP.
Defence lawyers say Exposto was duped into carrying a bag - which she believed contained only clothing - by a stranger who asked her to take it to Melbourne.
She had travelled to Shanghai after falling for an online romance scam by a person claiming to be a US serviceman, according to lawyers.
Customs officers discovered the drugs stitched into the compartment of a backpack.
Two Australians were hanged in 1986 for heroin trafficking - the first Westerners to be executed in Malaysia.
Few people have been executed in Malaysia in recent years.