A South African drug dealer who was arrested in 2013 in Malaysia and sentenced to death, has said that a Nigerian man talked him into the business.
The African government said on Friday that it would seek for clemency for the accused man if the court of appeal decline to overturn the ruling. Malaysia is one of the countries in the world that has strict laws against drug trafficking.
Illegal drugs, especially synthetic substances like methamphetamine, ketamine and ecstasy, have grown in popularity in Asia in tandem with the rise of a new urban class with greater income.
Deon Cornelius was arrested in 2013 before his conviction, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation said in a statement, without giving details of his offences. Cornelius is appealing his death sentence, the government said.
Cornelius wife, Angelique said there was a Nigerian connection to her husband's arrest and trial.
In an interview with news24.com, she said her out-of-job husband had met a Nigerian named Tony in Durban, who talked him into traveling to Malaysia.
"He went to Durban to visit family and to look for a job and two weeks later I got a call to say he had been arrested in Malaysia," said Angelique, choking back tears.
When Cornelius was arrested he didn't say much to airport authorities but later during his interrogation, he claimed he had been sent by a man named Tony.
Angelique told the news reporter that, Cornelius's family in Durban hadn't seen him at all. She said her husband later told her he'd met a Nigerian man in Durban who went by the name Tony.
He had asked Cornelius if he would like to travel the world, gave Cornelius $800, and put him on a plane to Singapore. When he arrived in Singapore, he was asked to transport a laptop bag to Malaysia. The drugs were in the laptop bag.
Even though she was completely unaware of the supposed meeting with Tony, "we talked about everything," said Angelique.
She said the family initially thought Cornelius would get a 10-year sentence under a deal with Malaysian prosecutors but when his lawyer phoned her on Thursday morning to give her the news he had received a death sentence it felt as if a ton of bricks had hit her.
"It's so sore..."
Angelique hasn't yet told her daughter. "I don't know how she will take it." The child believes her dad is simply overseas and that he'll be home soon.
Cornelius was sentenced under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which carries a mandatory death sentence upon conviction.
It usually takes between six to 12 months before the Appeal Court reaches a decision, the government said.
"It is only if the Appeal Court upholds the death sentence that the South African Government will approach the Malaysian Government with a request for clemency," the government said.
Malaysia's southern neighbor Indonesia this week executed five foreign nationals for drug trafficking by firing squad, including a Nigerian and a Malawian.