British scientist 'caught with 2kg of cocaine' held in Argentina


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The Independent Online

A distinguished British scientist has been arrested in Argentina after police allegedly found two kilograms of cocaine in his suitcase.

Oxford-educated Paul Frampton was seized by detectives at Buenos Aires airport and is being held in jail on suspicion of drugs trafficking.

The 68-year-old astrophysics professor is said to have claimed the drugs were planted in his bag during a honeytrap sting involving a "well-known model" he met on the internet.

Professor Frampton, who holds three degrees from Oxford University, reportedly told investigators the woman's agent persuaded him to carry a suitcase across the border.

He was seized as he boarded a plane to Peru on 23 January at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires after police found the cocaine wrapped in gift paper inside the lining of his case.

Since his arrest, Professor Frampton has been held at Villa Devoto jail, scene of one of the worst prison riots in Argentina resulting in 62 deaths in 1978.

The Worcestershire-born scientist, who now lives and works in the United States, said: "I am innocent. I will not be convicted. It is just that the Argentinian justice system is very slow.

"There is easily enough evidence that I didn't know there were drugs in the bag, and that will come out."

Professor Frampton reportedly told investigators he was set up after flying to Argentina to meet a woman he had romanced over the internet. In a statement to investigating judge Juan Galvan Grenway, which was leaked to a local newspaper, he said: "The reason for my trip to South America was to meet a female friend, who is a well-known model, but I wasn't able to meet her. I believe my friend's representative, who was the one who gave me the flight tickets, is probably the person responsible for the drugs in the suitcase."

Argentine investigators do not believe him and have remanded him in custody. A spokesman said: "It is improbable and it wouldn't be likely that a 68-year-old man with a solid university education has come to the country to meet up with a female friend, and despite not having had contact with her, has agreed to carry a suitcase apparently belonging to her with him."

Friends of Professor Frampton, who is suspended without pay from the University of North Carolina, are fighting to free him from prison. Former colleague David Stallard said: "I knew Paul professionally and socially for 17 years.

"He never showed any interest in drugs and it is inconceivable to me that he intentionally smuggled cocaine. He must have been duped."