In the Media

Distinguished British scientist faces 16 years in Argentine jail after being caught with suitcase of cocaine

PUBLISHED March 22, 2012

Oxford University graduate Paul Frampton was stopped at an airport in Buenos Aires as he tried to board a plane to Peru after police discovered two kilos of cocaine in his suitcase.

Last night the Worcestershire-born university professor was facing the nightmare prospect of a 16-year jail sentence if convicted.

Divorced Mr Frampton, 68, has protested his innocence and is claiming the drugs were planted in the suitcase without his knowledge in a honeytrap sting involving a model he met on the Internet.

The British-born scientist, who now lives and teaches in the States, is said to have told investigators a woman purporting to be the model's agent persuaded him to take the suitcase with him after he flew to Argentina to meet his online girlfriend.

Judges remanded him in jail after taking a statement from him last week. His pay at the University of North Carolina where Mr Frampton currently teaches has been suspended.

The Kidderminster-born scientist was arrested on January 23 at Ezieza International Airport in Buenos Aires, moments before he boarded a plane to Peru for a second flight to the States.

The drugs were found wrapped in gift paper inside the lining of the suitcase. Mr Frampton, who was educated at King Charles I School in Kidderminster and went on to gain undergraduate, masters and doctorate degrees at Oxford, was arrested on suspicion of drugs trafficking.

He has spent the last two months in Villa Devoto Prison in Buenos Aires, scene of the worst prison riots in Argentine history in 1978 which left 62 people dead.

Mr Frampton protested his innocence at the weekend, insisting: "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, I hope sooner rather than later."

The academic would not discuss how he thinks the cocaine ended up in his luggage because he said it might harm his defence.

But respected Argentine newspaper Clarin reported he has told investigators he was set up after flying to the country to meet a woman he been romancing over the Internet.

He is said to have made a statement to investigating judge Juan Galvan Grenway after initially refusing to answer questions.

He claimed in his statement, leaked to the Argentine press: "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 found in the suitcase."

Mr Frampton, who arrived in Argentina on January 21 from Bolivia, says he agreed to check the suitcase in on his return flight to the States on the understanding it belonged to his friend.

Investigators who confirmed his prison remand order last week justified their decision saying: "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."

University friends of Mr Frampton are now fighting to get him freed from prison while the investigation into his alleged wrongdoing continues.

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.

"I fervently hope that he will be exonerated and then reinstated in his university."

Retired lawyer John Bird, a former neighbour of Mr Frampton, said: "There's no-one in the world more improbable who would smuggle cocaine.

"He got set up. I would bet my life on it. It would be contrary to everything in his background."

Despite having his pay suspended, Mr Frampton is continuing to work more than 40 hours a week in his cell and has written four scholar papers since his arrest.

The professor, a particle phenomenologist, is also continuing to advise two of his students.

It comes after a pregnant drugs mule this week won a legal battle against extradition to Argentina after the High Court ruled that she would likely face inhuman treatment in the country's jails.

Lucy Wright admits she tried to smuggle almost 14lb (6.32kg) of cocaine out of Buenos Aires, and later skipped bail to avoid being put on trial in South America.

After she returned to England she was arrested and the Home Secretary, Theresa May, approved her extradition to Argentina, where she faced up to 16 years behind bars.

Due to give birth in May, the 28 year-old from Bolton, Lancs, was preparing to give up her newborn baby to her sister.

But in London's High Court on Tuesday, Sir John Thomas and Mr Justice Silber quashed an earlier judgment that Miss Wright should face trial abroad.

Mr Frampton was awarded a BA degree with Double First Class honours by the University of Oxford. He subsequently gained a doctorate in philosophy and an advanced doctorate of science degree.

He studied at Brasenose College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford, after leaving King Charles I school in Kidderminster.

He has published hundreds of scientific articles - including more than a dozen with 1979 Physics Nobel Prize winner Sheldon Glashow - as well as two books.

New Zealander Sharon Armstrong, 54, was sentenced to four years and ten months in prison in February this year after being stopped at Ezeiza International Airport with five kilos of cocaine in her suitcase.

Judges convicted her despite accepting her claim she had been duped by a man she met over the Internet.

The civil servant arranged to fly to London to meet him after months of online exchanges - but at the last minute flights he had bought her were changed to go via Argentina so she could pick up paperwork he had requested.

She ended up agreeing to take a suitcase to Britain for him with the cocaine hidden inside - and was arrested in April last year before she boarded a British Airways flight. Her mystery Internet boyfriend and alleged accomplices have never been found.

Miss Armstrong's defence lawyer produced evidence at her trial of south American mafias specializing in honeytrap stings like the one she got caught up in.