By Tom Worden
(U.K.) Professor Paul Frampton, 68, claimed he was duped into carrying the drugs by gangsters who struck up a relationship with him online by pretending to be former Miss Bikini World Denise Milani.
In fact, the Czech-born model, who is in her 30s and married, had never been in contact with the Oxford-educated physicist and had no idea that her identity was being used for the honeytrap sting.
Frampton, originally from Kidderminster, Worcestershire, was arrested in January after being stopped at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as he tried to board a plane to Peru with two kilos of cocaine in his luggage. The drugs were found wrapped in gift paper hidden inside the lining of his suitcase.
Frampton said in a newspaper interview after his arrest:
‘Perhaps I should have realised earlier but the fraudster was very good and very intelligent. For 11 weeks I thought I was chatting with an attractive woman.’
The divorcee, who had been living in the US and teaching physics at the University of North Carolina for over 30 years, had first travelled to La Paz, Bolivia, where he thought he was going to meet Miss Milani for the first time.
He mistakenly believed he had been chatting regularly with her over the internet for several months, when in fact the messages were sent by someone else using her identity.
Prof Frampton said it was a 'honeytrap sting' involving bikini model Denise Milani claiming he had beentricked into carrying the drugs by gangsters who posed on the internet as the 32-year-old model
In La Paz he met a middle-aged man in a hotel who gave him the suitcase, saying it belonged to Miss Milani and asking him to take it to her. The following day he travelled to Buenos Aires and was instructed to fly to Brussels where he believed he would finally meet his ‘girlfriend’. But after waiting 36 hours at the airport for her to send him an electronic ticket, he changed his mind and decided to return to the US via Peru.
The scientist has now been convicted of drug-trafficking at a court in Argentina after prosecutor Mario Villar read the court emails and text messages he sent his ‘girlfriend’ and a friend in the US while waiting at the airport. According to Argentinian newspaper Clarin, they included ‘I’m worried about the sniffer dogs’, ‘I’m looking after your special little suitcase’ and ‘In Bolivia this is worth nothing, in Europe it’s worth millions’.
The prosecutor also showed the court a note written by the scientist reading: ‘1grm/200U$S. 2000grms/400000 U$S.’ A source told the newspaper: ‘At the trial he said he had written it after being arrested, but the arrest witnesses were asked to come back to court and they denied that.’
Miss Milani, who was completely unaware she was being used as a honeytrap, has since spoken of her shock at being dragged into the sting. The scientist’s ex-wife, Anne-Marie Frampton, 71, has described him as ‘a naive fool’. They divorced several years ago after 15 years of marriage but remain close friends.
Frampton, who graduated with a double first from Brasenose College, Oxford, was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison, which he is expected to serve at Villa Devoto Prison in Buenos Aires. The jail was the scene of some of the worst riots in Argentine history in 1978 which left 62 people dead.
The scientist was originally held there on remand but had been released and put under house arrest for health reasons. He suffers from high blood pressure and lung problems. He had been facing up to 16 years behind bars.
His defence lawyer Eduardo Oderigo said: ‘There were many good reasons to have acquitted him. I set them out in his defence. I am convinced of his innocence.’