A distinguished British physicist facing trial in Argentina for alleged cocaine smuggling has claimed he was the victim of an online honeytrap.
Paul Frampton, 68, said he thought that he was to meet Denise Milani, a Czech-born glamor model and former Miss Bikini World in a hotel, and was asked by a man in the lobby to look after a suitcase that he was told belonged to her.
The suitcase contained 2kg of cocaine hidden in its lining.
Dr Frampton now believes that a fraudster was posing as 32-year-old Miss Milani in an online chat room.
The physicist, who has a double first from Brasenose College, Oxford, and has collaborated with winners of the Nobel Prize, was stopped from boarding a flight from Buenos Aires to Peru in January after customs officials found the cocaine.
Since then he has been on remand in Argentina’s Villa Devoto jail and faces a 16-year sentence if convicted.
He told an Argentinian newspaper, Clarín, that he had been convinced he had been in contact with Miss Milani since November. “Perhaps I should have realized earlier but the fraudster was very good and very intelligent,” he said. “I never thought these sorts of people existed.
“For 11 weeks I thought I was chatting with an attractive woman.”
Dr Frampton added: “’Ms Milani’ told me she liked older men and was tired of photo shoots. She was very convincing and I fell for the story.
“I was convinced I was chatting with a ‘she’, but after a couple of weeks in prison, I realized it was a man, a criminal posing as a model.”
He flew to Bolivia, where he thought he was going to meet Miss Milani, and spent 10 nights there, where a man gave him the suitcase in the hotel lobby.
From Bolivia he flew to Buenos Aires, where he spent three days waiting for a ticket to Brussels, where he had been told he would finally meet Miss Milani.
“The day I arrived in Bolivia I found out she wasn’t coming and I should have returned to the US straight away,” he said. “But I always see my projects through, as I do with my physics papers. She was my project. Perhaps I should have realised there was something strange going on.” (Gee Ya Think)
A friend eventually persuaded Dr Frampton, who lives in the United States but is originally from Kidderminster, Worcestershire, to return home to North Carolina. It it was as he tried to do so that he was arrested on Jan 23.
There is no suggestion that Miss Milani had any involvement in the plot, or knew that a group was allegedly using her identity for honeytrap stings.
Dr Frampton is a professor at North Carolina University. Fellow scientists have written to Cristina Kirchner, the Argentine president, asking her to intervene in his trial.
His former wife, Anne Marie, said he had “an emotional age of three”. “The only thing he understands is science.