Particle physicist Paul Frampton is in an Argentinian jail after allegedly being caught trying to leave the country with drugs concealed in his suitcase. He claims he was not aware of the drugs and has “plenty of evidence” but any optimism he may have for a quick release is likely to fade slowly. The case is eerily reminiscent of New Zealander Sharon Armstrong who was caught in Argentina in April last year in very similar circumstances. Her trial began seven months later. She is still there and the case could take years and lots of legal fees to settle. Frampton could be in for a similar ordeal.
Everyone passing through international airports will know that they must pack their own bags and be responsible for the contents. Travellers are continually warned and asked about it. It is easy to be befriended especially in honeypot traps. The details of how Frampton may have been tricked are not yet known but similar stories are well-known. Cases have even been turned into films such as Bangkok Hilton. It will be hard for an intelligent professor to persuade his prosecutors that he was naive enough to innocently accept to use a suitcase with cocaine stuffed into the padding. We wish him luck.
Update 22-Mar-2012: The Telegraph has provided more details of the case confirming what I suspected in my first post, that he was a victim of a honey-trap. Unfortueatly this does not make things much better for him. The authorities in these countries expect people to take responsibility for the contents of the luggage they carry. Even if they believe his story of incredible gullibility he may still be considered guilty. Sharon Armstrong got four and a half years even though they accepted her similar story. The Argentinians do not have much sympathy for the English at a time when cruise liners are being turned away from Argentinian ports because they have visited the Falklands Islands. Argentina sees the Islands as poorly defended by the British Navy and may try to take advantage, leading to a worsening of relations between the countries. Frampton has not made his situation better by initially refusing to talk and then attacking his employer back home for cutting off his salary. He will need some very good friends to help him if he wants to keep his sentence as short as possible.
Framptons prospects for bail will have taken a nosedive following the news that the High Court in London has blocked the extradition of Lucy Wright this week. The heavily pregnant drug mule who had admitted her attempt to smuggle 6kg of cocaine skipped bail in Argentina and fled the country to avoid her jail sentence. It seems unlikely that the Argentinian authorities will now risk giving the same chamce to Frampton.
In the circumstances I am afraid to say that Frampton should consider himself lucky if his eventual sentence is nearer the lower end of the 6 to 16 years given for this offence. They may well decide to make an example of him and make it much longer. Given his age and doubtful mental health it is not obvious that he could survive the conditions for that long. I only hope that he can find a legal team and enough good friends to help improve his chances.