A prominent British scientist is being held in a notoriously rough Argentinian jail after attempting to board a flight with two kilos of cocaine in his suitcase.

Paul Frampton, 68, has protested his innocence and claimed that a "well-known" model planted the drugs in a honeypot sting.

He was arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking at Ezierza International Airport in Buenos Aires on 23 January and faces the prospect of a 16-year jail sentence if convicted.

The Oxford University graduate reportedly told investigating judge Juan Galvan Grenway that he flew to Argentina to meet his online girlfriend. As he prepared to fly on to Peru after his visit, the model's agent persuaded him to take the suitcase with him.

The Kidderminster-born scientist has been remanded in jail on suspicion of drug smuggling after making a statement to authorities last week and his pay at the University of North Carolina, where he teaches, has been suspended.

The cocaine would have a street value in London of around £80,000 and the incident is being taken extremely seriously.

He said in a statement: "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."

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."

Frampton is being held at Villa Devoto Prison in Buenos Aires, the scene of the worst prison riots in Argentine history in 1978, which left 62 people dead.

Argentinian investigators have justified their decision to remand him in custody, 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."

David Stallard, a former colleague, told the Telegraph: "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."

A former neighbour also spoke up for him. Retired lawyer John Bird said: "There's no on in the world more improbably who would smuggle cocaine.

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

Frampton, a particle phenomenologist, has continued to work in prison and has written four scholarly papers since his arrest.