Armstrong knew she was carrying hidden package

Sharon Armstrong as deputy chief executive of the Maori Language Commission.
Sharon Armstrong as deputy chief executive of the Maori Language Commission.

New Zealand drug-trafficking accused Sharon Armstrong has admitted she knew of a secret package hidden inside her suitcase, but insists she believed it was nothing more than confidential papers.

Ms Armstrong, 54, a former Maori Language Commission deputy chief executive, was arrested on April 13 after Buenos Aires Airport police allegedly found 5kg cocaine hidden in her suitcase.

Ms Armstrong has said she did not know about the drugs and was tricked by a man she met online.

She is being held in a medium-security women's detention centre in Ezeiza, about 30km southwest of Buenos Aires.

She made a private court appearance on Thursday, where Judge Daniel Petrone ruled he would proceed with a full investigation court appearance, dashing any hopes of an early release.

Yesterday she told the Herald on Sunday an online boyfriend who lives in London, who she had been dating for six months, tricked her into being a drug mule.

"He said that it was documents and a contract. I don't know any more about it and I didn't ask. I just thought it was really important and that the contract was worth a lot of money."

Armstrong refused to say how she came into possession of the suitcase, but it was understood the switch was made with the case she brought from New Zealand just before she attempted to board a British Airways flight to London on April 13.

She said she did not notice the 5kg of cocaine.

If convicted, Ms Armstrong faced at least eight years behind bars.

Speaking to NZPA from jail last week, Ms Armstrong said she needed help but was reluctant to talk about her case because she feared for her safety.

"I'm just a little bit concerned that this might be a lot bigger. I've never been involved in anything like this ever before."

She refused to name the man who she said scammed her.

"I'm not wanting to protect him, but I'm not prepared to name any names for fear of any retribution."

Ms Armstrong said reports she was carrying four driver's licences when arrested were wrong.

She told NZPA she had three licences -- New Zealand, Australian, and Cook Islands -- with her at the time.

She said the Australian licence was for when she visited family, and the $10 Cook Islands licence had expired.

Staff from the New Zealand embassy in Buenos Aires had visited her in prison and had given her a Spanish dictionary, magazines and writing paper so she could write a journal.

NZPA