A Kiwi arrested in South America after being accused of a drugs crime is facing at least 30 days in a crowded Ecuador jail, his father Max says.

Wellington man Scott Campbell Elliott, 38, was arrested in connection with the discovery of more than a kilogram of cocaine. The arrest occurred at an airport in the capital city Quito on Saturday [early Sunday morning NZT].

Elliott is facing active insolvency charges in Wellington and has a lengthy criminal history, including jail stints of five years for holding up an Armourguard van and three years for a violent attack committed alongside notorious double murderer Graeme Burton, Max Elliott said.

Police caught Elliott soon after, but Burton went on the run, killing young father Karl Kuchenbecker and firing at mountain bikers and police in the hills above Wainuiomata before he was shot by police and arrested.

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He was alerted to his son's latest arrest when he received a text from him at 1am on Sunday, Max Elliott said.

He contacted New Zealand authorities, and next heard from his son yesterday.

"He called. He said everything was fine and that the charge is bit trumped up ... it's a nightmare when he is so many kilometres away. I probably had about an hour's sleep, my daughter even less."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed consular assistance was being provided by the New Zealand Embassy in Santiago, Chile, but would not comment further.

Max Elliott said commission staff told family his son appeared in court on Monday and would remain in custody until his next hearing in 30 days. He also now has an English-speaking lawyer.

He was also told his son was in a cell with 30 others, but was receiving three meals a day and was in good spirits.

But the situation was tough for family, including Elliott's mother and sister, Max Elliott said.

"It's been pretty hard, it's always on your mind."

Elliott was to appear in the Wellington District Court last week on charges of acting as a company director while bankrupt and misleading the official assignee while bankrupt. A warrant to arrest was issued after lawyer Alwyn O'Connor told the court he understood Elliott was in Ecuador.

Max Elliott said he did not know why his son went to Ecuador. He had a franchise selling encrypted mobile phones and had also travelled to the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and France in the last year.

He understood before his arrest his son was planning to return to New Zealand this week, Max Elliott said.

He also understood his son had travelled on a passport in the name of an alias, Scott William Elliot.

Elliott has previously used several aliases, including Simon Fox, Scott Patrick Bateman and Serge Jean-Pierre Moncrieff.

His son was 190 centimetres tall, weighed 180 kilograms and had "muscles everywhere" but was a "gentle giant" who had made bad decisions and mixed with the wrong people, sometimes while addicted to methamphetamine, Max Elliott said.

"When he was inside the first time he got a double degree in psychology and sociology. He had to write his assignments on paper and give them to his mother because he wasn't allowed access to a computer ... He's an astute guy. A lawyer once said if he'd put that energy into something legit he could have made a million dollars."

Elliott went to rehab last year and he believed his son was now clean, Max Elliott said.

His son's crimes "played on him", and he conceded he was forgiving, Max Elliott said.

"The family is behind Scott and always will be."