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The family of a former New Zealand public servant arrested in Argentina with five kilograms of cocaine says she was the victim of an internet scam.

Sharon Armstrong, former Maori Language Commission deputy chief executive, has been detained in Buenos Aires since her arrest on April 13 - her 53rd birthday - Fairfax Media reported today.

Argentinian officials confirmed that a New Zealand woman named Sharon Armstrong had been arrested with cocaine hidden in a suitcase by airport police while trying to board a flight to London.

It is understood she was going to London to meet a man she had been dating online.

Armstrong will appear in an Argentinean court on Friday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs told TVNZ it could not interfere but confirmed its embassy there had been providing a woman with assistance.

Her cousin Kapoi Mathieson told Radio New Zealand today the man had paid for Ms Armstrong to divert to Buenos Aires and pick-up some "paper work" for him there.

His Facebook page has since disappeared.

She said Interpol was searching for him and the family had forwarded all the details they had about the contact between the pair.

"There is no way that Sharon would do something like that knowingly.

"There is no way. My whole family, all my cousins, are ringing each other crazy quite distraught about it that she's been duped like this.

Armstrong's foster mother Jean Ruakere told TVNZ the situation was a "jackup" and called for the government to step in.

"Please give us some help Mr McCully [foreign minister Murray McCully] or some direction."

Labour MP Parekura Horomia said he was surprised at the news of the arrest.

"I haven't seen her for a few years but I did some work with her. It honestly does seem very out of character."