An alleged Kiwi drug mule arrested in Bali has denied police claims he was part of an international drug syndicate.

Antony Glen de Malmanche, 52, from Wanganui, was arrested at the international airport in Denpasar last week after 1.7kg of methamphetamine was found in his backpack.

He was yesterday taken to a prison hospital for treatment for a sore back, and spoke briefly to media.

"I was set up. I had no idea of it [the drugs in his bag]," he told media.

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"Hong Kong Customs cleared it, I thought I was sweet. And then I got here [to Bali] and, nah, a big shock."

His family have said he is not smart enough to be part of a drug ring, but Indonesian police allege the Kiwi was part of a drug network with links to South Africa.

"He's been a target of the narcotic drug-smuggling division a long time," Bali Police Commissioner Henry Wiyanto said.

Police had been waiting for him to arrive in Bali and, after his arrest, tried to use his cell phone to set up a drug deal with the intended recipients.

De Malmanche had travelled to Hong Kong to meet his internet girlfriend, "Jessie".

"Originally she was to meet me in China. Then they made some excuse that she couldn't make it. So they said meet here [in Bali]," he told media yesterday.

Police allege he had been in touch with South African contacts about "packages" via text messages and emails.

Anyone convicted of trafficking methamphetamine in Indonesia faces the death penalty.

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Last night, de Malmanche was understood to be back in the Bali prison.

The 52-year-old takes painkillers for serious permanent injuries he suffered in a tree-felling accident while at work in 2002.

A Givealittle page set up by family to help raise money for a lawyer had last night raised more than $7500.