Alexander "Shani" Krebs
Alexander "Shani" Krebs

Thai king frees SA drug mule

By LAEA MEDLEY Time of article published Mar 13, 2012

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A Joburg drug mule is coming home after 18 years in a Thai jail – thanks to a pardon from the king on his birthday.

Alexander (Shani) Krebs was arrested for drug trafficking in Bangkok in 1994, the day before SA’s first democratic elections.

Krebs was arrested for attempting to smuggle heroin out of Thailand, and was sentenced to death at the Bang Kwang Prison in Bangkok.

He was 34 at the time.

Since then, his sentence was reduced to 100, and then 40, years.

But on December 5, King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand celebrated his 84th birthday by granting amnesty to foreign prisoners convicted of drug offences.

Krebs, now 52, is due back with his family in Joburg on April 28.

Speaking of his return, Krebs’s sister Joan Sacks said the feeling was “indescribable”.

“I’ve been praying all these years for him to come home, but I never actually thought that he would ever be a free man,” she said.

“Shani was arrested on April 26, 1994, the day before South Africa’s first democratic elections.”

Speaking from Joburg, Sacks explained how her younger brother was arrested.

“He had just broken up with his fiancée, so I booked a 10-day trip to Thailand for him,” she said.

“While he was there, all his belongings were stolen from his hotel room. Later, he met a Nigerian man at a bar, and was asked to carry a bag back to South Africa with him. Because all of his own bags were stolen, this was the only bag he had, and he was caught at the airport. I don’t know whether or not he knew there was heroin in the bag.”

Since her brother’s arrest, Sacks lobbied tirelessly for his release.

In 1998 she drafted a prison transfer agreement with the Department of Foreign Affairs, but this was dismissed.

In 1999, she travelled to Thailand to beg for a royal pardon from the king, but was denied after admitting that she had no support from the SA government.

“The last 18 years have been so tough,” said Sacks. “The pain is worse than if he had died, because it’s an ongoing nightmare.”

For Krebs’s return next month, Sacks and her 88-year-old mother, Catalin, have booked a limousine to fetch him from the airport. “We’ve also bought him an iPhone and a laptop,” she said. “It will be hard for him to adjust to 2012. He’s been sleeping on concrete for 18 years, so it might take some time for him to get used to a bed.”

Belinda West, founder of the organisation Locked Up, which supports families of South Africans who are in foreign prisons, said she was thrilled to hear about Krebs’s release. “When the organisation started up in 2008, Krebs’s family was one of our first contacts,” she said.

West said there were about 12 SA prisoners in Thailand, about five in China, and up to 400 in Brazil. “Brazil has the highest number because this is where most cocaine comes from, and there is a direct flight from Sao Paolo to Joburg,” she said. - Daily News

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