Impressed with new SA, says man after 18 years in Thai prison

2012-04-30 00:00

HE was sure he was a free man only when his feet touched South African soil, said a man released after 18 years in a Thai prison for drug smuggling.

Shani Krebs (52) arrived home on Saturday.

In an interview yesterday, he related the incidents that led to his arrest in April 1994. He had been on holiday in Bangkok when all his money was stolen from his hotel room. He was then introduced to a man who gave him a bag, allegedly full of foreign currency, to bring back to South Africa.

But at the airport, police took him aside and confiscated the bag. It contained 1,2 kg of heroin.

He was initially sentenced to 100 years’ imprisonment, but his sentence was reduced in December last year. “It’s wonderful to be back, I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome,” he said from his sister Joan Sacks’s home in Johannesburg yesterday.

She and her family, together with Krebs’s 88-year-old mother Katalin, were at O.R. Tambo airport on Saturday to welcome him.

Krebs said he is impressed with the new South Africa. “There are lots of positive changes and the people are very friendly. It’s my country and my people,” he said.

Although life in jail was very hard, Krebs said it gave him the opportunity to take up art again. He painted hundreds of pictures and in addition to the memoir he is writing, would like to bring out a coffee table book of his paintings.

He said a Hollywood producer is interested in the rights to his story.

He has also been invited to give motivational talks to former drug users, schools and churches.

“I don’t want to just disappear, I want to make a difference in people’s lives."

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