By Tina Frennstedt

In 1994 the Swedish diplomat’s daughter Karolina Johnsson was sentenced to death after carrying a  suitcase containing seven kilos of heroin through the customs in Bangkok. After four years and numerous diplomatic pressures and negotiations she is moved to the women’s prison Hinseberg in Sweden. The summer of 2006 she is free. Tina Frennstedt, journalist at Svenska Dagbladet, have followed her fate through the years and is now telling her story. 

In August 1994, Karolina Johnsson was stopped at the Bangkok customs where it turned out that she had almost seven kilos of heroin in her suitcase. She claims to be innocent and that she was carrying the bag for a male friend. She spent the first night in a cell together with 150 other women. Originally, she was sentenced to death but the verdict was converted to 50 years in prison, when Karolina was forced to admit to the crime. The penalty was later set to 43 years and nine months. This makes her the Swedish person with the strictest penalty in Thailand for a drug offence so far. Just before christmas 1998 Karolina Johnsson was transferred to Sweden, due to an agreement between Sweden and Thailand regarding prisoner transfer. At this point she had spent four years in the notorious prison Klong Pem in Bangkok. In August the following year Karolina is released from the women’s prison Hinseberg, after a total of twelve years in prison. (The maximum penalty for serious drug offences in Sweden is eight years).

Karolina Johnsson was born in Halmstad 1965 in a diplomat family. At the age of 12 she was diagnosed with a life threatening brain tumor and underwent surgery. After high school she chose to travel instead of studying. She travelled around in the USA and Asia but later settled down in Thailand where she worked for companies selling gemstones. 

The journalist Tina Frennstedt, who have followed Karolinas fate, wanted to tell the story about the Swedish diplomat’s daughter whose life was completely changed that day in August 1994. What really happened? Was she deceived by her male acquaintance as she claims? Who is Karolina Johnsson and how has the time in prison affected her?

First published by Norstedts 2006-05-12

Sweden, Forum