Dane faces death penalty for heroin smuggling in Taiwan

How Carl-Erik Jensen, 43-year-old from Aarhus, went on holiday to Thailand, was robbed and quickly found himself working a courier

Like many Danes, when Carl-Erik Jensen went to Thailand on holiday in the spring of 2014, he imagined he’d be back home before he knew it.

Just one year later, the 43-year-old sits in a Taiwanese prison, charged with trying to smuggle 1,500 grams of heroin out of the country, knowing he could face the death penalty if convicted. Five people were executed last year for similar offences.

The warning signs are clear in the airport at Taiwan (the Republic of China)
The warning signs are clear in the airport at Taiwan (the Republic of China)


The belly of Bangkok
In his home city of Aarhus, Jensen led a pretty ordinary life. A worker in the North Sea oil industry, he was single, content and occasionally in trouble with the law.

As a streetwise individual, he could handle himself on the streets of the Jutland city, contends a source close to the Dane, but he hadn’t bargained on the belly of Bangkok.

A fateful night out
On his first night out in the Thai capital, he met some girls in a bar, took one out for dinner and drinks, and then returned to his hotel room for a party.

The rest of the night was a blur. He woke up the next morning in a trashed hotel room without any of his clothes and money and, most importantly, without his passport.

A ‘chance’ meeting
It was Saturday morning, and Jensen knew the Danish embassy was closed. He borrowed some clothes at the hotel and started to wander the streets. He didn’t know where he was going.

Out of nowhere, a European-looking man asked him whether he needed help. Together, in a brand new Range Rover, they drove first to a department store to buy some clothes, and then to a large mansion on the outskirts of the city.

Like Hef’s mansion
Upon arriving, Jensen was given a glass of champagne and invited to get into a jacuzzi. More girls. Several days passed, and with the mansion, pool and Thai girls en masse at his disposal, Jensen had few complaints.

But soon it was time to pay. Jensen’s hosts told him it was time to pay them back for all the help he had received. The bill came to $15,000.

But there was also good news: they’d managed to recover his passport and they just happened to have a job for which the payment was $15,000.

Life as a courier
Jensen took the job and smuggled an unspecified amount of heroin into Taiwan. Upon his return, he was allowed to return to the mansion where the champagne and girls never ran out. And he was even allowed to keep the money. More courier jobs followed.

Jensen, by this time, was hooked on the lifestyle. And even though he briefly returned to Denmark, he couldn’t wait to return to get back to work.

Hooked on the lifestyle
Jensen mostly smuggled heroin from Taiwan into Thailand, either disguised as a businessman wearing a nice suit, watch and shoes, or as a school teacher dressed more casually, carrying schoolbooks and folders.

Each job commanded a payment of between $25,000 and 40,000 and involved smuggling between one and two kilograms of heroin. Jensen moved to Thailand and settled into a routine of making two courier trips per month.

Love in Cambodia
But after a few months, he moved to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh where there were fewer visa issues and the living costs were even cheaper. Besides, the beaches were nice and the girls pretty.

At an apartment showing, Jensen met Sery, a 27-years-old Cambodian woman with two children from a previous relationship. For Jensen it was love at first sight, and he married Sery a couple of months later.

Unfortunately for the happy couple, their honeymoon period didn’t last long.

Jensen and his bride Sery’s happiness was cut short
Jensen and his bride Sery’s happiness was cut short


Taken in Taiwan
In early March, Sery received a call from the Danish representation in Taiwan, which has also since confirmed Jensen’s retention to the Weekly Post. Her husband had been arrested at the country’s airport carrying an airline ticket to Cambodia and 1.5 kilograms of heroin taped to his thigh.

She was told that she wouldn’t be able to speak to Jensen for at least two months while the police investigations continue.

Death by firing squad
Jensen, meanwhile, is being held in Taiwan, a country where the punishment for drug-related offences is execution by firing squad.

When he eventually appears in court later this year, he will be provided with a lawyer to defend him.

If found guilty, it is likely he will be sentenced to death. Some 48 people have been killed in the past 15 years, including 17 in the last three.

  • How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    Being part of a trade union is a long-established norm for Danes. But many internationals do not join unions – instead enduring workers’ rights violations. Find out how joining a union could benefit you, and how to go about it.

  • Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals are overrepresented in the lowest-paid fields of agriculture, transport, cleaning, hotels and restaurants, and construction – industries that classically lack collective agreements. A new analysis from the Workers’ Union’s Business Council suggests that internationals rarely join trade unions – but if they did, it would generate better industry standards.

  • Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    The numbers are especially striking amongst the 3,477 business and economics students polled, of whom 31 percent elected Novo Nordisk as their favorite, compared with 20 percent last year.