Many Killed by Bootleg Liquor Made in Czech Republic
Methanol-laced hard liquor has killed more than 20 people in the Czech Republic and Poland
17 September 2012. The Czech health ministry has reported 20 deaths from methanol poisoning found in bootleg hard liquor. Thirty-six other consumers of the illegal spirits were in critical condition, blind, or comatose from the effects of methanol.
The methanol-laced rum and vodka were sold in Prague and Havirov, a northeastern city.
On Friday (14 September) the Czech government placed a total ban on the sale of hard liquor (20 percent alcohol). Czech authorities escalated their measures after methanol-laced legitimate-looking bottles started appearing in regular liquor stores across several Czech regions, including Prague. This followed the initially confirmed sales of toxic alcohol at outdoor markets and kiosks in the country's northeast that have led to first intoxication cases earlier in the month. Czech authorities had previously banned liquor sales at these venues.
On Sunday (16 September), Poland also launched a 30-day ban on sales of liquor imported from the Czech Republic, and announced that during the ban authorities would make extensive tests of Czech alcohol to ensure it is safe for consumption.
In the Czech Republic, black-market alcohol — typically Czech-made vodka or brandy — is most often sold as a legitimately manufactured liquor to unsuspecting consumers and it accounts for between 10% and 20% of the alcohol sales on the local market. Some government officials said that the punishment for bootleggers needed to get tougher. Production and distribution of illegal alcohol is only a misdemeanor in the Czech Republic and only those convicted of peddling toxic alcohol may face criminal prosecution with prison sentences of up to 10 years.
So far, Czech investigators have failed to find any distillery of the methanol-laced alcohol but have arrested and charged 22 individuals, involved in bottling and distribution of at least partly toxic bootleg liquors.
When methyl alcohol is ingested in large quantities, the substance affects the central nervous system. Symptoms of methanol poisoning — such as headache, dizziness, nausea and confusion — are often delayed as the substance transforms in the body to formaldehyde and later formic acid.
Methanol, or methyl alcohol, is a naturally occurring and toxic chemical, manufactured as an industrial chemical that's typically found in products such as antifreeze and fuel. Bootleggers often use it to "stretch" regular liquor on the cheap because the taste is impossible to distinguish from real drinking alcohol, and it's low cost all but guarantees a high profit margin.