Authorities ban all hard liquor sales as methanol laced bootleg booze kills 20 people in Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic (4E) – A total ban of hard-liquor sales in the Czech Republic which began last Friday remains strictly in place after the death of 20 people by methanol laced bootleg alcohol.
The Czech health ministry said that at least 36 people remain in critical condition as others become blind while others were put into artificial coma since the crisis began early September. This is the worst case of alcohol poisoning in the country in three decades.
Suspicious alcoholic products have been confiscated in 14 outlets while 22 suspects have been arrested and charged for involvement in bottling and distribution of partly toxic bootleg liquors, said Vaclav Kucera, the deputy president of Czech Police.
Most victims of poisoning drank hard liquors like vodka or rum that were purchased in local restaurants or stores. Since Friday night, the government has ordered nationwide police control of more 19,000 bars, restaurants and shops, as confirmed by Police Chief Tomas Hulan, according to News@orf.at.
On Wednesday, the sale of liquor with more than 30 percent alcohol content was already forbidden. Shop and restaurant owners who violate the ban would be fined to up 123,000 Euros.
The ban could remain in force for several weeks, said Health Minister Leos Heger. He added in a live interview Sunday on Czech CT24 channel that he hopes it won’t last for months. According to Diageo plc, Mr. Heger admitted the government’s concern on possible decrease in taxes collected, levied on legitimate alcohol, if the ban continues. But he emphasizes that the critical issue now is the health situation.
Deputy Finance Minister Ladislav Mincic said that the monthly tax revenues from alcohol sales, including alcohol and sales levies, averages about 750 million koruna ($40.4 million.
This is the first blanket ban on spirits in the country where alcohol consumption is common and where regulations on sales are popularly lax. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Czech Republic is second to Moldova when it comes to alcohol consumption per capita.