Accused in Czech illegal alcohol case could face maximum jail sentence

Two people arrested by Czech police on charges of deliberately distributing methanol-tainted alcohol that has led to 25 deaths and more than 40 people being admitted to hospital could face the maximum term of 30 years in jail if found guilty, prosecutors said, according to local and international media reports.

The Czech Republic ordered first a domestic distribution ban, and then an export ban, when the first cases of methanol poisoning emerged. Poland, Slovakia and Russia followed suit with bans on Czech hard liquor imports.

Czech police, who carried out thousands of inspections whether the domestic ban was being complied with, have arrested more than 40 people in connection with the distribution of the poisonous drinks. Some of these are charged with having falsified excise labels. Police are continuing to check whether restaurants and bars are complying with the domestic hard liquor ban.

Moravia-Silesia state prosecutor Roman Kafka and police chief Martin Červíček said on September 24 2012 that the main suspect, a 42-year-old man, had made a full confession on September 21.

The two men worked for companies that used methanol in the production of car windscreen wash. They had supplied a methanol-ethanol mixture to liquor producers via an intermediary. The prime suspect’s stated motivation was money, police said.

About 15 000 litres of the deadly liquor had entered the market and not all of it had been found yet, Červíček said.

On September 24, the Czech finance ministry said that it was prepared to ease tax payment requirements for alcohol producers hard-hit by the domestic hard liquor sales ban that was imposed 10 days earlier. Already, the hard liquor sales ban has had a huge impact on tax revenue.

Local media quoted the European Commission as saying that when Prague intends lifting its ban on liquor exports, this decision should be co-ordinated with Brussels. The Czech Republic ordered the export ban on September 20 after being told that the EC intend imposing such a ban.

Steps are underway to implement measures including new-style excise labels to enable the country to lift the domestic ban.

Bulgaria announced last week that its customs and consumer protection agencies were conducting widespread checks into whether any dangerous alcohol products from the Czech Republic had entered the market. The check into registered imports had found no irregularities, authorities said.

(Photo:  peterfeije)



The Sofia Globe staff

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