Czech Republic: Bootleg Booze Kills 23

Twenty-three people are dead and dozens in critical condition in the Czech Republic after consuming tainted homemade alcohol, according to local media reports.

The victims are believed to have suffered methanol poisoning after drinking bootleg liquor mixed with methyl alcohol to stretch the supply, then disguised and sold in brand-name bottles.

Police have charged more than 30 people suspected of being involved in the deadly trade, according to Pavla Holcova, OCCRP’s reporter in Czech Republic. The Economist reported that despite the arrests and the discovery of a garage full of methanol-laced bottles in the south-eastern city of Zlin, authorities believe they have yet to track down any high-level operatives in the scheme.

The Czech government banned the sale of hard liquor in the entire country on Sept. 14 in an apparent attempt to curb the epidemic, and banned all liquor exports the following Thursday, according to the government’s press releases. Russia, Slovakia, and Poland have all banned Czech alcohol imports in the days since.

The ban on experts is expected to be lifted by the end of the month, especially since the Czech government counts on nearly $40 million per month it makes on alcohol exports.

In the meantime, Czech drinkers can rely on the homemade plum brandy made in small local distilleries there, which were not included in the ban., according to an Associated Press report.