Criminal police have said that four of eight members of a gang arrested
last Thursday for suspected involvement in the ‘methanol affair’,
wanted to defraud the state of some 200 million crowns in unpaid taxes.
According to the head of the anti-organised crime unit, Robert Šlachta,
the police – in its sweep of arrests last week – impacted the top
echelon of a gang involved in the sale of bootleg liquor in the Czech
Republic. Among those arrested last week are businessman Radek Březina,
said by the media to have ties to the Drak liquor company, and Robert
Sedlařík, the head of the Verdana distribution firm. A court at the
weekend ordered that they and two others be remanded in custody.
Earlier, a warehouse owned by Verdana, was found to contain bottles of liquor laced with 50 percent methanol. Methanol poisoning, beginning in mid-September, claimed 30 lives in the Czech Republic. The bottles were supposedly tainted to increase product volume and profits.
A court in Zlín, in the east of the country, has ruled that two men suspected of distributing methanol-laced bootleg liquor. According to media reports, one of the men ran a firm which supplied untaxed spirit to bootleg liquor producers; the other was allegedly involved in distributing illegal alcohol. At least 30 people have died in the country after drinking bootleg alcohol contaminated with methanol. Last month, the police arrested two men who face charges for having produced the deadly beverage and released it into distribution.
Police have arrested eight more people in connection with the recent methanol crisis which claimed 30 victims. According to a police spokesman the eight people arrested are some of the ring-leaders of the bootleg liquor distribution network in Moravia. Charges are being pressed against all of the detained but in view of the ongoing investigation the police have not released any further details.
This week in business: PepsiCo may sell its Central European division to Karlovy Vary Mineral Waters; electricity prices will rise next year, partially thanks to a new government proposal; the Czech Confederation of Industry publishes a bleak outlook for Czech businesses; a new computer system that would detect rigged public tenders is undergoing testing; RWE Transgas will not have to pay major fines to Russia’s Gazprom; the Czech potato harvest is down this season with uncertain consequences on consumer prices.
Police closed off a hotel in Zlín, Moravia, on Thursday belonging to
businessman Radek Březina, suspected of involvement in the recent
affair in the Czech Republic. Thirty people lost their lives and scores of
others ended up in hospital after unknowingly buying and consuming
alcohol laced with the deadly chemical in mid-September. According to
broadcaster Czech TV, Radek Březina is a key figure behind Likérka Drak,
linked to the affair. Bottles with Drak stickers were, for example, found
in a Zlín warehouse containing 50 percent methanol.
Police have already charged the executive head of Drak, Pavel Čaniga, in connection with the case and are searching for Robert Sedlařík, the head the distribution company that ran the warehouse where some of the tainted alcohol was found. Police on Thursday, meanwhile, stood guard outside the hotel in Zlín, monitoring activity; top officials, including the state prosecutor in charge of the methyl alcohol investigation, have declined to comment.
A hospital in Olomouc late Wednesday began treatment of a 54-year-old patient from Moravská Třebová who suffered methanol poisoning after drinking tainted alcohol. His case is the third in the region this week. A 48-year-old man remains hospitalised in Olomouc, another 48-year-old is in hospital in Prostějov. The outbreak of methanol poisoning in the Czech Republic began in mid-September after the market was flooded by thousands of litres of tainted bootleg alcohol. Thirty people died as a result.
A hospital in Prostějov registered a new case of methanol poisoning on Monday, admitting a 48-year-old man in serious condition. In the Olomouc region, it is the sixth case of methyl poisoning since an outbreak related to bootleg liquor began in the Czech Republic in mid-September. Thirty people in the country have died as a result of drinking laced alcohol: two men succumbed to poisoning last Friday.
A district court in Zlín ruled on Friday that the head of the liquor
producer Likérka Drak, Pavel Čaniga, will not be remanded in custody
while under investigation. Mr Čaniga has been charged with endangering
public health by distributing harmful products. He was arrested on
Wednesday after 7,600 bottles of Tuzemák rum were found in the warehouse
of Drak’s distributor, containing a lethal 50% methanol content.
Authorities banned the sale of Tuzemák produced by Likérka Drak on
Thursday. The head of the company’s distributor, who is suspected in the
same case as Mr Čaniga, is still at large.
Meanwhile analysis revealed on Friday, that bottles of another Likérka Drak liquor, Original vodka, that were discovered in the Verdana warehouse have 50% methanol content as well.
Another man that was admitted for methanol poisoning in early October to a hospital in Brno has died on Friday afternoon. The man is the 30th victim of contaminated bootleg liquor since the start of the methanol crisis in early September. The cause of death will be confirmed by an autopsy. A 60-year-old man also died on Friday in a hospital in Opava.
Two more victims of methanol poisoning have been hospitalized in the region of Moravia-Silesia. A 60-year-old man was admitted in critical condition on Thursday morning. A 64-year-old man who had been drinking with him was also hospitalised later on, making the 33rd case of methanol poisoning in that region alone. With 17 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak in September, Moravia-Silesia has been the region hardest hit. Starting Thursday, a ban was imposed on the sale of Tuzemák rum produced by Czech company Likérka Drak and distributed by Verdana, after 7,600 bottles of Tuzemák rum containing 50 percent of methanol were discovered in a warehouse belonging to Verdana.
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