Life sentences handed out in Czech methanol scandal verdicts
The highest possible punishments that the state can impose have been handed out in a batch of key verdicts on some of the leading players in the Czech methanol scandal which killed 50 and has left dozens of others maimed for life.
As well as the 20 year sentences on the main mixers Rudolf Fian and Tomáš Křepela, the judge at Zlín’s regional court spent almost an hour on Wednesday reading out the names of the victims and the verdicts and sentences on the other eight co-defendants in what is probably the biggest murder trial ever held in the country.
The main distributor of the deadly cocktail, who later helped police unwind the deadly network, Jiří Vacula, was sentenced to 15 years. Sentences totalling 104 years were distributed between the remaining seven men on the benches for the accused. Given the repercussions of their acts, the raft of sentences could not be regarded as overly strict nor draconian, Koudela said.
Almost 80 people survived drinking the low cost spirits, which were mostly sold locally in Moravia. But many of them have been given their own life sentences in the form of serious damage to their health, including blindness. In panic at the rapidly lengthening death toll, the sale of hard spirits was banned temporarily in the Czech Republic as a new system for making sure only safe, legitimate and taxed supplies would be put on shelves.
The fast evolving scandal uncovered a deeply flawed system Czech system for preventing the sale of bootleg alcohol and ensuring consumer safety by the confusion of state institutions involved.
Fian and Křepela maintained they were innocent throughout the 11-week trail, putting the blame for the deaths and injuries on Vacula. Their defense lawyers have said they will appeal the sentences.
Apart from the progress of those appeals, the methanol scandal is far from a closed affair. The sentences handed out on Wednesday were for the principle accused from the bootleg hub that was the Zlín region. Dozens of the around 70 people charged in the methanol affair will be dealt with by local courts. Two other men accused of being ringleaders in the methanol affair are being judged in an ongoing trial in Olomouc.