Ten years since the methanol scandal which took the lives of 50 people
This tragic event went down in the history of Czech criminology as the case with the largest ever number of defendants – the police charged 61 people in the scandal.
The first victim was claimed on September 3, 2012 – a 62-year-old man and his 59-year-old partner. Over the course of several days, 38 people died in the Czech Republic as a result of drinking alcohol mixed with poisonous methanol, and several dozen others suffered permanent health consequences, such as blindness. A total of around 140 people were affected.
The largest number of methanol poisonings were recorded in the Moravian-Silesian Region, but there were also victims in Vysočína, South Bohemia, Central Bohemia, the Ústí nad Labem region, and in Prague. The lethal alcohol from Czechia also claimed victims in Poland, where four people died.
The government responded to the wave of deaths on September 12, 2012 by banning the sale of hard alcohol at kiosks; two days later a blanket ban was issued on the sale of spirits with an alcohol content of 20 percent or more in the entire country. The restrictions were only abolished over a year later, in October 2013.
The case led to the tightening of rules for the production and distribution of spirits. Among other things, a new type of revenue stamp for alcohol was introduced, the maximum size of consumer packages of hard alcohol was limited to three litres, and the sale of alcohol and spirits was made into a licensed trade.
The harshest sentences in the case were handed down to the creators of the contaminated alcohol, Rudolf Fian and Tomáš Křepela, who were sentenced to life imprisonment. Jiří Vacula, the main distributor, got 15 years.
The poisonings continued for several years after the main wave. As of April 2014, there were 51 dead and many others suffered permanent health damage.