Death toll from fake Czech vodka reaches 18

Fake Likerka DrakThe authorities in the Czech Republic have temporarily banned the sale of hard liquor from kiosks as the number of people killed after consuming counterfeit vodka rises to 18.

The deaths are being attributed to methanol contamination of the counterfeit and bootleg liquor, which was sold in six-litre plastic bottles.

At least 24 others affected by the poisoning are in a critical condition according to the latest official figures.

There are two main elements to the case, with some of the people thought to have consumed counterfeit versions of a recognised Czech vodka brand sold by Likerka Drak (Dragon Distillery), while others are reported to have bought unlabelled, bootleg liquor without any labelling.

The epicentre of the poisoning outbreak appears to be the Moravian town of Havirov, and police have been warning the public and scouring bars, cafes and other outlets for the illicit alcohol in an attempt to identify the source. At present there is no evidence that the counterfeits have been transported outside the Czech Republic.

Likerka Drak has published a statement (in Czech) on its website indicating that the vodka bottles contaminated with methanol are counterfeit, and that it has carried out testing on its own genuine products to ensure they are unaffected.

The company has warned consumers of certain differences between the labels found on genuine and fake six-litre products, including some different text and a larger font used on the counterfeit copies (see image below).

Likerka Drak label comparison

The labels on the counterfeit products are genuine but have not been used by Likerka Drak for over a year, and the company believes the criminals behind the scam have filled discarded old bottles with their fake liquor.

The company has promised to introduce new closures to prevent bottles being refilled once emptied within the next week.

The national distillers association (UVDL) has asked for a permanent ban on kiosk sales of alcohol and tmake it illegal to sell alcoholic beverages in volumes above 3 litres.

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