Methanol poisoning: 1,603 raids, 129 arrests in crackdown on bootleg liquor

Customs officers crippled a syndicate processing fake booze at KLIA in Sepang October 3, 2018. ― Picture by Azuniddin Ghazali
Customs officers crippled a syndicate processing fake booze at KLIA in Sepang October 3, 2018. ― Picture by Azuniddin Ghazali

SEPANG, Oct 3 — In a dragnet following the 45 deaths from methanol poisoning nationwide, the Customs Department has caught 129 suspects and seized 17,374 litres of counterfeit liquor in 1,063 raids to date.

Its director-general Datuk Seri Subromaniam Tholasy said more pirated brands suspected to contain toxic methanol were discovered and have been pulled off the shelves of liquors stores during the nationwide operations codenamed ‘Ops Gempur’ that started on September 21.

“From the raids, we seized counterfeit and smuggled liquor and the brands were such as Grand Royal whisky, Kingfisher Extra, Cap Kapak, Camel Strong, Mandalay and Club 99.

“Investigations are also underway to determine if there is any evidence linking the seized alcohol to the recent spate of methanol poisoning,” he said during a press conference here today.

Subromaniam added that some of the liquor-processing equipment that was seized during the raids had been sent to the Chemistry Department to check if there is any link to the methanol-poisoning incident.

He said in a raid conducted on September 28, Customs enforcement officers crippled a fake liquor-processing syndicate that was operating from a factory in Cheras.

“Alcohol seized from the factory were the same brands with the ones that were linked to the methanol poisoning.

“But it’s too early to confirm if this syndicate was involved in making that particular liquor and investigations are underway,” he said, adding that a 60-year-old man was arrested and is currently being questioned.

Subromaniam said that alcohol illegally produced on such premises was largely for the consumption of foreigners in the country, and sold cheaper than retail prices in shops.

He said the seized liquor’s duty that was not paid was estimated to be close to RM170,000.

He added the cases were being investigated under Section 74 of the Excise Act (Act 176) 1976 for evasion of excise duty and illegal production.

The cases were also being investigated under Section 6(1) of the Law Reform (Eradication of Illicit Samsu) 1976 (Act 165) for storing, using or allowing premises to be used to process illegal samsu.

Subromaniam also urged the public to work with the Customs Department to fight counterfeit items such as alcohol, cigarettes, firecrackers and drugs, by tipping off the department if they notice such activities going on.

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