GEORGE TOWN, June 17 — Six men have died in Penang from consuming methanol-tainted liquor in the past two months, state police revealed today.
Northeast district police chief Asst Comm Che Zaimani Che Awang said those who died from methanol poisoning included two Malaysians, three from Myanmar and one Indian national.
“There were seven other victims, all from Myanmar, who are now being treated at the Penang Hospital,” he said.
He said in the past two months the Penang Hospital had reported a total 13 cases of methanol poisoning.
“In the first six reports, four of them — two locals, one Indian and one Myanmar national — died while two others, a Myanmar national and a Nepalese, received treatment at the hospital,” he said.
The police believed that they had consumed methanol-tainted liquor that was being sold by a Myanmar national at a construction site at Jalan SP Chelliah here.
In the second round of seven reports, received between June 11 and 14, all were seven victims were Myanmar nationals.
“Two of them died last Saturday, bringing the total deaths due to methanol poisoning to six,” he said.
In this second group, he said they were also construction site workers at Jalan SP Chelliah.
“Our investigations revealed that they had consumed liquor that we believe was processed by mixing ethanol into the original liquor bottles,” he said.
Following the reports of methanol poisoning, the police conducted raids at a premise in Komtar, believed to be used as a storage space for the processed liquor, and arrested a Myanmar suspect.
Che Zaimani said they seized 600 bottles of liquor labelled as “High Class Whisky, Product of Myanmar 350 ml”, 312 cans labelled as “El Diablo Super Strong Brew, For Export Only 500ml” and 24 cans labelled “Martens Extra Strong 500ml”.
He said they also seized 240 small plastic bottles and eight large bottles containing liquor without any brand name, a bottle of Wokadine, a bottle of turpentine, three pots and every other apparatus.
The 44-year-old suspect has been remanded for 14 days to assist in investigations into the case.
“We are still on the hunt for the man who sold the tainted liquor at the construction site,” he said.
The police believed that the syndicate behind this tainted liquor have been using the premise in Komtar for about a year as a storage space.
“We are still locating the site where the liquor was processed and packaged,” he said.
He added that there were original bottles of liquor from overseas, that he believed were smuggled into the country, found at the storage space.
“We have sent samples of the liquor to the chemist department for analysis and we will work with Customs Department to investigate this,” he said.
He said foreign workers often purchase processed liquor due to its cheap pricing.
He said the market price for the liquor is about RM8 but the processed liquor was sold at RM4.
“We believe five types of liquor with its original labels were refilled with processed liquor and the brands included Cap Kapak, ‘Grand Royal Whisky’, ‘Paul Martinn’, ‘Myanmar Whisky dan ‘High Class Whisky, Product of Mynmar’,” he said.
The case is being investigated under Section 304 (b) of the Penal Code for causing death due to negligence.