Four dead, one blind in Johor after drinking cheap liquor tainted with methanol

Johor police chief Datuk Mohd Khalil Kader Mohd cautioned the public against purchasing contraband liquor. — Picture by Ben Tan
Johor police chief Datuk Mohd Khalil Kader Mohd cautioned the public against purchasing contraband liquor. — Picture by Ben Tan

JOHOR BARU, June 18 — Four men died, while one became blind, after consuming liquor suspected to contain methanol in various locations here today.

Johor police chief Datuk Mohd Khalil Kader Mohd said the deceased comprise a local and three foreigners from India, Nepal and Pakistan, aged between 30 and 36.

He said the three victims died while undergoing treatment at the Sultan Ismail Hospital (HSI) and Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA) here, while the blind victim was a local in his 30s.

“Preliminary investigations found that the victims had drunk the ‘Miludeer’ brand of liquor that was purchased locally and is suspected to contain toxic methanol.

“The post-mortem will be conducted by the hospital's medical officer on the deceased to determine the cause of death and the samples of the tainted liquor have been sent to the Chemistry Department for content analysis,” said Mohd Khalil at the Johor police contingent headquarters here today.

Following the case, Mohd Khalil said police have arrested nine, involving four local men and five Indonesians aged between 25 and 44.

He said the suspects were detained in separate locations around Johor Baru, Seri Alam and Kulai.

“Investigators also seized several bottles and cans of alcoholic beverages that are believed to have been smuggled into the country without paying customs duties,” he said.

Mohd Khalil said the case is currently being investigated under Section 304(b) of the Penal Code for causing death by negligence and Section 326 of the same Code for voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons.

At the same time, he said investigations were also conducted under Section 135(1)(d) of the Customs Act 1967 for importing goods without following legal procedures.

“The public are reminded not to buy and drink contraband liquor sold at low prices in the local markets to avoid occurrences that may be fatal,” said Mohd Khalil.

Cheap liquor is believed to have been processed using methanol, a common industrial alcohol that can cause metabolic acidosis, neurologic sequelae, and even death, when ingested.

Johor’s latest fatality due to alcohol poisoning today followed the recent deaths of six construction workers who drank cheap liquor in Penang.

In September last year, 33 methanol poisoning deaths were reported in Perak, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.