April 11, 2018– Jakarta, Indonesia

On April 10,2018 International Press reported that at least 2 dozen people have died in the previous 24 hours from drinking toxic bootleg booze raising the monthly toll to 82. National Police Spokesperson Setyo Wassisto broke down the numbers differently, claiming that 51 have died in West Java alone over the last several days and that 31 have died in the Capital. The official death toll as reported by police and health officials in Jakarta was 54 dead. The numbers games will continue and deaths both in the Capital and throughout the Country.

At this point the numbers are not definitive with some doctors claiming there are at least 100 people in hospitals, many in critical condition with alcohol poisoning symptoms. The sheer number of people affected in this week’s surge of dodgy booze poisoning might point to inexperienced players in the fake alcohol market trying to cash in quickly with a dubious array of products.

Indonesia has seen more than its share of deadly alcohol stories over the years and have tried to mute them as much as possible because of the influx of tourists and tourist dollars to the region. Unlike other countries that are overwhelmed with counterfeit alcohol, Indonesia is unique in that the bootleg liquor gangs don’t even try to copy the brands and signature tastes of liquor that will appeal to seasoned alcohol drinkers.

Bottle of Absolute Vodka being refilled for Perfume
Refilled alcohol bottles in Indonesia are used from perfume to gasoline and counterfeit alcohol.

This latest surge of deaths and hospitalization that is currently affecting the Indonesia is being blamed on liquors made with a combination of chemical ingredients. According to Muhammed Syafruddin, deputy National Police Chief, tests conducted on recently confiscated bootleg booze have revealed not only the usual methanol alcohol used by fake alcohol producers but have also shown mixtures containing cough syrup and insecticides. In a rare revelation of truth, Mr. Syafruddin said almost nonchalantly that deaths from toxic alcohol are common in Indonesia and that foreigners are occasionally among the victims.

“This is a crazy phenomenon. If we let it continue, it will harm the Nation”, the Chief said in disgust at a National Press Conference. He continued, “I have ordered all the police chiefs in Indonesia to make these cases stop, zero victims, meaning to reveal the roots ranging from the producers, distributors, sellers to those that have the idea of mixing alcohol with fatal chemicals.” The Chief went on to declare that he will lead a “scorched earth” approach to stop the madness of illicit alcohol throughout edge nation. Many other countries have found this easier said then done, and it will be even more difficult given the socio-economic incentives for bootleggers in Indonesia.

Indonesia, a predominately Muslim country, does not outright ban the sale of alcohol but rather discourages its use with extremely high taxes. The high tax rate on alcohol makes it a profitable enterprise for bootleggers and producers of fake alcohol. The amount of money derived from the illicit alcohol trade in Indonesia, which includes the tourist mecca of Bali, makes it akin to the drug cartels of Mexico and South America. The bootleggers and illicit alcohol producers are awash in cash, enabling them to spread the wealth around in the form of bribes to local officials. This will make the Deputy Chief’s “scorched earth” policy even more difficult to achieve when the corruption is spread throughout police departments and among government agencies.

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As of Wednesday, April 11, 2018 the numbers continue to rise from this latest surge of alcohol poisonings both in patients’ being reported and in arrests by the police. The hospital at Cicalengka city, reports that they have treated 147 alcohol poisonings since Friday, with 31 dying and 110 being discharged. Although on Tuesday, the Hospitals Director, Yani Sumpena Muchtar said that excluding the 31 dead, there were still 29 patients in critical care wards.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, April 11, 2018, Jakarta Police claim to have arrested 7 in possession of a clear liquid that was almost pure methanol. While other raids by police have confiscated drinks that were 95-97% pure alcohol mixed with energy drinks, syrups and carbonated beverage.

This latest surge of alcohol poisonings appears to be happening because of bootleggers targeting the local population. So far, no counterfeit brand name liquors confiscations have been announced by the police. As this story continues to develop, the death toll is likely to rise. Although this latest influx of dodgy booze does not seem to have made its way to the tourist destinations of Indonesia, liquor is always suspect in those areas. Tourists should always drink alcohol with an extreme amount of caution in Indonesia.

Over the past year, SafeProof.org has highlighted many stories of fake alcohol in Indonesia, including in the major tourist areas.

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