Back in April, over 100 people were reported to have died after drinking tainted bootleg alcohol in various parts of Indonesia including Jakarta. While absolutely tragic, it was just the latest in a long line of deaths caused by Indonesia’s black market for bootleg liquor that has claimed at least eight more lives in the last week.
The latest deaths happened in East Cengkareng in West Jakarta. Police said that eight men, ranging in age from 27-48, have died due to acute alcohol poisoning over the last five days.
Authorities say they have arrested a suspect, identified by his initials SR, believed to be responsible for both creating and selling the tainted alcohol.
“The results of our examination shows that the tainted alcohol is made with basic methanol, that is then mixed with tea, sugar and water,” said West Jakarta Police Chief Hengki Haryadi yesterday as quoted by Merdeka. Hengki said that SR purchased the methanol under the guise of needing it to make perfume.
The police chief said SR was arrested at his home, where he both made and sold the tainted alcohol, on Sunday. Officers seized evidence including several containers of the alcohol ready to be sold for the price of IDR15,000 (US$1.05).
Hengki said that SR would be charged under both food safety laws as well as under the criminal code for murder under the legal theory that he should have been aware that the death of his customers was a likely consequence of his actions.
“This might be the first case in which the murder article (of the criminal code) was used in the case of tainted alcohol,” Hengki said.
Whether or not authorities can get the murder charge to stick will become a legal question for prosecutors, but with the government unlikely to loosen Indonesia’s strict restrictions and heavy tariffs on safe legal alcohol anytime soon, and the demand for alcohol also unlikely to subside, the threat of murder charges may be one of the only effective possible deterrents to the country’s deadly tainted alcohol crisis.