, PRAGUE, May 21 – A Czech court Wednesday handed life sentences to the Czech and Slovak masterminds of a bootlegging affair with tainted alcohol that killed at least 38 people.
The court in the eastern city of Zlin sentenced Czech Tomas Krepela, 39, and Slovak Rudolf Fian, 43, for producing methanol-tainted alcohol.
Another eight people were given shorter sentences ranging from eight to 21 years for distributing it in 2012.
“The accused must have known they could seriously damage many people’s health, or even kill them,” said judge Radomir Koudela.
The bootleg booze sold in shops and in at least one restaurant claimed 38 lives in just a matter of weeks in the Czech Republic, while dozens of more people ended up in hospital.
The affair prompted a temporary ban on spirits sales and exports in the EU member state which ranks among Europe’s heaviest drinking countries.
The case was the worst of its kind in Europe since 2001, when 68 people died over the space of a few days from drinking bootleg liquor in Estonia.