The Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Repression directorate-general (CCF) under the Ministry of Commerce seized about 30 tonnes of counterfeit alcohol – which was actually methanol rather than ethanol – during the lockdown period in Phnom Penh and are searching for the producers or importers to prosecute them.
The CCF is also calling on consumers to be careful before buying alcohol.
Phnom Penh CCF branch director Heng Maly told The Post on May 16 that the crackdown was carried out during the lockdown in Phnom Penh from early April to May 13.
“CCF cracked down on counterfeit alcohol in Phnom Penh, with five cases and seizures of nearly 30 tonnes from warehouses, pharmacies and other places,” Maly said.
He said the authorities were building cases to be sent to court and were searching for the culprits who imported the counterfeit alcohol.
“We already know that some alcohol sellers buy from various vendors in order to resell it, so now we are looking for the big importers who are the real source of the problem,” Maly said.
However, Maly could not confirm the number of people who have been arrested or sent to court as authorities are still questioning suspects to gather more evidence.
On May 13 alone, Maly said the CCF confiscated more than 12 tonnes of counterfeit alcohol in central Phnom Penh after a thorough investigation.
“CCF officials, with the approval of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor, inspected and seized 12,360 litres of counterfeit alcohol or methanol in Boeung Keng Kang district,” he said.
On May 11, CCF officials brought nearly 12 tonnes of methanol to be destroyed at the landfill in Dangkor district on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
The CCF called on consumers to be careful when purchasing alcohol and urged wholesalers, retailers, pharmacists, supermarket owners and importers of all alcoholic products to refrain from selling methanol disguised as alcohol as it is illegal and harmful to consumers.
It further explained that methanol is a chemical – sometimes referred to as “wood alcohol” – that is often used for industrial purposes. It is poisonous to drink, unlike regular alcohol or ethanol, and it is not effective in killing the Covid-19 virus.
Methanol can also cause skin and eye irritation, headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, loss of consciousness, nausea and can be fatal if ingested, especially if mixed with ethanol which makes it easier to consume in larger amounts.