At least 22 dead, 16 hospitalized from bootleg alcohol poisoning in Istanbul


At least 22 people have died in Istanbul and 16 others have been hospitalized and are in serious condition after drinking bootleg alcohol in Instanbul, the local governor’s office said Friday, as authorities intensified a crackdown on counterfeit drinks across Turkey ahead of New Year’s celebrations.

Eleven of the dead, and five of those who had fallen ill were foreign nationals, the Istanbul governor’s office said in a statement. It didn’t elaborate or provide details on the victims’ nationalities.

Four suspects have been arrested in connection with the deaths, the statement said.

On Thursday, the state-run Anadolu Agency said 26 people were killed in the past four days from methanol alcohol poisoning in nine Turkish provinces, including Istanbul.

Authorities have launched a nationwide operation to crackdown on bootleg alcohol production, conducting raids on about 300 locations and seizing thousands of liters of counterfeit alcohol, the report said. At least 85 suspects were detained.

Shop keeper points out the security holo
A shop keeper points out the security hologram on top of the cover of a legally produced Turkish Raki in Istanbul in March 2005 after a bootleg version of the liquor caused multiple deaths. 

MUSTAFA OZER/AFP via Getty Images

Deaths from bootleg alcohol aren’t uncommon in Turkey where people, faced with ever-climbing alcoholic beverage prices, seek to buy cheaper drinks or turn to homemade booze. Rising inflation and the government’s taxes and regulation of alcohol consumption have thrust alcohol prices to all-time highs.

Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are also common in India because the poor cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops. In 2019, almost 100  people died and about 200 people were hospitalized after drinking tainted liquor in two separate incidents in India’s northeast.

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