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No. of Fake Whiskey Scams Rising Toward Year`s End

Posted December. 17, 2008 08:36,   


Police are on the lookout for fake whiskey scams at bars in the wake of two deaths from alcohol poisoning.

A 25-year-old man in August and another 34-year-old this month died at motels in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, due to alcohol poisoning after drinking fake whiskey, police said.

Bar owners who sell fake whiskey and bilk customers using touts are nothing new in Korea. What is cause for alarm, however, are that the victims of the scams are losing their lives.

Police have widened their investigation based on the assumption that more people might have fallen victim to a similar scheme.

The deaths of the two men are blamed on fake whiskey, which is particularly lethal when consumed by those already intoxicated, according to experts.

○ Selling cheap whiskey at exorbitant prices

Police say fake whiskey is made by mixing cheap domestic whiskey selling for under 3,000 won (2.2 U.S. dollars) wholesale with ionic beverage and tonic water.

“The bar owner earned illegal profits by charging customers 250,000 won (184 dollars) for a bottle of whiskey that was worth 3,000 won,” said a police officer at Seodaemun Police Station in Seoul.

Those who make money from fake whiskey frequently move their businesses to other places to avoid police. “Normally, six bars are linked to each other and exchange employees every two to three months,” the officer said. “Through this measure, they avoid complaints from customers as well as police crackdown.”

○ Quick intoxication from fake whiskey

Victims of fake whiskey scams say they passed out after drinking just one shot.

Dr. Lee Jeong-gwon, a professor of family medicine at Samsung Medical Center, said, “The body rapidly absorbs liquor laced with sparkling carbonic acid regardless of alcohol concentration. This makes even those who can hold their liquor lose consciousness.”

Police said bar staff forced the two victims to keep drinking fake whiskey even after they were drunk, eventually leading them to die from alcohol poisoning.

The autopsy on them showed a blood alcohol concentration of 0.37 percent for one and 0.42 percent for the other. The autopsy report by the National Institute of Scientific Investigation said, “Blood alcohol concentration of 0.37 percent causes hypothermia and breathing difficulty that can lead to a coma.”

“Regardless of whether they had cardiac disease, fake whiskey caused them to pass out and die of cardiac malfunction within one hour.”

○ Avoid persistent touts

One police officer said, “To avoid falling prey to fake whiskey schemes, one must resist touts.”

For touts working for bars selling bogus whisky, drunks are easy targets because they do not suspect that a bottle of whiskey could be fake.

“With the end of the year approaching and people getting together frequently, the number of fake whiskey victims is increasing,” a police officer said.

People are advised to be alert against bars soliciting customers too aggressively and to open whiskey bottles on their own.