REVENUE and Gardaí are continuing to chase down the source of a lethal homebrew alcohol that was being sold to homeless people in Cork.
A 36-year-old Eastern European is suspected of packaging and selling the illegal substance, which was sold in 500ml water bottles for between €11 and €13. He is currently being sought by the Gardai.
The individual remains at large following a multi-agency sting operation targeting the Russian or Polish poitín on the northside of the city yesterday.
Gardaí along with other agencies raided a residential premises early yesterday morning.
It is believed that social welfare cards were taken from people and payment for the alcohol was withdrawn directly from their accounts on a weekly basis.
It is understood that the alcohol being supplied is incredibly potent and may be indirectly linked to more than one death that has occurred recently in the city.
Gardaí said they thought 120 bottles were being sold on a weekly basis, producing an income of €120,000 to €300,000 a year.
A quantity of homemade alcohol, roughly estimated to be 60 litres, was seized along with a significant amount of cash during yesterday's raid. Hundreds of bottles were also being prepared for packaging.
Gardaí said that the Food Safety Authority (FSAI) and the HSE will be investigating with a view to a prosecution from a public health concern.
Speaking to The Echo, Detective Inspector Danny Coholan said the investigation was the result of three months work.
It began after Gardaí patrolling the city by bike became suspicious of the contents of water bottles being used by homeless people.
“The mountain bike patrols kept coming across homeless people with these water bottles full of alcohol, that is when we first realised there was a problem back in June,” Det Insp Coholan said.
Det Insp Coholan said while they have a suspect for the packaging and sale of the substance, they are unsure of where the ethanol for the alcohol was coming from.
“The ethanol can be bought commercially or it can be manufactured so Revenue is heading up the investigation looking into where this substance came from.”
Cork Simon Campaigns and communications manager Paul Sheehan said he was shocked when he heard the news.
“It is preying on vulnerable people,” Mr Sheehan said.
Cork Simon centre operates a harm reduction approach to their clients and spend time making people aware that anything you buy on the street could be detrimental to your health.
“This is an ongoing piece of work, we may need to step it up and make sure people are aware.”
Coordinator of Cork Penny Dinners Catriona Twomey described the the case as shocking, although she said the organisation was aware of the issue for some time.
“He knew what he was doing. It was a case of supply and demand for him. It is fraud at the end of the day and the worst kind, because he is preying on vulnerable people in very tough situations.”
Ms Twomey said she was delighted to hear the sting operation had been successful.
"We just hope that they keep on top of it. That stuff was twisting people’s minds and bodies.
“We are very grateful to the guards for putting a stop to it. This was lethal stuff.”