Police arrest alleged key figure in Indonesia alcohol deaths

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian police arrested the alleged head of a bootleg liquor empire on Wednesday following the deaths of dozens of people this month from drinking tainted alcohol.

West Java police spokesman Trunoyudo Wisnu Andiko said Samsudin Simbolon was captured in a palm oil plantation in southern Sumatra.

"The official announcement about him would be held on Thursday after he is interrogated," Trunoyudo said.

Police said Simbolon produced bootleg liquor in the West Java district of Cicalengka, where at least 45 people have died since the beginning of April.

Some 100 people have died in Indonesia this month from drinking toxic alcohol, with the deaths concentrated in West Java and the capital, Jakarta.

Potentially lethal methanol can be a byproduct of home brewing.

Police say they're carrying out a "scorched earth" crackdown on the makers and distributors of black-market liquor, but it's unclear how effective it will be.

Taxes and curbs on the sale of legal alcohol in Muslim-majority Indonesia have created a significant black market for bootleg drinks among the country's poor.

Deaths from tainted alcohol are common in Indonesia, but the latest cluster of fatalities was extreme, leading to speculation that a single large distributor was responsible.

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