In early 2022 Dutch health authorities issued a warning about MDMA-laced champagne circulating throughout parts of Europe that hospitalized several people and killed one. An arrest has been made in connection with the case almost two years later, but authorities said there’s no way to know if additional bottles are still in circulation.
According to Dutch media outlet RTL Nieuws, police arrested a 35-year-old man last week in the German town of Weiden on drug trafficking and manslaughter charges in relation to MDMA-laced champagne bottles, the consumption of which reportedly hospitalized just under a dozen people and led to the death of a 52-year-old German man. MDMA, better known as “Molly” or “Ecstasy” is shorthand for 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, a drug which induces feelings of euphoria in the user for several hours.
According to RTL Nieuws, the Polish man, whose name was not released, was arrested due to a tip from Dutch authorities. He allegedly stored the laced champagne bottles in the Netherlands and was also involved with their distribution, though not much other information about the man was released. A German news report said that the prosecutor’s office accused the man of “gang-like trafficking in narcotics in large quantities, negligent bodily harm and negligent homicide.” Authorities said more arrests could be forthcoming as well.
The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) issued a warning about the champagne bottles, specifically 3-liter bottles of Moët and Chandon Ice Impérial, in February of 2022. A press release from the NVWA said the following:
“The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority warns consumers to be very careful with 3-liter champagne bottles from the Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial brand. Recently, a bottle of that size appeared to be filled with the hard drug MDMA (also known as ecstasy) in both Germany and the Netherlands,” said a press release from the NVWA. “Touching and/or drinking the contents of the bottles is life-threatening. This has led to seven very serious cases of illness and one death in Germany. According to the producer, there were four cases of illness in the Netherlands. In both cases, the bottles in question were purchased via a previously unknown website.”
The NVWA clarified that it was somewhat easy to spot which bottles were potentially tainted with MDMA because the liquid did not come out carbonated as champagne does. The liquid did not fizz when poured, it came out a reddish brown color which darkened over time and also gave off a smell of the anise plant, which according to Google has similarities to the smells of licorice, fennel and tarragon.
“The NVWA calls on people to be alert to 3 liter bottles of Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial with lot code LAJ7QAB6780004 and LAK5SAA6490005. This code can be found on the label on the back of the bottle,” the press release said.” Leave the bottle untouched if the contents differ from what is usual for champagne. Bottles filled with MDMA are indistinguishable on the outside from bottles filled with champagne. However, when pouring there is a clear difference.”
According to the NVWA, there’s no way to be sure how many more bottles, if any, were laced with MDMA and there’s no way to know if these bottles are still available in stores without checking the lot code on the back, as mentioned above. The health authority stressed that anyone who buys that brand of champagne should be on high alert, call emergency services if the liquid is ingested and call the police if anything seems off about a bottle.
“It is not known how the MDMA ended up in these bottles. The NVWA cannot therefore estimate whether there are more of these bottles containing the hazardous substance in circulation, the press release said. “It cannot be ruled out that there are other bottles of the same brand in circulation that also contain MDMA”
According to the aforementioned German news report, the seven people who were hospitalized were out having a celebratory dinner with friends when they bought the tainted champagne. The report described everyone fainting at the table after the champagne was brought out. The 52-year-old who died had reportedly drank more of the champagne than the others, who had only sipped it. All seven people reportedly made full recoveries and attended a memorial for their deceased friend in February.
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