The Andhra Pradesh Police on Tuesday said 10 people have been arrested for illegally distributing spurious sanitiser blended with methanol that killed at least 16 people in Prakasam district in July, reported PTI. Those who died had consumed the concoction, either mixed with alcohol or water, as an alternative to liquor as wine shops were closed due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

Prakasam Superintendent of Police Siddharth Kaushal said a special investigation team of the district police found that a particular sanitiser, sold under the name of “Perfect Gold”, caused the deaths as it was made of methanol instead of ethanol.

The police first identified the people involved in procuring the raw materials for the sanitiser, making and selling it. One Sale Srinivas alias Jajula of Vikarabad district in Telangana, along with his brother Siva Kumar, made the sanitiser illegally and sold it. They had rented a room in Hyderabad city. One Kesav Agarwal was responsible for the distribution of the spurious product while Md Dawood and Md Hazi Sab of Jeedimetla in Hyderabad supplied the methanol and other material to Srinivas, said the police.

“Our SIT arrested these five persons,” said Kaushal. “Later, owners of five medical shops in Kurichedu were also arrested for selling the spurious sanitiser, exhibiting culpable negligence.” All the 10 accused have been remanded to two-week judicial custody.

Main accused Sale Srinivas started manufacturing the hand sanitiser by watching YouTube videos, the police told the Hindustan Times. “He did not get any licence from drug administration authority or did not get any permission from the government to install the manufacturing unit,” said the superintendent of police.

Most of them who died were beggars and rickshaw pullers who were “addicted to liquor”, said Kaushal. “The SIT collected 69 bottles from the different scenes of crime and identified that the deceased consumed eight brands of sanitisers,” said the superintendent of police. “The team started locating their addresses and manufacturing units. One of these brands - Perfect Gold – had no batch number and was found to have been supplied by Vandana Pharma from Bengaluru. But during investigation, the SIT found that there was no such company,” Kaushal added.