German prosecutors said Thursday they had arrested a suspect in the case of a 52-year-old man who died after unwittingly drinking champagne laced with ecstasy at a restaurant last year.
Other members of the man’s party fell ill with symptoms of poisoning immediately after drinking from the same contaminated three-liter bottle in the Bavarian town of Weiden in February 2022.
Five men and three women between the ages of 33 and 52 were rushed to hospital, where the 52-year-old died later that night.
Toxicology tests had revealed that the champagne contained a “high concentration” of the illegal drug MDMA, more commonly called ecstasy.
After drinking the tainted champagne, some of the patrons were writhing in pain on the restaurant floor and screaming in agony, local media reported.
The prosecutor’s office in Weiden said Thursday the 35-year-old Polish suspect had fled to the Netherlands where he was detained in cooperation with Dutch and Polish authorities.
He is facing charges including organized narcotics trafficking as well as negligent homicide and bodily harm.
The suspect, allegedly working with a criminal gang, “is believed to have been responsible for storing narcotics kept in bottles in the Netherlands and thus shares the blame for the bottles winding up with third parties,” the prosecutor’s office said.
“A small sip can be fatal”
Investigators tracing the source of the ecstasy followed a trail back to the Netherlands, finding several bottles with similar contamination that were repeatedly sold on to other parties who were all unaware of their contents. One of these bottles ended up in Weiden.
German prosecutors said they were continuing to investigate to identify other possible accomplices.
After the death in Weiden, German and Dutch authorities issued a warning to consumers that drinking from or even touching such bottles, which were Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial brand, could be “life threatening,” adding that there could be other tainted bottles in circulation. They said the spiked champagne has a reddish-brown color.
“Even dipping a fingertip in the liquid and tasting it, even without swallowing, can lead to serious health problems,” the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority said. “Ingesting a small sip can be fatal.”
In 2020, a woman died after unknowingly taking a sip of wine laced with ecstasy in Belgium, according to prosecutors.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, MDMA is a synthetic drug that became popular in the 1980s. The drug can cause a dangerous increase in body temperature that can be fatal. MDMA can also stress the heart, increasing heart rate and blood pressure and can damage the kidneys, the institute says.