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Moonshine and smuggling rises

MANY licensed alcohol producers are turning out spirits illegally, and while police know about it, officers' involvement in the illegal trade and transport stops anyone from tackling the problem, the head of the Slovak Association of Spirit Producers (SASP) has said.

While official statistics show that Slovaks have been drinking less over the last 10 years, more and more people are dying from alcohol-related diseases.

Ján Kiraly, president of the SASP, says licensed spirit makers are producing alcohol on the black that doesn't come up to standards required by law.

"The Agriculture Ministry, which gives out these licences, also gives them to producers who don't fulfil the conditions of the law - they're not qualified. But the ministry doesn't check how its own law is working in reality," he said.

"Death caused by liver disease in men aged between 35 and 50 is, after Hungary, the highest in Europe. Indirectly this shows our hidden consumption. Home production and smuggling of alcohol is greater than we thought," he added.

Kiraly also claims that police are reluctant to act, fearing the loss of the huge sums they themselves take from the black business.

"Everybody's got an interest in it, their pockets are lined with money from it. Even the European Union knows about, it but the production of black alcohol is still rising."

Kiraly claims he has written to the Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda about the illegal production, but has received no reply.

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