They used to buy rectified spirit in bulk from Old Dhaka's Mitford area. Then they would mix water, caramelised sugar or molasses, and a few chemicals with it to get the colour and flavour of foreign brews.
High concentration alcohol meant for commercial uses such as wood polishing is then poured into wine bottles of foreign brands. The caps are wrapped with transparent plastic to give those an original look.
Amid countrywide deaths related to toxic alcohol, the Detective Branch (DB) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) busted a six-member gang Monday night who had been making the spurious liquor in Dhaka's Vatara area.
"Drinking this toxic brew, a number of individuals have already died," said DB Additional Commissioner AKM Hafiz Akhtar, adding they unearthed the factory by following some customers.
The police official said the gang used to purchase spirit from Old Dhaka and collect the bottles of popular wine brands from salvage stores.
In the last two weeks, at least 18 persons, including two university students, died after drinking toxic alcohol in Dhaka and Bogura.
The Department of Narcotics Control said a recent import duty hike on foreign liquors might have increased the consumption of bootleg alcohol, which resulted in the deaths.
Dulal Krishna Saha, chief chemical examiner of the department, said many chemical traders are producing the liquors at different places illegally to meet the demand caused by the supply crunch of foreign liquor.
Apart from chemical traders, police said some gangs are also selling commercial grade spirit in the name of foreign liquors. DMP Additional Commissioner Hafiz Akhtar told the press Tuesday that they ramped up drives against such gangs.
Visiting some restaurants and bars in the city, this correspondent found that there was a shortage of foreign liquors, and the bars had already doubled or tripled the prices. The bars have also postponed their "parcel service" (take away) as the customers are only allowed to have the drinks inside.
A source at the narcotics control department told The Business Standard that a huge amount of imported liquor has remained stuck at Chattogram port as the warehouses did not receive those from the port.
"The warehouses are not receiving the imported brands as they are unwilling to pay the hiked duty," added the source.