United States: Cracking down on Chinese narcotics traffickers

United States: Cracking down on Chinese narcotics traffickers

U.S. officials are stepping up their efforts to stop Chinese businesses from making and selling chemicals used to manufacture synthetic opioids, which ultimately end up in the United States.

The U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network identified three Chinese nationals – Fujing Zheng; his father, Guanghua Zheng; and Xiaobing Yan — as “significant foreign narcotics traffickers” and designated them as narcotics “kingpins.” The U.S. Department of Treasury said the three “run an international drug trafficking operation that manufactures and sells lethal narcotics, directly contributing to the crisis of opioid addiction, overdoses and death in the United States.”

Fujing Zheng and Yan have shipped hundreds of packages of synthetic opioids to the U.S., “targeting customers through online advertising and sales, and using commercial mail carriers to smuggle drugs,” the department said.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control reported that the three men are known to use the digital currency bitcoin. The office is identifying bitcoin addresses associated with the alleged traffickers to “maximize disruption of their financial dealings.”

In 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office unsealed a 43-count indictment charging Fujing Zheng and Guanghua Zheng with conspiring to make and ship illegal drugs to at least 37 states in the U.S. and 25 countries. Xiaobing Yan was indicted on similar charges in 2017. The New York Times newspaper reported that the accused men remain at large.

In April 2019, China announced that it was banning all variants of fentanyl, but it did not ban the chemicals used to make it. That leaves Chinese manufacturers free to make and ship those chemicals to other countries, including Mexico, where the drug can be made. (Pictured: These packets of fentanyl and methamphetamine were seized from a truck crossing into the United States from Mexico.)

Fentanyl is a cheap opioid painkiller that is relatively easy to synthesize. It is 50 times more potent than heroin and has played a major role in the U.S. opioid crisis.  FORUM Staff