Published: Thu, November 07, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

China sentences 9 in fentanyl trafficking case after U.S. tip

China sentences 9 in fentanyl trafficking case after U.S. tip

A Chinese court docket sentenced a few fentanyl traffickers Thursday in a circumstance that was a fruits of a rare collaboration concerning Chinese and US law enforcement to crack down on worldwide networks that manufacture and distribute deadly artificial opioids.

Austin Moore, an attaché to China for the U.S. Homeland Security Department, said the case was "an important step" showing that Chinese and U.S. investigators have the capacity to collaborate across global borders.

China on Thursday jailed nine people for selling fentanyl to Americans, the result of a landmark joint probe, following Donald Trump's fury at Beijing for its perceived inaction against Chinese suppliers fuelling the deadly opioid crisis in the United States.

Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid, 50 times more potent than heroin.

USA officials have been hopeful that China's move earlier this year to outlaw unsanctioned distribution of all fentanyl-like drugs as a class will help constrain supply and make it easier to prosecute Chinese dealers.

Chinese police, working from a tip from the Department of Homeland Security, discovered the drug ring's processing plant and seized 11.9 kilograms (26.2 pounds) of fentanyl and 19.1 kilograms (42.1 pounds) of other substances, including aprozolam, commonly known as Xanax, Chinese officials said.

"Lured by high profit and huge demand from overseas buyers", three people surnamed Wang, Liu and Jiang trafficked fentanyl as well as alprazolam, a prescription anxiety drug also known as Xanax, to U.S. buyers, it said. 6 other users of the operation received lesser sentences.

Previously, the drug had overlooked law enforcement due in part to the ability of drug manufacturers to modify formulas and create fentanyl analogues that are not restricted by current Chinese law.

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A year later, Mr Trump said Chinese President Xi Jinping had promised to stop fentanyl reaching the United States, but had not.

However, Trump announced new tariffs on China during the summer in response to what he saw as China's continuing failure to stop the flow of fentanyl into the United States.

The two countries have since pledged to work together to fight the proliferation of the drug.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in the decade ending in 2017 - increasingly, from synthetic opioids like the ones sold by the Xingtai network.

The drugs, drug-making raw materials and tools involved in the case will be confiscated, and all of the illegal gains will be confiscated, the court said. "The number of deaths from substance abuse in the United States is not rising, which indicates that the US opioid crisis is not highly correlated with China".

The White House's "drug czar", Jim Carroll, said after meetings with Chinese officials in September that he was convinced that Beijing was committed to going after traffickers.

In October, three Chinese citizens were accused by U.S. authorities of distributing the drug in the United States.

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