Published: Sun, November 10, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

China court sends 9 to prison for smuggling opioids into U.S.

China court sends 9 to prison for smuggling opioids into U.S.

The Hebei case began in 2017, when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents tipped off the Chinese government that an global fentanyl trafficking ring seemed to be operating out of China.

After the sentences were announced, a senior Chinese official told reporters that the accused had been smuggling fentanyl to the USA, adding that Chinese authorities had acted on information provided by a USA government body in China in 2017.

Working off a 2017 tip from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Chinese police busted a drug ring based in the northern Chinese city of Xingtai that shipped synthetic drugs to the U.S. and other countries from a gritty clandestine laboratory. The company turned out to be a distributor of fentanyl targeting foreign markets via the internet, including the US.

Liu and Jiang were accused of manufacturing and trafficking illicit drugs.

On Nov 6, 2017, the U.S. side wired a payment to the biochemical company, prompting Chinese authorities to commence a series of raids that yielded an extraordinary number of arrests and seizures of contraband and criminal proceeds, Moore said.

One of the people sentenced by the court was given a suspended death sentence - which in practice is normally commuted to life in jail - and two got life sentences, Yu said. They have taken more than 20 suspects into their custody and seized 11.9 kilograms (26.2 pounds) of fentanyl and 19.1 kilograms (42.1 pounds) of other drugs. Those leads prompted more than 25 domestic investigations and have already resulted in three major criminal arrests and indictments in NY and OR, he said.

The state-run China Central Television said on Thursday that a Chinese court handed down sentences for nine people charged with illegally manufacturing and selling the drug.

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Moore said officers in New Orleans obtained in August 2017 the contact details of a supplier in China known as "Diana".

Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid that can be 50 times stronger than heroin.

Officials in the USA are hopeful that China's decision earlier this year to outlaw the unsanctioned distribution of all fentanyl-like drugs as a class will help constrain supply and make it easier to prosecute Chinese dealers. The move means that those who produce or distribute fentanyl can receive the maximum punishment for drug trafficking - death.

Yu Haibin, deputy director of the Office of China National Narcotics Control Commission, on Thursday called allegations that Chinese supply is at the root of America's opioid problem "irresponsible and inconsistent with the actual facts".

He said American deaths from overdoses had continued to rise even as Beijing's control over fentanyl-related substances had tightened.

However, Yu said accusations that China was the main source of the opioid in the United States were untrue.

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