WASHINGTON/NEW YORK – The U.S. Justice Department on Friday filed criminal charges against four Chinese chemical companies and eight individuals over allegations of illegally trafficking the chemicals used to make fentanyl – a highly addictive painkiller that has fueled the opioid crisis in the United States.
The indictments mark the first time the United States has sought to prosecute one of the Chinese companies responsible for manufacturing precursor chemicals used to make the painkiller.
Chinese Embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu condemned the move as “a well-planned booby-trap operation by the US side, which has seriously undermined the legitimate rights of relevant companies and individuals.”
He said such a “long-armed jurisdiction” would create more obstacles for China-US cooperation in the fight against narcotics.
The move came after Antony Blinken made the first visit to China by a US secretary of state in five years and said he had made it clear that Washington needed much greater Chinese cooperation to stem the fentanyl stream.
During his visit, the two sides agreed to stabilize their intense rivalry so that it does not escalate into conflict, but produced no breakthrough and the mood quickly deteriorated after US President Joe Biden called Chinese leader Xi Jinping a dictator on Tuesday. .
The companies at the heart of the three separate indictments are accused of selling precursor chemicals to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, which flooded the United States with drugs.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have announced the unsealing of Chinese company Hubei Amarvel Biotech, along with its executives Qingzhou Wang, 35, Yiyi Chen, 31, and Fnu Lnu, also known as Er Yang, for fentanyl trafficking, importation of precursor chemicals, and money laundering offences.
In the Eastern District of New York, prosecutors announced the unsealing of two other indictments against three other Chinese companies and individuals charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute fentanyl.
Prosecutors said the companies – including one called Hebei Sinaloa Trading Co – advertised precursor chemicals on social media in Mexico and the United States, and used fake customs forms and mislabeled packages to ship the chemicals by ship and by plane.
Two months earlier, the Justice Department accused leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel of running a fentanyl trafficking operation fueled by Chinese chemical companies, including three sons of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the former leader of the cartel currently imprisoned in the United States.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco said the cases are “breaking new ground by attacking the fentanyl supply chain at its origin.”
“Fentanyl poses a singular threat, not only because the smallest doses can be fatal, but because fentanyl does not occur in nature. It is entirely man-made.”
Also on Friday, Blinken announced that he would convene a virtual ministerial meeting on July 7 with dozens of countries and international organizations, to launch a global coalition against synthetic drug threats.
The aim would be to unite countries “in a concerted effort to prevent the illicit manufacture and trafficking of synthetic drugs, identify emerging drug trends and respond effectively to their public health impacts”, he said. he said in a statement.
The Department of Justice says secret Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sources posing as fentanyl makers met with Wang and Chen earlier this year and agreed to buy 210 kg of fentanyl precursors in exchange. of a payment in cryptocurrency. The DEA recovered the chemicals from a Los Angeles warehouse in May.
Wang and Chen were arrested by DEA agents on June 8 and sentenced to be held in Honolulu, Hawaii until they could be transported to New York to appear before the judge handling the case. Yang is still on the run.
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