Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - China jails nine for sale of fentanyl to US buyers




China jails nine for sale of fentanyl to US buyers

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Police stand outside the Xingtai Intermediate People’s court in Xingtai, Hebei province. China jailed nine people on Thursday, one with a suspended death sentence, for illegally selling fentanyl to US buyers. WANG ZHAO/AFP

China jails nine for sale of fentanyl to US buyers

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

The US has long accused China of being the main source of the highly addictive drug, with Trump charging in August that Beijing had reneged on its promise to crack down on fentanyl.

The sentencing came as the global powers are seeking to finalise a trade deal following more than a year of bruising negotiations, with the flood of Chinese fentanyl one of the sticking points.

US authorities say the synthetic opioid causes more than 100 deaths a day in the US.

US-Chinese probe

The court in northern Hebei province described the case as the first successful joint US-Chinese probe related to fentanyl smuggling, and US officials also hailed the verdict.

“As the success of the joint investigation demonstrates, Chinese and American investigators can collaborate across international borders,” Austin Moore, an attache for the US Homeland Security Department in China, said at a press conference with Chinese officials following the sentencing.

China’s narcotics bureau discovered in 2017 a criminal ring based in Shanghai and eastern Jiangsu province and seized 11.9kg of fentanyl, acting on a tip-off from US border authorities, according to the court.

Of the nine people jailed in Hebei, one was given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, which generally means a life term.

’High profit, huge demand’

Two others received life terms for trafficking fentanyl and alprazolam – the hugely popular prescription anxiety drug branded as Xanax.

The nine defendants were brought in surrounded by guards and stood facing court officials to hear their sentences read.

The three defendants with the toughest sentences were “lured by high profit and huge demand” from US buyers, the Xingtai Intermediate People’s Court said.

In November 2016, two of the defendants began advertising drugs through the internet using companies they had registered for pharmaceutical sales operations, the court said in a statement.

In 2017 two other defendants – including Liu Yong, who was given the suspended death sentence – set up a processing lab where they illegally processed fentanyl and sold it to these companies to smuggle to the US.

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

The Americans then shared the information with Chinese counterparts and the investigation led to the arrests at the end of 2017, Moore said.

In May, China began designating all variants of fentanyl as controlled substances, a move welcomed by Washington.

The drug had previously often slipped past law enforcement due in part to the ability of drug makers to tweak formulas and create fentanyl analogues not restricted by existing Chinese law.

Nevertheless, Trump announced new tariffs on China over the summer as a response to what he saw as China’s continued failure to stem the flow of fentanyl into the US.

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

Yu Haibin, from China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, said at the press conference that Beijing had maintained close communication with US authorities.

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

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

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 charged by US authorities with distributing the drug in the US.

But experts warned much more work was needed to stamp out the drug trade to the US.

“It is good to see the Chinese government working on a fentanyl case with their American counterparts,” Scott Stewart, a security analyst at Stratfor, told AFP.

“But until they address the deeper problems, such as the tax credits companies get for selling certain chemicals and go after the powerful players, they are not going to be able to stop the flow of fentanyl and fentanyl precursors.”

MOST VIEWED

  • PM slams HRW ‘double standards’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has chided Human Rights Watch (HRW) Asia director Brad Adams for keeping quiet over protest crackdowns in the US following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Addressing reporters while inspecting infrastructure development in Preah Sihanouk province on Monday,

  • Four more UN troops infected by Covid virus

    Four more Cambodian Blue Helmet peacekeepers in Mali have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, bringing the number of infected Cambodian UN peacekeepers to 10. National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces and Explosive Remnants of War deputy director-general and spokeswoman Kosal Malinda told The Post on Tuesday

  • Huge tracks of undocumented land a concern for registration officials

    Siem Reap provincial deputy governor Ly Samrith expressed concern that land registration plans for residents scheduled to be completed by late 2021 could not be achieved because 80 per cent of the land had not been registered. Land dispute issues are a major factor that poses a

  • Seniority payments postponed

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training announced on Monday the postponement of seniority payments for workers prior to 2019 and new seniority payments for workers in 2020, opting to implement them next year instead. The ministry also asked more than 25,000 workers in the garment and tourism

  • Garment sector requests EU to postpone EBA withdrawal

    Representatives of apparel, footwear and travel goods producers and the EU business community in the Kingdom on Tuesday requested the European Commission (EC) to postpone its withdrawal of the Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential trade scheme for 12 months. The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC),

  • Regions prepare to spread wings again

    As cases of Covid-19 begin to taper, it is natural that business travellers in the Asia-Pacific will want to fly again. For a region where trade anchors prosperity, this is as essential as reopening schools, shops and offices. Singapore has started talks with China, Malaysia,