A Chinese court yesterday sentenced nine fentanyl traffickers in a case that was a culmination of a rare collaboration between Chinese and US law enforcement to crack down on global networks that manufacture and distribute lethal synthetic opioids.
Liu Yong (劉勇) was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, while Jiang Juhua (蔣菊華) and Wang Fengxi (王風璽) were sentenced to life in prison.
Six other members of the operation got lesser sentences, ranging from six months to 10 years.
Working off a 2017 tip-off from the US Department of Homeland Security about an online drug vendor who went by the name Diana, Chinese police busted a drug ring in Xingtai that shipped synthetic drugs to the US and other nations from a gritty clandestine laboratory.
They arrested more than 20 suspects and seized 11.9kg of fentanyl, as well as 19.1kg of other drugs.
In its form, the enterprise resembled a small business, with a perky sales force that spoke passable English, online marketing, contract manufacturing and a sophisticated export operation, US and Chinese law enforcement said.
However, the business had grave implications. Police photographs of the seizure show a dingy, chaotic scene, with open containers of unidentified chemicals, and Chinese police officers in rubber gloves and breathing masks.
Liu and Jiang were accused of manufacturing and trafficking illicit drugs. The others were accused of trafficking.
Death sentences are almost always commuted to life in prison after the reprieve.
Chinese officials said the Xingtai case was one of three fentanyl trafficking networks they are pursuing based on US intelligence, but declined to discuss the details of the other cases, which are ongoing.
Homeland Department attache to China Austin Moore said the Xingtai case was “an important step,” showing that Chinese and US investigators have the capacity to collaborate across international borders.
Scrambling to contain surging overdose deaths, Washington has blamed Beijing for failing to curb the supply of synthetic drugs that US officials say come mainly from China.
US President Donald Trump in August criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) for failing to do more to combat illicit opioid distribution in China’s vast, freewheeling chemicals industry.
US officials have reportedly moved to link Beijing’s efforts on fentanyl to trade talks.
China National Narcotics Control Commission Deputy Director Yu Haibin yesterday called allegations that Chinese supply is at the root of the opioid problem in the US “irresponsible and inconsistent with the actual facts.”
“Drug crime is the public enemy of all humankind,” he said. “It’s about the life of human beings. It should not be related with the trade war or other political reasons.”
Chinese officials have been at pains to emphasize the efforts they have made to expand drug controls and crack down on illicit suppliers, even though synthetic opioid abuse is not perceived to be a significant problem in China, but prosecuting cases against a new, rising class of synthetic drug kingpins has remained a challenge.
Profit-seeking chemists have adroitly exploited regulatory loopholes by making small changes to the chemical structure of banned substances to create so-called analogues that are technically legal.
US officials have been hopeful that China’s move earlier this year to outlaw unsanctioned distribution of all fentanyl-like drugs as a class would help constrain supply and make it easier to prosecute Chinese dealers.
According to the US 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 such as the ones sold by the Xingtai network.
TARNISHED LEGACY: Woodrow Wilson served as the university’s president before becoming the US’ 28th leader, but his racism was ‘significant and consequential’ Princeton University is removing former US president Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges after trustees concluded that the 28th president’s “racist thinking and policies” made him “an inappropriate namesake.” The Ivy League school’s trustees made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on Saturday. It comes at a time of widespread rethinking of the US’ racial legacy. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, energized by a series of high-profile deaths of black Americans, has resulted in the removal of Confederate monuments, flags and symbols of racism across the US. Deleting Wilson’s name at Princeton
‘FULLY ENCLOSED’: Residents of Anxin County would be confined to their homes and would only be allowed out once a day to buy necessities such as food and medicine China yesterday imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people near the capital to contain a fresh COVID-19 cluster as authorities warned the outbreak was still “severe and complicated.” After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in Hebei Province. Health officials said that Anxin County — about 150km from Beijing — would be “fully enclosed and controlled,” the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year. Only one person from each family would be allowed to go out once a
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
‘CHAPITOS’: An ex-DEA agent said the sons of the former cartel head are engaged in a battle for control, with the health of the man temporarily in charge a factor The fight for control of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s legacy spilled into the open on Thursday after a gun battle between rival Mexican gangs left 16 dead, authorities said. The 16 men, heavily armed and wearing bulletproof vests, died in a six-hour running shootout near the rural town of Tepuche in northwestern Sinaloa province. “A van with seven bodies was located” after an initial clash, while nine bodies were discovered following a second exchange, Sinaloa Minister of Security Cristobal Castaneda told reporters. Castaneda said that Wednesday’s clash near Tepuche, 25km from the capital of Sinaloa, Culiacan, was “part of a struggle