WASHINGTON: The Biden administration took aim Tuesday at the fentanyl trafficking threat, announcing a series of indictments and sanctions against Chinese companies and executives blamed for importing the chemicals used to make the deadly drug.
Officials described the actions, which include charges against eight Chinese companies accused of advertising, manufacturing and distributing precursor chemicals for synthetic opioids like fentanyl, as the latest effort in their fight against the deadliest overdose crisis in US history. The moves come one day before senior administration officials are set to visit
Mexico, whose cartels are part of the global trafficking network, for meetings expected to involve discussion of the drug threat.”We know that this network includes the cartels’ leaders, their drug traffickers, their money launderers, their clandestine lab operators, their security forces, their weapons suppliers, and their chemical suppliers,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference. “And we know that this global fentanyl supply chain, which ends with the deaths of Americans, often starts with chemical companies in China.”
Besides charging eight companies, the Justice Department also indicted 12 executives for their alleged roles in drug trafficking. In a coordinated action, the Treasury Department announced sanctions against 28 people and companies – mostly in China but also in Canada – that will cut them off from the US financial system and prohibit anyone in the US from doing business with them. None of those charged has been arrested, but Garland said prosecutors intended to “bring every one of these defendants to justice.”
“It’s the latest step in the rapid scaling up of our work targeting the financial flows that power the global illicit drug trade,” said Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo. He said Treasury is also seeking out the friends, family members, and affiliates of the people who benefit from drug sales.
“If you benefit from the proceeds of this illicit activity, we are going to come after your assets,” he said.
Mexico and China are the primary sources for fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked directly into the US, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is tasked with combating illicit drug trafficking. Nearly all the precursor chemicals that are needed to make fentanyl come from China. And the companies that make the precursors routinely use fake return addresses and mislabel the products in order to avoid being caught by law enforcement.
One of the examples cited by the Justice Department involves a Chinese pharmaceutical technology company that advertised xylazine, a horse tranquilizer that is often mixed to fentanyl to ensure a more potent high, and shipped the chemicals to the US and to Mexico. One of the purchasers in Mexico, officials said, was a drug trafficker associated with the Sinaloa Cartel.