Chem­i­cal weapons for sale: China’s un­reg­u­lated nar­cotic

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -


It’s one of the strong­est opi­oids in cir­cu­la­tion, so deadly an amount smaller than a poppy seed can kill a per­son. Un­til July, when re­ports of car­fen­tanil over­doses be­gan to sur­face in the US, the sub­stance was best known for knock­ing out moose and ele­phants - or as a chem­i­cal weapon. De­spite the dan­gers, Chi­nese ven­dors of­fer to sell car­fen­tanil openly on­line, for world­wide ex­port, no ques­tions asked, an As­so­ci­ated Press in­ves­ti­ga­tion has found. The AP iden­ti­fied 12 Chi­nese busi­nesses that said they would ex­port car­fen­tanil to the United States, Canada, the United King­dom, France, Ger­many, Bel­gium and Aus­tralia for as lit­tle as $2,750 a kilo­gram.

Car­fen­tanil burst into view this sum­mer as the lat­est scourge in an epi­demic of opi­oid abuse that has killed tens of thou­sands in the US alone. In China, the top global source of syn­thetic drugs, car­fen­tanil is not a con­trolled sub­stance. The US govern­ment is press­ing China to black­list it, but Bei­jing has yet to act. “We can sup­ply car­fen­tanil ... for sure,” a sales­woman from Jilin Tely Im­port and Ex­port Co. wrote in broken English in a Septem­ber email. “And it’s one of our hot sales prod­uct.” The AP did not ac­tu­ally or­der any drugs, or test whether the prod­ucts on of­fer were gen­uine.

China’s Min­istry of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity de­clined mul­ti­ple re­quests for com­ment. For decades be­fore be­ing dis­cov­ered by drug deal­ers, car­fen­tanil and sub­stances like it were re­searched as chem­i­cal weapons by the US, UK, Rus­sia, Is­rael, China, the Czech Repub­lic and In­dia, ac­cord­ing to pub­licly avail­able doc­u­ments. They are banned from the bat­tle­field un­der the Chem­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion. “It’s a weapon,” said An­drew We­ber, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of de­fense for nu­clear, chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal de­fense pro­grams from 2009 to 2014. “Com­pa­nies shouldn’t be just send­ing it to any­body.” Car­fen­tanil is 100 times more pow­er­ful than fen­tanyl, a re­lated drug that is it­self up to 50 times stronger than heroin. Forms of fen­tanyl are sus­pected in an un­suc­cess­ful 1997 at­tempt by Mos­sad agents to kill a Ha­mas leader in Jor­dan, and were used to lethal ef­fect by Rus­sian forces against Chechen sep­a­ratists who took hundreds of hostages at a Moscow theater in 2002. — AP

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