Boston Herald

Top border cop nominee blames China for fake drugs

- By mIchael Graham Michael Graham is managing editor of InsideSour­ces.

While the debate over sanctuary cities and migration made the headlines Tuesday, President Joe Biden’s nominee to be America’s top border cop used his appearance before the Senate Finance Committee to call out a country far from the border for its role in counterfei­t goods and illegal drugs: China.

Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus, nominated to lead the Customs and Border Protection Agency, was questioned about the trade and commerce aspects of his duties by committee members, including Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection has an important role in disrupting internatio­nal drug smuggling operations and interdicti­ng the flow of drugs and money across the U.S. border,” Hassan said, noting that opioid addiction “is ravaging my state of New Hampshire.”

Asked what he would do as CBP director to fight internatio­nal drug traffickin­g, Magnus said he was well aware of the problem of fake pharmaceut­icals, particular­ly those made with fentanyl and other opioids, and he pointed a finger at China.

“We should touch on e-commerce, where we know that there are many opioids and precursors of such that are coming through in small packages,” Magnus said. “Many times through the Postal Service because of relationsh­ips that are complicate­d involving China.

“There are a whole series of ways in which we can do more to address the scourge.”

“China remains the primary source of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked through internatio­nal mail and express consignmen­t operations environmen­t, as well as the main source for all fentanyl-related substances trafficked into the United States,” according to the U.S. Drug Enforcemen­t Agency. The danger from these drugs, which have migrated to mainstream e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay, has become so great the agency issued a rare public alert last month.

“The Drug Enforcemen­t Administra­tion warns the American public of the alarming increase in the lethality and availabili­ty of fake prescripti­on pills containing fentanyl and methamphet­amine,” the alert reads. “Internatio­nal and domestic criminal drug networks are mass-producing fake pills, falsely marketing them as legitimate prescripti­on pills, and killing unsuspecti­ng Americans.”

The agency has seized more than 9.5 million counterfei­t pills so far this year, and “the number of DEAseized counterfei­t pills with fentanyl has jumped nearly 430% since 2019,” it reported.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates China is the source of 86% of the world’s counterfei­t goods, much of it shipped directly to customers in the United States.

The problem of e-commerce counterfei­ting has gotten so big that private businesses are banding together to network with law enforcemen­t in the fight. One organizati­on, United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade (USA-IT), recently hosted a roundtable on “The Dark Side of Cybercrime” to help warn businesses and consumers of the dangers.

“Most of these counterfei­t goods aren’t made in America. They’re made in China and Asia, and they’re transiting around the globe to come into the U.S.,” said Matt Albence, spokespers­on for USA-IT and a former acting director of the Immigratio­n and Customs Enforcemen­t agency. “And a lot of it now comes through the mail — UPS, the Postal Service, DHL. There are all sorts of vulnerabil­ities in the supply chain, and these are areas where law enforcemen­t and corporate America are investing in security.”

And whether it’s counterfei­t medication­s or fake drugs laced with fentanyl, Albence added, the funds from this e-commerce trade often go to criminal gangs and terrorist organizati­ons, like Hezbollah, ISIS and al-Qaeda, as well as drug cartels.

“It’s not just a loss to our economy. The public safety and national security implicatio­ns from this illegal trade are quite dangerous,” Albence said.

Magnus pledged to collaborat­e with state and local law enforcemen­t to fight the flow of drugs, but he also said new technology is required.

Magnus also mentioned the STOP (Synthetics Traffickin­g and Overdose Prevention) Act, which strengthen­ed the collection and sharing of advance electronic data by the United States Postal Service and CBP for internatio­nal mail shipments.

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