9 sen­tenced in fen­tanyl traf­fick­ing case

China Daily Global Edition (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHANG YU in Xingtai, He­bei and CUI JIA in Beijing Con­tact the writ­ers at cui­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

The head of a Chi­nese fen­tanyl pro­duc­tion and traf­fick­ing net­work tar­get­ing cus­tomers in the United States re­ceived a sus­pended death sen­tence at a court in He­bei prov­ince on Thurs­day, in the first crim­i­nal case in­volv­ing opi­oids jointly in­ves­ti­gated by the two coun­tries.

The joint oper­a­tion has proved ef­fec­tive and the two coun­tries will con­tinue to work to­gether to stem the flow of fen­tanyl, a syn­thetic opi­oid, Chi­nese and US nar­cotics con­trol of­fi­cials said.

The bust of the drug traf­fick­ing net­work in China was led by in­for­ma­tion ob­tained by the US Home­land Se­cu­rity In­ves­ti­ga­tions Of­fice in New Or­leans when a co­op­er­at­ing de­fen­dant pro­vided the name and con­tact in­for­ma­tion of an in­di­vid­ual in China from whom he had bought nar­cotics in Au­gust 2017, said Austin Moore, the US De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity and Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment at­tache to China, at a news con­fer­ence af­ter the court hear­ing in Xingtai, He­bei prov­ince.

In Septem­ber 2017, the US au­thor­ity shared the in­for­ma­tion with the Min­istry of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity’s Nar­cotics Con­trol Bureau, and both sides agreed to co­or­di­nate in a joint nar­cotics in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Moore said.

Chi­nese po­lice then con­nected the con­tact in­for­ma­tion with an em­ployee of a bio­chem­i­cal com­pany reg­is­tered in Xingtai. The com­pany turned out to be a dis­trib­u­tor of fen­tanyl tar­get­ing for­eign mar­kets via the in­ter­net, in­clud­ing the US. The com­pany used ex­press mail or reg­u­lar postal ser­vices to smug­gle fen­tanyl abroad, said Yu Haibin, a se­nior nar­cotics con­trol of­fi­cial with the Min­istry of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity.

Po­lice then tracked down the com­pany’s sup­plier, Liu Yong, who be­gan run­ning a fen­tanyl lab in Changzhou, Jiangsu prov­ince, in May 2017, Yu said.

On Nov 6, 2017, the US side wired a pay­ment to the bio­chem­i­cal com­pany, prompt­ing Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties to com­mence a se­ries of raids that yielded an ex­tra­or­di­nary num­ber of ar­rests and seizures of con­tra­band and crim­i­nal pro­ceeds, Moore said.

On Thurs­day, Liu was sen­tenced in the Xingtai In­ter­me­di­ate Peo­ple’s Court to death with a two-year re­prieve for pro­duc­ing and traf­fick­ing 11.9 kilo­grams of fen­tanyl and other nar­cotics.

Jiang Juhua, co-founder of the lab­o­ra­tory, and Wang Fengxi, head of the bio­chem­i­cal com­pany, re­ceived life sen­tences. Six other key mem­bers of the drug net­work also re­ceived fixed-term sen­tences rang­ing from six months to 10 years.

“Dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, we have pro­vided in­for­ma­tion on more than 50 sus­pi­cious postal pack­ages to the US au­thor­i­ties, which has led to three ar­rests so far. The case has set a good ex­am­ple of China and the US jointly fight­ing fen­tanyl-re­lated crimes,” Yu said.

“As the suc­cess of this joint in­ves­ti­ga­tion demon­strates, Chi­nese and Amer­i­can in­ves­ti­ga­tors have the ca­pac­ity to col­lab­o­rate across in­ter­na­tional bor­ders — bring­ing those who would harm our re­spec­tive com­mu­ni­ties to jus­tice. To­day’s event is another im­por­tant step,” said Moore.

Fen­tanyl is a highly po­tent pain re­liever of­ten used by can­cer pa­tients. It is 50 to 100 times stronger than mor­phine.

Af­ter the meet­ing be­tween Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump at the G20 Sum­mit in De­cem­ber, China agreed to list all fen­tanyl de­riv­a­tives as con­trolled sub­stances.

China has stepped up ef­forts to con­trol fen­tanyl-re­lated sub­stances in re­cent years in­clud­ing en­hanc­ing in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion and crack­ing down on un­der­ground lab­o­ra­to­ries.

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