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Chinese companies, nationals indicted for shipping fentanyl chemicals to US: DOJ
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Lisa Monaco (Photo by Sarah Silbiger-Pool/Getty Images)

Chinese companies, nationals indicted for shipping fentanyl chemicals to US: DOJ

The Department of Justice announced Tuesday charges against eight China-based companies and 12 Chinese nationals.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco explained during a speech this week that the firms and individuals are being accused of “trying to ship into the United States gallon after gallon of chemicals used to make fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other deadly drugs.”

A DOJ press release revealed the charges related to “fentanyl and methamphetamine production, distribution of synthetic opioids, and sales resulting from precursor chemicals.” It added that the indictments “build on prosecutions announced in June” against Chinese chemical companies and nationals. The department announced charges and sanctions against the Sinaloa Cartel’s trafficking network in April.

Monaco noted that the cartel used a “range of trafficking tactics to ply their deadly trade and cover their tracks,” including “blatant online advertising and encrypted messaging apps to fake shipping schemes and bitcoin payments.”

“This was a whole-of-government effort,” Monaco added.

According to Monaco, as part of the investigation, Drug Enforcement Agency agents posed as drug traffickers to identify the criminals. While the Department of Homeland Security worked to trace and stop the shipments, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service uncovered the blockchain transactions.

Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that the DOJ knows that much of the global fentanyl supply chain starts with chemical companies in China.

“The United States government is focused on breaking apart every link in that chain, getting fentanyl out of our communities, and bringing those who put it there to justice,” Garland stated.

The DOJ reported that many companies creating fentanyl precursor chemicals are “openly” advertising on the internet. The chemicals are then ordered by drug cartels and traffickers and shipped worldwide.

“These China-based chemical companies often attempt to evade law enforcement by using re-shippers in the United States, false return labels, false invoices, fraudulent postage, and packaging that conceals the true contents of the parcels and the identity of the distributors. In addition, these companies tend to use cryptocurrency transactions to conceal their identities and the location and movement of their funds,” the department explained.

Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more than morphine, according to the DOJ. Two milligrams of fentanyl can be deadly to an adult, it added. The synthetic narcotic is currently the leading cause of death for Americans 18 to 49 years old.

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram called fentanyl the “deadliest drug threat our nation has ever faced.” She explained that the precursor chemicals used to create the fentanyl “make it especially deadly.”

“These eight cases are the result of DEA’s efforts to attack the fentanyl supply chain where it starts — in China,” Milgram said.

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