The United States has imposed sanctions and launched indictments against dozens of Chinese companies and individuals it claims are involved in the illegal trade of the highly-addictive drug fentanyl.
The charges and sanctions, brought by the US Attorney’s Offices in Florida and the federal Treasury Department on Tuesday, were strongly condemned by China.
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US officials described their actions, which include charges against Chinese companies and executives accused of advertising, manufacturing and distributing precursor chemicals for synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, as the latest effort in their fight against the deadliest overdose crisis in US history.
“We are here today to deliver a message on behalf of the United States government. We know who is responsible for poisoning the American people with fentanyl,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters.
“We know that this global fentanyl supply chain, which ends with the deaths of Americans, often starts with chemical companies in China,” he said.
Prosecutors accused some of the Chinese chemical manufacturing companies of using fake labels and other mechanisms when shipping the illegal substances to the US to avoid detection. Other shipments went to Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, prosecutors said.
Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for China’s embassy in Washington, DC, said the Chinese government took a firm stance on counter-narcotics and accused the US of “scapegoating” China and undermining China-US anti-drug cooperation.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during his visit to China in June, said he made clear Washington’s need for much greater cooperation from Beijing on stemming the flow of fentanyl. Both sides had agreed to explore setting up a working group on the matter.
The announcement on sanctions and indictments on Tuesday came the day before Attorney General Garland and other senior officials were due to travel to Mexico, where fentanyl trafficking is expected to be a major subject of discussion.
Fentanyl is the newest challenge in the US’s decades-long struggle with the opioid crisis.
More than 100,000 people died from drug overdose deaths in the US in 2022, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), including an estimated 82,998 opioid-involved drug overdose deaths.
Besides charging eight companies, the US Justice Department on Tuesday also indicted 12 company executives for their alleged roles in drug trafficking.
In the coordinated action, the Treasury Department announced sanctions against 28 people and companies – mostly in China but also in Canada.
The sanctions 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”.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies