Nine jailed in landmark US-China operation

Cheryl Sanders
November 9, 2019

Austin Moore, an attaché to China for the DHS, told the Associated Press the Xingtai case was "an important step" showing that Chinese and US investigators are able to collaborate across global borders.

The Xingtai Intermediate People's Court in Hebei province imposed the most severe penalties on three people accused of leading the ring.

Of the nine people jailed in Hebei, one was given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, which generally means a life term. Death sentences are nearly always commuted to life in prison after the reprieve. Synthetic drugs like fentanyl and tramadol are created to relieve pain but have been abused and manufactured illegally in clandestine labs for sale on illicit markets.

The three defendants with the toughest sentences were "lured by high profit and huge demand" from United States buyers, the Xingtai Intermediate People's Court said.

After the sentences were announced, a senior Chinese official told reporters that the accused had been smuggling fentanyl to the United States, adding that Chinese authorities had acted on information provided by a U.S. government body in China in 2017. The convictions are the first to arise from China's joint investigation with American law enforcement into smuggling of the highly-addictive painkiller that has been blamed for thousands of overdose deaths in the U.S. "This case has nothing to do with the trade war", he said later in response to a question from Bloomberg. "We must also respect each other's legal system".

Fentanyl - an even more potent lab-made drug that raked in profits - then entered the US illicit drug supply, causing overdose deaths to spike. In August, President Donald Trump lashed out at Chinese President Xi Jinping for failing to do more to combat illicit opioid distribution in China's vast, freewheeling chemicals industry. USA officials have reportedly moved to link Beijing's efforts on fentanyl to US trade talks.

A court in China has sentenced nine fentanyl traffickers on November 7 in a case that is the culmination of rare cooperation between Chinese and USA law enforcement to identify the global networks that produce and distributes lethal synthetic opioids.

But Haibin on Thursday said allegations that the Chinese supply is at the root of America's opioid problem "irresponsible and inconsistent with the actual facts".

"Drug crime is the public enemy of all humankind", he added. According to the reports of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500000 Americans lost their lives due to drug overdoses at the end of 2017. The court issued stiff prison sentences to nine people caught in an illegal fentanyl ring.

Nevertheless, Trump announced new tariffs on China over the summer as a response to what he saw as China's continued failure to stem the flow of fentanyl into the US.

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