Death sentence for fentanyl trafficker in China after tip-off from the United States
Mavis Otoo Mrs.
Nov. 07, 2019
A court in northern China has sentenced one fentanyl trafficker to death and eight others to jail in the first big joint drug bust between China and the United States.
The nine were sentenced after pleading guilty to manufacturing and trafficking the opioid to the US in a public trial in Xingtai Intermediate People’s Court, Hebei province, in September last year.
The trial was witnessed by the media and American law enforcement officials and follows tensions between the two countries over regulation of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, which have been blamed for tens of thousands of overdose deaths in the US.
On Thursday, 41-year-old Jiangsu man Liu Yong was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for manufacturing more than 11.5kg (25.3lbs) of fentanyl and over 8kg of other synthetic opioids in 2017.
Another central figure in the case, Wang Fengxi, 35, from Xingtai, Hebei, was given a life sentence.
Wang hired English-speaking women to post advertisements on overseas websites for the drugs – including fentanyl; alprazolam, a tranquilliser; and cathinone, a stimulant similar to amphetamine – and sent the finished products overseas through the mail.
He avoided more severe punishment by cooperating with investigators, resulting in the arrest of two other drug traffickers.
Jiang Juhua, 54, also from Jiangsu, was jailed for life for her role as a middleman between Wang and Liu.
Six of Wang’s accomplices, including women Wang hired to place and take orders, were given sentences ranging from six months to 10 years.
Yu Haibin, deputy director of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, said the investigation also led to the arrest of three suspects in the US, where other leads were being pursued.
“The heavy sentencing of Liu, Jiang and Wang shows the position and resolution of the Chinese government to severely punish fentanyl-related crimes and our consistent zero-tolerance attitude on drug-related crimes,” Yu said.
The investigation was triggered in August, 2017, when US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers found the telephone number of a woman suspected of smuggling fentanyl. The US authorities passed the number on to their Chinese counterparts and the case became a top priority for the Ministry of Public Security.
Officers in Xingtai later identified the suspect as a woman from Wang’s company and followed the trail to Liu and Jiang.
According to earlier media reports, police in Shanghai intercepted parcels of controlled narcotic substances sent by Wang. In November 2017, 11 suspects were detained Xingtai and Shanghai. A month later, eight more suspects were detained in Jiangsu and Shanghai and two more were caught in Shijiazhuang, Hebei, in January last year.
Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and some of its much more potent and easily made analogues have been blamed by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention for 28,466 fatal overdoses in 2017, about 60 per cent of all opioid overdose deaths in the US for that year.
US officials have accused China of being the main source of illicit fentanyl and related substances smuggled into the United States.
In August, US President Donald Trump accused his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, of failing to meet his promises and of not doing enough to stop the flow of the synthetic opioid.
But Beijing said it had made unprecedented efforts to curb the supply of fentanyl, including adding all fentanyl-related substances to a controlled list from May, and cooperating with US law enforcers. It urged the US government to improve its domestic regulations to tackle the root of the crisis.
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