US files first-ever charges against Chinese fentanyl manufacturers

The US Justice Department has filed criminal charges against Chinese nationals and Chinese chemical companies for illegally trafficking ingredients used in the production of fentanyl. This marks the first time that the US has sought to prosecute China-based chemical manufacturing companies and individuals for trafficking precursor chemicals used in the production of fentanyl. The charges have been brought in the Southern and Eastern districts of New York.

Despite bilateral efforts to establish a working group to curb the flow of precursors and equipment used in the production of fentanyl, the Chinese foreign ministry criticized the charges, calling them arbitrary, unilateral, and illegal. They claimed that the charges violated the basic human rights of Chinese citizens and the interests of Chinese enterprises, and would undermine bilateral cooperation against drugs.

Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that the US is targeting every step of the fentanyl production process, including the Chinese chemical companies that supply precursor chemicals to drug cartels. Fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 49, and overdoses related to the drug have been on the rise.

The charges involve Wuhan-based chemical company Hubei Amarvel Biotech and its executives, Anhui-based companies Anhui Rencheng Technology and Anhui Moker New Material Technology, and their employees. The companies and individuals have been charged with various offenses including fentanyl trafficking, precursor chemical importation, and money laundering.

China had been the main source of fentanyl entering the US until 2019 when Beijing imposed stricter export controls. However, the final production capacity has largely shifted to countries like Mexico, which smuggle the finished product into the US. The US has been urging China to cooperate in disrupting the global flow of synthetic drugs and their precursor chemicals. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently raised the issue during his visit to Beijing and called for collaboration to address the synthetic drug threat.

The US has imposed sanctions on Chinese entities and individuals allegedly involved in fentanyl trafficking. China has warned that these sanctions could hinder cooperation in tackling the fentanyl crisis. In response to the charges, China’s foreign ministry has lodged a protest with the US government.

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