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US, Chinese Authorities Dismantle Major Drug Ring - 2003-05-17

In New York late Friday, Chinese and U.S. law enforcement officials announced they have broken up one of the world's largest drug operations.

The law enforcement officials say they have made 20 arrests in Asia and the United States, crippling the leadership of an international heroin-trafficking network based in the Fujian province of China. U.S. prosecutors say the organization has smuggled more than $100 million worth of heroin from Southeast Asia into the United States since 2000.

U.S. Attorney James Comey, who made the announcement, said the organization was China's biggest heroin trafficker.

The drug network allegedly brought heroin from Burma into China where it was taken by truck to Fujian province. From there, the heroin was loaded onto boats and shipped the the United States.

Ten of the men were arrested in New York. The arrests were made a week earlier than planned because of developments in the case in China.

Chinese and U.S. officials attributes the success of the operation to unprecedented cooperation between drug agents and law enforcement officials in the two nations.

The defendants could face life in prison. At a minimum, they face sentences of 10 years in jail for drug trafficking and another 20 for money laundering.