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US Charges 8 Chinese Firms, 12 Nationals in Fentanyl Trade 

FILE — Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington, April 13, 2023, as Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, left, stands by.
FILE — Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington, April 13, 2023, as Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, left, stands by.

The U.S. Justice Department announced a sweeping crackdown on the global fentanyl network, charging eight Chinese chemical companies and 12 of their employees in connection with the deadly opioid crisis ravaging the United States.

In eight separate indictments unsealed in Florida, federal prosecutors accused the companies and their employees of producing fentanyl and methamphetamine, distributing synthetic opioids, and supplying precursor chemicals for the illicit drug.

"We know that the global fentanyl supply chain, which ends with the deaths of Americans, often starts with chemical companies in China," Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference in Washington.

"The United States government is focused on breaking apart every link in that chain, getting fentanyl out of our communities, and bringing those who put it there to justice," he said.

The Treasury Department on Tuesday announced sanctions against 28 people and entities in China and Canada, including the China-based network accused of manufacturing and distributing illicit drugs in the United States.

This is the second time the U.S. Justice Department has charged Chinese companies and their employees for trafficking fentanyl precursor chemicals into the United States.

In June, four Chinese chemical manufacturing companies and eight executives and employees were indicted for illegally trafficking chemicals used to make fentanyl. Two of the defendants were arrested.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington could not be reached for comment on the latest charges.

In June, the Chinese Foreign Ministry blasted the first round of U.S. indictments as "bullyism that tramples on international law."

Deadly drug threat

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can kill with a dose as tiny as a few grains of salt, is wreaking havoc on the nation.

More than 105,000 Americans died of drug overdoses from February 2022 to January 2023, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Most of these deaths involved fentanyl or its analogues, which are chemically similar but often more lethal.

Today, fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 49, making it the deadliest drug threat the U.S. has ever faced, according to law enforcement officials.

Attack on supply chain

The fentanyl crisis is fueled by a global supply chain that extends from China, where the chemicals are produced, to Mexico, where cartels mix the drug and smuggle it across the border into the United States.

The DEA says it is attacking every aspect of this global supply chain, targeting the producers, traffickers and distributors of fentanyl.

"These eight cases are the result of DEA's efforts to attack the fentanyl supply chain where it starts — in China," Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Anne Milgram said at the news conference.

In addition to fentanyl precursors and analogues, Chinese firms are exporting dangerous additives — xylazine and nitazenes — into the U.S. and Mexico, she said.

"DEA will not stop until we defeat this threat," Milgram said.

The cases announced on Tuesday span two Florida districts, where the defendants allegedly shipped the drug and its precursors.

In the Middle District of Florida, five Chinese companies and eight nationals face charges of illegally importing fentanyl and fentanyl-related chemicals into the United States.

Prosecutors say the defendants openly advertised their ability to evade U.S. customs and deliver fentanyl to Florida and elsewhere in the United States.

In the Southern District of Florida, three Chinese companies and four officers and employees face charges of trafficking fentanyl and synthetic opioids, importing precursor chemicals, defrauding the U.S. postal service, and making and using counterfeit postage.