Biden targets Chinese suppliers in new front against fentanyl

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The Biden administration pinned blame for the fentanyl crisis on Chinese operatives and moved Tuesday to try to punish them, bringing a series of federal charges and slapping banking restrictions on companies and individuals the government says are responsible for poisoning tens of thousands of Americans. While two Mexican cartels control fentanyl trafficking into the U.S., authorities said they are fabricating the deadly synthetic opioid from “precursor” chemicals chiefly supplied by Chinese entities. “We are here today to deliver a message on behalf of the United States government: We know who is responsible for poisoning the American people with fentanyl,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in announcing eight indictments in two federal courts in Florida. The Treasury Department also announced banking sanctions against a dozen Chinese firms, 13 Chinese individuals, two Canadian firms and one Canadian individual. The sanctions block them from access to U.S. financial institutions. That includes freezing any assets already in those banks. Officials said the moves show the Biden administration’s “whole-of-government effort” to cut into the fentanyl crisis. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco compared the effort to the government’s attempts to counter terrorism and cyber crime, saying it requires tackling a similar global network of adversaries. In bringing the charges, the Justice Department labeled fentanyl “the deadliest drug threat facing the United States in its 247-year history.” The Sinaloa Cartel and Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion produce and control the flow of the drug across the southern border into the U.S. But they rely on chemicals shipped from China, usually mislabeled in order to hide their contents. Chinese firms openly advertise the chemicals, the Justice Department said. Authorities said they built the criminal cases using undercover agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration who acted as drug traffickers, FBI and IRS agents who tracked cryptocurrency payments, Homeland Security officers who traced drug shipments and postal inspectors who kept an eye on what was being sent through the mail. One undercover buyer agreed to pay $12,000 for a 25-kilogram shipment of CAS: 125541-22-2, a precursor chemical. The Justice Department said that’s enough to manufacture 32.5 kilograms of fentanyl. A 2-milligram dose can be deadly.

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