A Chinese fentanyl trafficking gang leader was sentenced to death, which includes a two-year reprieve, by a court in Hebei province on Thursday. The leader was targeting international clients, including buyers from the US and Canada, China Daily reports.
Eight other gang members were given prison sentences ranging from six months to a life sentence for their involvement in dealing illegal narcotics, such as fentanyl, alprazolam and cathinone. In 2017, US authorities tipped off China’s narcotics division about a possible fentanyl trafficking gang dealing the deadly opioid overseas. After a three-month investigation, police arrested 20 gang members involved with the illegal operation and busted a production base in Changzhou, Jiangsu, seizing 11.9 kilograms of fentanyl in the process.
Yu Haibin, a senior narcotics control official with the Ministry of Public Security, said this case marked the first time that China and the US jointly worked on a fentanyl case, according to China Daily.
Fentanyl, an opioid that’s been linked to a sharp rise in drug overdose deaths, has been one of many talking points between the US and China in ongoing trade talks. President Donald Trump has been outspoken about Chinese smugglers bringing fentanyl into the US, blaming the PRC for the drug deaths. China refuted those claims, with the China Narcotics Commission’s vice commissioner calling Trump’s claims “completely groundless and untrue,” according to the Associated Press. In 2016, there were 18,335 drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl in the US, more than a 1,000% increase in the number of fentanyl-related deaths since 2011.
Earlier this year, Beijing added ‘fentanyl-related substances’ to their list of controlled drugs as an attempt to stop drug labs from bypassing the law with minor modifications to the chemical structure of the narcotic.
[Cover image via China Daily]