U.S. Sanctions Chinese And Canadian Entities For Deadly Fentanyl Trade

Published: 09 October 2023

Deadly Pills

The deadly Fentanyl drug can be found in various forms, including snorting, smoking, pills, blotter paper, and patches. It's often mixed with other substances or sold as fake pharmaceutical drugs like oxycodone. (Photo: Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Flickr, License)

By Erika Di Benedetto

The U.S. has sanctioned 28 individuals and companies responsible for producing and distributing deadly drugs such as fentanyl, methamphetamine, MDMA, and precursor chemicals for drug production to the United States and Mexico through a Chinese supply chain.

The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned 13 individuals and 12 companies along with their executives based in China as well as two companies and one individual in Canada.

Law enforcement agencies have found that dozens of China-based companies were selling substances online, such as xylazine and "nitazenes," which are highly potent and are often mixed with illicit drugs like fentanyl.

Xylazine, also known as "tranq," is a strong sedative primarily used in veterinary medicine. However, it is increasingly being misused by drug traffickers who mix it with illegal fentanyl to create a highly dangerous combination.

According to a public safety alert issued by The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), mixtures of fentanyl and xylazine are more potent than either drug on its own, putting users at a significantly higher risk of a fatal drug overdose.

Xylazine has gained the nickname "zombie drug" due to its ability to cause severe injuries in users, including tissue necrosis, which can lead to the need for amputation.

Nitazene, a synthetic opioid — meaning a man-made drug — is increasingly being found mixed with illegal fentanyl or other substances in the United States.

As stated by U.S. authorities, Nitazenes vary in potency, with some being significantly more potent than fentanyl, which is already around 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin.

“Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat that the United States has ever faced. Just two milligrams of fentanyl, the amount that could fit at the tip of a pencil, is a potentially lethal dose,” United States Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a press conference published on X.

Furthermore, these companies promoted precursor chemicals through various online platforms and social media websites. After that, they shipped the essential ingredients for creating dangerous drugs to locations worldwide.

To avoid detection by U.S. law enforcement agencies, they employed tactics like using fake return addresses, providing fraudulent invoices with misleading product labels, and hiding the chemicals in packaging like dog food bags.

Two Chinese nationals, Wang Shucheng and Du Changgen, were the main actors of the illegal drug supply chain.

As the leader of the illegal syndicate, Du Changgen oversaw a network of sales teams in China who used encrypted messaging for communication.

Additionally, they handled funds through virtual currency, bank-wire transfers, and other financial transactions.

According to U.S. authorities, the syndicate served as the primary source of narcotics supply for numerous criminal entities in the United States, including narcotics traffickers, dark web vendors, and individuals involved in virtual currency money laundering.

Additionally, it provided narcotics to criminal organizations based in Mexico, such as the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), both sanctioned by OFAC in 2023.