US imposes sanctions on three Chinese accused of fentanyl trafficking

Fentanyl is an opioid painkiller 50 times more potent than heroin that has played a major role in the devastating US opioid crisis. (Reuters pic)

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury on Wednesday imposed sanctions on three Chinese men accused of illegally trafficking fentanyl, acting three weeks after President Donald Trump accused Beijing of reneging on pledges to stem a flood of the highly addictive synthetic opioid into the United States.

The trio included a father and son indicted in Ohio last year on charges of producing and smuggling fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances. The third man was indicted on similar charges in Mississippi in 2017.

The United States had pressed China to arrest Fujing Zheng and his father, Guanghua Zheng, and Xiaobing Yan since their indictments.

However, all three and five other Chinese citizens indicted in the United States for fentanyl trafficking have remained free, according to a US Congressional Research Service report last December.

The United States is in the middle of a major trade war and other serious disputes with China, making uncertain whether the Treasury Department action would have any impact on Beijing.

The three men were designated as foreign drug kingpins by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control under a law that freezes any property they control in the United States and bars American citizens from doing business with those properties.

The three also face penalties ranging from civil fines of up to US$1.1 million per violation to more serious criminal penalties, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Fentanyl is an opioid painkiller 50 times more potent than heroin that has played a major role in the devastating US opioid crisis. Fentanyl and all of its analogues are controlled substances subject to strict regulation in the United States.

US officials say China is the main source of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances that are trafficked into the United States, much of it through international mail.

The Treasury Department action came three weeks after Trump accused Chinese President Xi Jingping of failing to meet his promises to crack down on the deluge of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues flowing into the United States.