DOJ Files First-Ever Charges Against Chinese Fentanyl Manufacturers

June 26, 2023 by Carter Schaffer
DOJ Files First-Ever Charges Against Chinese Fentanyl Manufacturers
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at a press conference with U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, left, and Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, right, to announce arrests and disruptions of the fentanyl precursor chemical supply chain on Friday, June 23, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department filed criminal charges Friday against four Chinese companies and eight individuals alleging they illegally trafficked in raw materials used to make fentanyl.

The indictments mark the first time the United States has sought to prosecute any of the Chinese companies responsible for the manufacturing of the chemicals. 

The charges come as fentanyl, a highly addictive painkiller, continues to fuel a surge in overdose deaths across the country.

They also come just a week after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned from China where he said he made clear that Washington needs much greater Chinese cooperation to stem the flow of the drug.

On Saturday, China’s foreign ministry responded to the indictments by urging the U.S. to stop “dumping blame” and to stop smear attacks “as pretexts” to prosecuting Chinese companies and individuals.

The indictments allege the defendants “knowingly manufactured, marketed, sold, and supplied precursor chemicals for fentanyl production in the United States in violation of federal law,” according to the DOJ’s press release.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Overdoses relating to synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, kill 197 people every day and factor into more deaths than any other causes for people under 50, according to the CDC.

The Drug Enforcement Administration seized over 460 pounds of fentanyl-related precursor chemicals from China-based chemical company Hubei Amarvel Biotech Co. Ltd., aka AmarvelBio.

The precursor chemicals would have manufactured approximately 110-120 pounds of fentanyl, enough to kill 25 million Americans.

Amarvel Biotech openly advertised shipping its precursor chemicals online, guaranteeing “stealth shipping” by inconspicuously packaging its products as common items such as dog food, nuts or motor oil.

From November 2022 through June 2023, two DEA confidential sources talked to and met with several Amarvel Biotech personnel: principal executive Bruce Wang, marketing manager Chiron Chen and sales representative Anita Yang.

When the conversations started in November, Yang said he knew the fentanyl that would be made was unsafe. In December, the company shipped 4.41 pounds of fentanyl precursors — approximately 2.2 pounds of 1-boc-4-AP and approximately 2.21 pounds of 1-boc-4-piperidone — and approximately 1.97 pounds  of the methamphetamine precursor methylamine from China to New York after receiving cryptocurrency payment from a DEA confidential source.

The two indictment recipients in the Eastern District of New York, Anhui Rencheng Technology Co. Ltd. and Hefei GSK Trade Co. Ltd., supplied precursor chemicals to the United States and Mexico by adding “masking” molecules.

These indictments and arrests follow the DOJ’s April charges against several leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel. The Sinaloa Cartel is a transnational drug trafficking organization based in Sinaloa, Mexico.

Amarvel Biotech posted documentation that it shipped chemicals to Culiacan, Mexico, the home city of the Sinaloa Cartel. Additionally, it advertised fentanyl precursors as a “Mexico hot sale.”

“The U.S. government continues to do everything in our power to disrupt fentanyl trafficking and prevent more of our communities from being devastated by the fentanyl epidemic,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a speech on Friday. 

“We also continue to strongly urge the PRC government to take decisive action to address the role that China-based chemical and pharmaceutical companies play in fentanyl drug production and trafficking,” he added.

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