China sentences 9 in fentanyl trafficking case after US tip

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On Thursday, a court in the city of Xingtai in northern Hebei province announced the verdict, adding that it was the first time that China and the U.S. had worked jointly on such a case.

Of the nine people jailed in Hebei, one was given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, which generally means a life term. 6 other users of the operation received lesser sentences.

The suspended death sentence-which The Wall Street Journal reported is usually commuted to life in prison-was handed to fentanyl producer and smuggler Liu Yong.

A representative from U.S. Immigration and Drug Enforcement told reporters that the initial tip came in August 2017 from Homeland Security investigators in New Orleans who interviewed a cooperating defendant.

More than 28,000 synthetic opioid-related overdose deaths, mostly from fentanyl-related substances, were recorded in the United States in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In form, the enterprise resembled a small business, with a perky sales force that spoke passable English, online marketing, contract manufacturing, and a sophisticated export operation, according to US and Chinese law enforcement. Police photographs of the seizure show a dingy, chaotic scene, with open containers of unidentified chemicals and Chinese police in rubber gloves and breathing masks. Nine drug dealers were sentenced Thursday for producing and trafficking fentanyl, an opioid pain medication, in north China's Hebei Province. The others were accused of trafficking.

USA officials say China's vast chemicals industry is the main source of illicit fentanyl.

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They are also known for occasional coordinated attacks when seeking to make a political point with a show of strength. Law enforcement, instructors and other federal government reps are generally targets of the violence.

A year later, Mr Trump said Chinese President Xi Jinping had promised to stop fentanyl reaching the U.S., but had not. Those leads prompted over 25 domestic investigations and have already resulted in three major criminal arrests and indictments in NY and OR, he said.

However, Yu said accusations that China was the main source of the opioid in the U.S. were untrue.

The United States has long accused China of being the main source of the highly addictive drug, with President Trump charging in August that Beijing had reneged on its promise to crack down on fentanyl. US officials have reportedly moved to link Beijing's efforts on fentanyl to USA trade talks.

Yu Haibin, from China's National Narcotics Control Commission, said at the press conference that Beijing had maintained close communication with U.S. authorities.

"This further demonstrates the Chinese government's consistent attitude of zero tolerance towards drug crimes", he said. "It's about the life of human beings".

He said the case should not be connected to politics or the trade war, and the timing of the sentencing was the result of the legal process.

Chinese officials have been at pains to emphasize the efforts they have made to expand drug controls and crack down on illicit suppliers, even though synthetic opioid abuse is not perceived to be a significant problem in China.

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