The US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on a Chinese national accused of trafficking fentanyl, a cheap opioid painkiller 50 times more potent than heroin, into the country.
A release by the US Department of Treasury said: “The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) identified Chinese national Taotao Zhang as a Significant Foreign Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).”
In the past, Fentanyl has played a major role in an opioid crisis in the United States, where more than 28,000 synthetic opioid-related overdose deaths were recorded in 2017.
“Fentanyl has wreaked havoc on American communities and families,” Deputy Secretary Justin G. Muzinich was quoted as saying. “The United States remains committed to protecting vulnerable Americans by targeting individuals peddling this deadly drug,” he said.
Taotao Zhang, a chemist and chemical supplier, has shipped synthetic opioids to the United States via multiple individuals and freight-forwarding services in order to disguise the origin of the substances, Treasury said in a statement.
“Labels disguising the substances contained in the parcel are used to avoid seizure by authorities. Once a package is received in the United States, U.S.-based distributors can generally then press one kilogram of fentanyl into up to one million counterfeit pharmaceutical pills for further distribution to domestic customers,” the release said.
The Department said as a result of this action all property and interests in property of the individual and the entity that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.
U.S. officials say China is the main source of illicit fentanyl. President Donald Trump has accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of failing to meet promises to help stop the flow of the drug into the United States.