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Nine are imprisoned in China for smuggling fentanyl in US after remarkable operation

  Yu Haibin and Austin Moore at a press conference on Thursday Copyright
AFP / Getty

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Yu Haibin and Austin Moore at a press conference on Thursday

Nine people have been jailed in China for smuggling fentanyl to the United States after a remarkable joint investigation by US and Chinese officers.

In August, President Trump said China was not doing enough to stop fentanyl – which is 50 times more potent than heroin – being shipped to the US.

The Chinese court stated that this was the first time US and Chinese officers had worked together on a similar case.

Mr. Trump claims that fentanyl kills "100,000 Americans a year."

According to US authorities, the figure is likely to be lower. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in 2017 – the latest complete data available – synthetic opioids other than methadone were linked to 28,000 deaths.

The results of the joint operation were announced by Chinese and US authorities in the northern city.

One person was given a suspended sentence of death, which usually means life in prison. The other two were sentenced to life sentences.

  • Why Opioids Are Such an American Problem

Although fentanyl is a prescription pain reliever, it is often bought illegally.

It is relatively inexpensive and is often used by people who cannot take drugs legally – either because the doctor will not prescribe them, they do not have an insurance policy, or because they have expired.

China has used tax breaks in the past to promote fentanyl production, and President Trump has long accused China of being the source of his country's problem.

A year later, Mr Trump said that Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to stop fentanyl from reaching the US, but not did.

How is the operation going?

According to Austin Moore РUS Immigration and Customs Attaché in China Рthe operation began in August 2017, when New Orleans Homeland Security officials

Defendant provided the name and contact information of a Chinese dealer known as "Diana" ". The following month, the information was transmitted to Beijing.

Then New Orleans officers organized a fake purchase of fentanyl that ended with a bank transfer to Diana in November 2017. This led to an "extraordinary" number of arrests in China, Mr. Moore said.

In addition to Chinese prosecutions, the investigation led to "three major criminal arrests" in New York and Oregon.

"As the success of this joint investigation shows, Chinese and US investigators have the ability to cooperate across international borders," said Mr Moore.

Yu Hybin, a senior official at China's National Drug Control Commission, told reporters in Xingtai that it was vital to reduce demand and supply.

"If illicit search cannot be effectively reduced, it is very difficult to fundamentally deal with the fentanyl problem," he said, according to AFP news agency.

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