World

Nine jailed in China for selling synthetic opioid to US

XINGTAI, CHINA China yesterday jailed nine people for selling fentanyl to Americans, the result of a landmark joint probe.

It follows US President Donald Trump's fury at Beijing for its perceived inaction against Chinese suppliers fuelling the deadly opioid crisis in the United States.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine.

The US has long accused China of being the main source of the highly addictive drug, with Mr Trump charging in August that Beijing had reneged on its promise to crack down on fentanyl.

The sentencing came as the two powers seek to finalise a trade deal following more than a year of bruising negotiations, with the flood of Chinese fentanyl one of the sticking points.

US authorities say the synthetic opioid causes more than 100 deaths a day in the US.

The court in northern Hebei province described the case as the first successful joint US-Chinese probe related to fentanyl smuggling, and US officials also hailed the verdict.

"As the success of the joint investigation demonstrates, Chinese and American investigators have the capacity to collaborate across international borders," Mr Austin Moore, an attache for the US Homeland Security Department in China, said.

China's narcotics bureau discovered in 2017 a criminal ring based in Shanghai and eastern Jiangsu province and seized 11.9kg of fentanyl, acting on a tip-off from US border authorities, according to the court.

Of the nine people jailed in Hebei, one was given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, which generally means a life term.

Two others received life terms for trafficking fentanyl and alprazolam - the hugely popular prescription anxiety drug branded as Xanax.

Mr Moore said officers in New Orleans obtained in August 2017 the contact details of a supplier in China known as "Diana".

The Americans then shared the information with Chinese counterparts and the investigation led to the arrests at the end of 2017, Mr Moore said. - AFP

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