Landmark case: For the first time US charges Chinese companies for manufacturing fentanyl

In a significant development in the fight against the fentanyl epidemic, federal officials announced on Friday that for the first time ever Chinese companies are being charged with trafficking chemicals used to make fentanyl inside the United States. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said four Chinese chemical companies and eight Chinese nationals made chemicals used by Mexican drug cartels to produce large quantities of fentanyl.

“These companies and their employees knowingly conspired to manufacture deadly fentanyl for distribution in the United States. As alleged in our filings, just one of these China-based chemical companies shipped more than 200 kilograms of fentanyl-related precursor chemicals to the U.S. for the purpose of making 50 kilograms of fentanyl – a quantity that could contain enough deadly doses of fentanyl to kill 25 million Americans,” Garland said during a news conference.

According to officials, two of the Chinese defendants, identified as the principal executive and marketing manager of one of the companies, have recently been arrested overseas and brought to Hawaii for their court appearance. They will subsequently be transferred to Manhattan to face prosecution.

Garland highlighted that the Chinese firms involved in the case openly advertised the sale of precursor chemicals used in fentanyl production through social media platforms. To avoid detection by law enforcement, these chemicals were shipped in deceptive packaging. Ultimately, the illicit drugs ended up in the hands of criminal organizations such as the Sinaloa cartel, previously led by notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

“They went as far as to guarantee ‘100% stealth shipping.’ And they provided proof of their success on their websites –including a screenshot of a shipping confirmation to Culiacan, Mexico, the Sinaloa Cartel’s base of operations,” Garland said.

The recently unsealed indictment provides further insight into the case, revealing compelling evidence of correspondence and in-person meetings between the defendants and an individual claiming to be a fentanyl trafficker operating in Mexico with ties to the United States.

One particular message stands out, where one of the defendants acknowledged the purpose of the chemicals being used to produce fentanyl and the associated risks, responding with a simple yet chilling statement: “I know.”

The indictments come just weeks after the US imposed sanctions on 17 people and entities in China and Mexico, accusing them of facilitating the production of counterfeit fentanyl-laced pills.