An image released by the US Treasury Department identifying Chinese national Zhang Taotao and his drug network. | Photo: US Treasury Department
An image released by the US Treasury Department identifying Chinese national Zhang Taotao and his drug network. | Photo: US Treasury Department
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New Delhi: The US government has sanctioned Chinese national Zhang Taotao, a chemical supplier, and his Hong Kong-based company for trafficking fentanyl to the United States.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took to Twitter to announce that the US had designated Zhang, “one of the most significant drug traffickers in the world”.

In a statement Tuesday, the US Treasury Department 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.”

It said that fentanyl, which is a cheap painkiller 50 times more potent than heroin, has “wreaked havoc on American communities and families”. According to the statement, China is the main source of illicit fentanyl, where it originates in the form of precursor chemicals.

The department also sanctioned Hong Kong-based Allyrise Technology Group Co. Ltd, for serving as a front-company for Zhang’s financial transactions. The 32-year-old is the director of Allyrise.

Both have been designated under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act) for their role in international drug trafficking.

In a separate statement, US secretary of state Michael Pompeo said the action is part of a continued “whole-of-government effort” to tackle the illegal production and trafficking of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids from China, “which have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans”.

“…designations are part of a broad U.S. effort to disrupt and deter drug trafficking organizations from buying illicit precursor chemicals from the PRC, using those precursors to manufacture fentanyl, and trafficking the finished products into the United States,” he said.

Pompeo added that his department will continue to use all available tools to combat drug trafficking globally. The move is the latest in a series of such actions as ties between the US and China continue to deteriorate.

Also read: Tough on China, peacemaker in Middle East – that’s Trump, Mike Pompeo hails his boss

What Zhang Taotao faces now

The Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act) is used to designate significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their related businesses, and their operatives access to the US financial system and to prohibit all trade and transactions between the traffickers and US companies and individuals.

With the latest move, all US-based assets and interests held by Zhang as well as his company will be frozen. He could also face up to 30 years in prison and fines pursuant to the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act. For companies, the fine may go up to $10 million.

“There have been more than 9,000 overdose deaths in New Jersey since 2017, with a vast majority caused by fentanyl and other opioids. The men and women of the DEA will continue to pursue those seeking to flood our communities with this poison, and these sanctions will help in that effort,” the US Treasury Department statement quoted an official as saying.

It added that since June 2000, over 2,200 individuals and entities have been named under the Kingpin Act for their role in international drug trafficking.

Also read: China kicks off European diplomatic blitz to counter US on influencing allies against Beijing


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