WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday announced sanctions against four China-based individuals and one company run by alleged Chinese drug kingpin Fujing Zheng for links to trafficking in fentanyl.
The U.S. Treasury Department named the individuals as Songyan Ji, Longbao Zhang, Guifeng Cheng and Guangfu Zheng, and the firm as Global United Biotechnology Inc, which it said was owned and operated by the Zheng Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) run by Fujing Zheng.
Treasury identified Fujing Zheng and the Zheng DTO as significant foreign narcotics traffickers under the U.S. Kingpin Act last August.
“Fentanyl and other drugs have caused overwhelming devastation to communities across America,” said Deputy Treasury Secretary Justin Muzinich.
“The United States is committed to holding drug traffickers and those who facilitate their operations accountable for the suffering they impose upon American families.”
The four individuals were designated for allegedly facilitating purchases of fentanyl and other drugs for the Zheng DTO, a Treasury statement said.
It said the Zheng DTO laundered drug proceeds using digital currency such as bitcoin and transmitted proceeds into and out of bank accounts in China and Hong Kong.
It said Global United Biotechnology Inc was “a virtual storefront for the Zheng DTO.”The designation means all property of the individuals and Zheng DTO in the United States must be blocked and reported.
Fentanyl is a cheap painkiller 50 times more potent than heroin that has played a major role in a devastating opioid crisis in the United States, where more than 28,000 synthetic opioid-related overdose deaths were recorded in 2017,
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, a charge Beijing rejects.
Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Steve Orlofsky