The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Chinese painkillers, pledging to act against the addiction epidemic that kills hundreds of Americans every day.
The sanctions came under a new executive order from President Joe Biden that makes it easier for the United States to target foreign drug traffickers.
The actions “will help disrupt the global supply chain and financial networks that allow synthetic opioids and precursor chemicals to reach the United States,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
The Ministry of Finance said it is imposing sanctions on four Chinese chemical companies and one person, Chuen Fat Yip.
The United States said it offered up to $5 million for Chuen’s arrest, calling him “one of the largest, if not the largest, producer of anabolic steroids in the world.”
Chuen and his company, Wuhan Yuancheng Gongchuang Technology Co. Ltd, operate out of China and Hong Kong and use cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin in international shipments of fentanyl, steroids and drug compounds, the Treasury said.
“I think it’s very simple that many of the precursors to synthetic opioids come from China,” said an official in the Biden administration.
“And it was important for us to send a signal on that front.”
The Ministry of Finance has also imposed sanctions on two criminal drug groups in Mexico and one in Brazil.
The sanctions will block any assets in the United States that the groups or Chuen may have and criminalize transactions out of the United States.
A record more than 100,000 Americans died in the year to April from painkiller overdoses, an epidemic initially attributed to how drug companies eagerly promoted their use and how easily they became available to those in despair.
Addiction to painkillers has risen sharply recently as a result of a proliferation of fake drugs, often smuggled in from abroad, that can be bought online.
The executive order allows the United States to directly target foreign drug producers rather than targeting cartels or other criminal groups, historically the focus of US efforts.
Biden also established the US Council on Transnational Organized Crime, which will coordinate the departments to fight transnational crime.
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