China gives suspended death sentence to fentanyl smuggler in joint US probe

Police stand guard outside the Xingtai Intermediate People’s court in Xingtai, China Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (AP)
Updated 07 November 2019

China gives suspended death sentence to fentanyl smuggler in joint US probe

  • The United States has long accused China of being the main source of the deadly opioid
  • The court in northern Hebei province described the case as the first successful joint investigation by Beijing and US authorities

XINGTAI, China: China on Thursday jailed nine people, one with a suspended death sentence, for illegally selling fentanyl to US buyers, the result of a landmark joint investigation over a drug that has killed thousands of Americans.

The United States has long accused China of being the main source of the deadly opioid, with President Donald Trump charging in August that Beijing had reneged on its promise to crack down on the drug.

The court in northern Hebei province described the case as the first successful joint investigation by Beijing and US authorities.

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

A man surnamed Liu was given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve while eight others were given prison terms ranging from six months to life, the Xingtai Intermediate People’s Court said.

“Lured by high profit and huge demand from overseas buyers,” three people surnamed Wang, Liu and Jiang trafficked fentanyl as well as alprazolam, a prescription anxiety drug also known as Xanax, to US buyers, it said.

The sentencing comes amid ongoing negotiations over a potential US-China deal after more than a year of trade conflict between the two countries, of which fentanyl has been a sticking point.


Taliban say prisoner swap promised by Kabul fails to happen

Updated 59 sec ago

Taliban say prisoner swap promised by Kabul fails to happen

  • The three Taliban prisoners included Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of the Taliban’s deputy chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the fearsome Haqqani militant network
  • They were to be exchanged for American University of Afghanistan professors, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks

ISLAMABAD: Three Taliban prisoners who were to be freed in exchange for an American and an Australian national, both kidnapped in 2016, are still in custody in Bagram prison, north of the capital Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Friday.
The three Taliban prisoners did not show up at an exchange site that had been agreed upon with the US, though Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said they would be freed.
Mujahid had no explanation for the no-show.
The three Taliban prisoners included Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of the Taliban’s deputy chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the fearsome Haqqani militant network. They were to be exchanged for American University of Afghanistan professors, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks.
Mujahid said the professors are still in Taliban custody.
In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, Ghani said the “conditional release” was a very hard decision to make.
Prisoner releases were a key point during peace talks between the US and Taliban last year. US President Donald Trump abruptly ended the talks in September, following a spate of violent attacks in Kabul that killed more than a dozen people, including a US soldier.
The prisoner exchange was seen as a possible door to restarting the talks. US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has crisscrossed the region in recent weeks meeting with Washington’s NATO allies, as well as Russia, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
President Ghani has repeatedly demanded his government be included in talks with the Taliban, who have refused saying the Afghan government is an American puppet.
Ghani is now in the middle of a controversial contest for his job as president following Afghanistan’s Sept. 28 elections, which drew allegations of widespread misconduct and fraud.
Preliminary results were supposed to be released on Thursday, but have once again been postponed.
Ghani had hoped a big win in the presidential polls would solidify his political position, but the recount of ballots has been challenged by his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who shares power in Afghanistan’s coalition government.
That government was cobbled together after the 2014 presidential elections, which were so deeply overwhelmed by allegations of fraud that the United States stepped in to broker a power sharing agreement between Abdullah and Ghani.