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.