China’s Alliance With Mexican Cartels Continues to Fuel Deadly Fentanyl Crisis in US: Former DEA Official

A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) chemist checks confiscated powder containing fentanyl at the DEA Northeast Regional Laboratory on October 8, 2019 in New York. - According to US government data, about 32,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2018. That accounts for 46 percent of all fatal overdoses. Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for a range of conditions, has been central to the American opioid crisis which began in the late 1990s. (Photo by Don EMMERT / AFP) (Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)

Source: Epoch Times, By J. M. Phelps, August 26, 2021

Distributing and trafficking fentanyl to the United States is the “perfect tool” in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) campaign of “unrestricted warfare” against the West, according to a former division head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

“They are not dropping bombs or putting armies on the ground in America, but they’re still killing Americans at record levels,” said Derek Maltz, former head of the Special Operations Division of the DEA, referring to the CCP’s plan to destabilize the country using unconventional forms of warfare.

“They’re taking advantage of a massive, addicted population in America.”

Maltz’s warning comes as a new report found that China remains the primary source for the trafficking of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances in the United States, despite the Chinese regime banning the drug in 2019. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s 50 times more potent than heroin.

The Aug. 24 report (pdf) by the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission also found that while direct shipments to the United States have declined since the ban, Mexico is playing an expanding role in the explosion of fentanyl addictions and deaths around the country.

Americans are being killed at record levels, the former DEA official said, and “it’s all because of the massive chemical flow from China.”

In 2020, during the pandemic, deaths from overdoses of synthetic opioids, mostly from fentanyl, surged to a record of more than 56,000—an increase of 20,000 from the year earlier, according to provisional data by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The country is facing the worst drug crisis in its history, Maltz said, adding that “the alliance between China and the cartels could be the top day-to-day threat impacting America’s future.”

According to the report, the Chinese regime’s “weak supervision and regulation” of its chemical industry has aided the efforts of Chinese fentanyl traffickers.

Thus, with limited abatement, Chinese traffickers are continuing to ship precursor chemicals to Mexico to produce deadly fentanyl. Millions of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl are being made, and the deadly drug is often mixed with other drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

“Thousands of pounds of fentanyl have been seized this year,” the former DEA official said. “Phoenix, for example, went from zero seizures in 2015 to 6 million fake pills in 2020, and leadership in the DEA says it has already seized over 6 million in 2021.”

Maltz referred to a lab analysis by the DEA that determined that 26 percent of the pills analyzed contained lethal doses of fentanyl.

“Taking into account the 6 million pills seized in Phoenix in 2020, that means over 1.5 million people were saved from just one DEA office.”

Money Laundering Schemes Exacerbate the Problem

Beyond China’s involvement in the rise in fentanyl seizures, the Aug. 24 report also acknowledges money laundering operations between the Asian country and Mexican cartels.

While Maltz praised law enforcement for infiltrating “Chinese transnational criminal networks,” he said the CCP continues to escalate the trafficking of drugs into Mexico. “And the transnational criminals are indeed taking over money laundering services for the cartels.”

According to the report, “The fentanyl challenge has grown in complexity since Chinese suppliers began to evolve their tactics in 2019.” Maltz believes there are two key components contributing to the evolution of this massive crisis.

“China has the drug production chemicals, and they have the money laundering services—and without the chemicals or the money, they couldn’t operate.”

The international money laundering market has become more appealing to the CCP and Mexican cartels.

Describing the operation, Maltz said: “China has brokers sitting in Mexico with drug kingpins, and they’re making deals to pick up money all over America. The money is moved from one Chinese bank to another overseas, and then they’re fulfilling legitimate consumer goods orders to be shipped to South America, Central America, and Mexico.”

In the next step, he said, consumer goods are sold and the money circles back to the drug traffickers. He calls it a “sophisticated process,” adding that law enforcement is acting as quickly as possible to infiltrate the operations.

However, criminal and money laundering investigations are hampered by “limited” cooperation between Chinese and U.S. authorities, the report found.

Maltz said that during the Trump administration, “there was some positive movement to prevent the export of pure fentanyl and fentanyl analogs out of China—[but] the Chinese transnational criminals got very smart and started reducing the exports of fentanyl and increasing the precursor chemical exports.”

While the chemicals China may be exporting are legitimate chemicals, he said the regime “is simply allowing the Mexican cartels do more of the dirty work on the production of fentanyl.”

Rather than seeing pure fentanyl sent to the labs in Mexico, mass amounts of chemicals are being shipped.

“The process is changing because that’s what criminals do,” Maltz said. “China and the Mexican cartels will keep making adjustments to reduce their vulnerability—and they’re both very clever at it.”

J.M. Phelps

J.M. Phelps
J.M. Phelps is a writer and researcher of both Islamist and Chinese threats.