Chinese drug kingpin sanctioned by Trump administration. His case started on the Coast.

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NIDA's Dr. Wilson Compton, one of the authors of the report about fentanyl-related overdose deaths, explains more about the of the report's findings .

A Chinese man indicted in South Mississippi is one of three being sanctioned by the Trump administration over the trafficking of fentanyl and opioids into the country.

Xiaobing Yan was officially designated an international drug kingpin by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on Thursday, along with Fujing Zheng and Guanghua Zheng.

“The Chinese kingpins ... run an international drug trafficking operation that manufactures and sells lethal narcotics, directly contributing to the crisis of opioid addiction, overdoses, and death in the United States,” said Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, in a press release.

Also being sanctioned are the Zheng Drug Trafficking Organization and Qinsheng Pharmaceutical Co.

Before his 2017 indictment, Yan had been considered by DEA to be one of “the most significant drug trafficking threats in the world.”

His prosecution started after a 2013 traffic stop in Ocean Springs found spice and other drugs that appeared to be bath salts. Officials then tracked three shipments from Yan’s company to Harrison County in 2015 and 2016.

U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst said in a press release that Yan is accused of operating at least two chemical plants in China and distributing many different types of drugs, including fentanyl and more than 100 types of synthetic opioids.

Yan monitored legislation and law enforcement activities in the U.S. and China to avoid prosecution in China, according to the release.

“... Agents intercepted packages mailed from Yan’s Internet pharmaceutical companies, seizing multiple kilograms of suspected acetyl fentanyl, potentially enough for thousands of lethal doses,” Hurst said.

Yan’s operation resulted in the deaths of at least four people. His indictment was one of the DOJ’s first-ever indictments against Chinese manufacturers of illegal substances.

Political implications

The sanctions come just weeks after President Donald Trump accused China of not doing enough to stop the drug from entering the United States — one of several factors he cited as a reason for escalating his trade war with Beijing, The New York Times reported.

Relations between the United States and China have soured in recent months amid a breakdown in trade negotiations and an escalation of tariffs. The two countries have also been at odds over Trump’s plans to ship a fleet of American-made F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan and China’s continuing purchases of Iranian oil in violation of a U.S. ban.

The flow of fentanyl from China has been particularly frustrating for Trump, however, because he has said that President Xi Jinping made a personal commitment to curtail the supply of the powerful opioid that has led to thousands of overdose deaths in the United States.

In April, China announced that it would ban all variants of fentanyl. However, it did not ban all precursor chemicals that are used to make it, leaving open the ability for traffickers to ship those components to other countries where the drug can be produced.

The Treasury Department also mentioned the three Chinese nationals’ use of bitcoin and said it has alerted financial institutions of red flags related to international money laundering by these kinds of criminal organizations.

The New York Times contributed to this story.

Britneé Davis is McClatchy’s South Region Digital Producer. The south region includes the Sun Herald, the Telegraph, and the Ledger-Enquirer.