President Joe Biden signed two executive orders on Wednesday to combat foreign criminal organizations trafficking drugs and crime into the U.S. from countries like Mexico and China.
One executive order establishes a U.S. Council on Transnational Organized Crime (USCTOC) comprised of leaders from the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, State, Defense, Treasury, and Office of National Intelligence, for the purpose of developing and driving a “comprehensive approach” and leveraging “all appropriate tools” to counter threats from transnational criminals and entities.
The second order imposes sanctions on 25 foreign individuals and entities identified as being involved in global illicit drug trade, regardless of any connection to a cartel or kingpin, via newly expanded sanctions authority. Those sanctions targeted 10 individuals and 15 organizations from Mexico, China, Colombia and Brazil responsible for trafficking drugs and precursors to synthetic drugs, and for contributing to or benefiting from drug trafficking.
The administration cited overwhelming drug overdose deaths in the U.S. for the measure. More than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses from April 2020 to April 2021, an increase of 28% from the previous year.
China has not previously been identified among official lists of countries from where transnational criminal organizations operate. Chinese nationals and entities sanctioned in Biden’s measure were included to demonstrate the wide-reaching criminal activities harming the U.S.
“A lot of the precursors of synthetic opioids originate in China and it was important for us to send a signal on that front,” a senior administration official said during a press call attended by American Military News.
Chuen Fat Yip, one Chinese individual targeted by the sanctions, was charged by the Department of Justice on Tuesday, who called Chuen “one of the world’s largest alleged anabolic steroid producers.” Chuen, together with his company Yuancheng (YC) Group, are responsible for shipping “$55 million worth of anabolic steroids shipped to the United States over a five-year period,” the DOJ said.
Administration officials said the measures will “expose, isolate, disrupt” the drug trafficking ecosystem by targeting “the broader array of the criminal ecosystem,” an effort not undertaken before.
Nine of the 25 individuals and entities sanctioned today from Mexico were identified by the administration as having “the greatest drug trafficking impact on the US.”
Previous sanctions authorities targeted individuals and entities involved in drug trafficking but primarily targeted those involved in a cartel or connected to a drug kingpin. Now the administration will go after “those contributing to the harm,” a senior administration official explained, adding that those targets will be identified by “follow[ing] the evidence of the drug trade.”