Treasury Unveils Special Team To Combat Fentanyl Trafficking

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is going to Mexico this week to support the Treasury Department’s new task force aimed at fighting illegal fentanyl trafficking. This comes as the U.S. and China intensify their actions to prevent the movement of fentanyl and materials used in drug manufacturing into the United States.

In Mexico City, Yellen will talk with government leaders, as well as leaders in the private sector, about illicit financial support for the drug trade. She will also promote her “friendshoring,” which is designed to strengthen supply chains.

The primary emphasis of Yellen’s trip will be on disrupting the financing of fentanyl to prevent it from reaching U.S. shores.

The Counter-Fentanyl Strike Force is set to unite personnel and intelligence from various divisions within the Treasury Department. This includes its sanctions and intelligence branches, along with IRS Criminal Investigations. The organization aims to enhance collaboration and effectively work together to stop the trafficking of drugs into the U.S.

Both the formation of the team and Yellen’s visit to Mexico mark the start of the Biden administration’s strategy to intensify its actions against the illegal fentanyl trade.

The initiative follows a November meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in California, where China vowed to instruct its chemical companies to reduce shipments of materials used in producing fentanyl to Latin America.

Additionally, China has suggested an international database for the sharing of information regarding suspected trafficking.

As per the Drug Enforcement Administration, Mexico and China serve as the main countries of origin for fentanyl and related substances trafficked directly into the U.S. Almost all the chemicals essential for manufacturing fentanyl originate from China.

In addition to other responsibilities, the Treasury task force will examine the financial activities of trafficking organizations, particularly those utilizing cryptocurrency to transfer funds. The team will collaborate with local law enforcement in regions severely affected by the fentanyl epidemic, and they will leverage financial institution records to identify transactions associated with drug smuggling.

Yellen released a statement, saying, “Combating the flow of deadly fentanyl into communities across the United States is a top priority for President Biden as well as the Treasury Department.”

She said the new initiative will “allow us to bring the department’s unrivaled expertise in fighting financial crime to bear against this deadly epidemic. Treasury will use every tool at its disposal to disrupt the ability of drug traffickers to peddle this poison in our country.”

Today, Fentanyl is the most lethal drug in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 71,000 individuals died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl in 2021, a rise from nearly 58,000 in 2020.

This death toll is over ten times higher than the number of drug-related deaths in 1988 during the peak of the crack epidemic.