Treasury Targets Chinese Drug Kingpins Fueling America’s Deadly Opioid Crisis

WASHINGTON.- Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced coordinated actions to bring additional financial pressure upon those who manufacture, sell, or distribute synthetic opioids or their precursor chemicals.

OFAC identified Chinese national Fujing Zheng (Zheng) and the Zheng Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) as significant foreign narcotics traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act). OFAC also designated one additional Chinese national, Guanghua Zheng, for his support to the Zheng DTO’s drug trafficking activities, as well as one Chinese entity, Qinsheng Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., for being owned or controlled by Fujing Zheng. OFAC is also identifying Xiaobing Yan (Yan) as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker pursuant to the Kingpin Act.

“The Chinese kingpins that OFAC designated today 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. Zheng and Yan have shipped hundreds of packages of synthetic opioids to the U.S., targeting customers through online advertising and sales, and using commercial mail carriers to smuggle their drugs into the United States,” said Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “OFAC and FinCEN’s coordinated action with U.S. law enforcement leverages Treasury’s authorities to confront the deadly synthetic opioid crisis plaguing America.”

Also today, FinCEN issued an advisory to alert financial institutions to financial schemes related to the trafficking of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Information in the advisory will assist them in detecting and reporting related criminal activity.

“The Bank Secrecy Act data that FinCEN collects, analyzes, and disseminates provides tremendous insight into the illicit financial networks and individuals fueling America’s deadly opioid crisis,” said FinCEN Director Kenneth A. Blanco. “We are making the financial sector aware of tactics and typologies behind illicit schemes to launder the proceeds of these fatal drug sales, including transactions using digital currency and foreign bank accounts. Financial institutions must be on alert to red flags and other indicators of the complex schemes fentanyl traffickers are employing so that financial institutions can report and share relevant information with law enforcement, and ultimately help save lives.”

OFAC Action Targets Massive Narcotics Trafficking Network

In August 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio unsealed a 43-count indictment in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio, charging Fujing Zheng and his father Guanghua Zheng with operating a conspiracy that manufactured and shipped deadly fentanyl analogues, cathinones, and cannabinoids to at least 37 U.S. states and 25 countries.

Directed by Fujing Zheng, the Zheng DTO manufactures and distributes hundreds of controlled substances, including fentanyl analogues such as carfentanil, acetyl fentanyl, and furanyl fentanyl. Zheng created and maintained numerous websites to advertise and sell illegal drugs in more than 35 languages. The Zheng DTO touted its ability to create custom-ordered drugs and avoid detection from customs and law enforcement officials when shipping the drugs through express mail and the U.S. Postal Service. The Zheng DTO also used its chemical expertise to create analogues of drugs with slightly different chemical structures but the same or even more potent effect. The Zheng DTO even agreed to manufacture adulterated cancer medication, creating counterfeit pills that replaced the active cancer-fighting ingredient with dangerous synthetic drugs. The Zheng DTO laundered its drug proceeds in part by using digital currency such as bitcoin, transmitted drug proceeds into and out of bank accounts in China and Hong Kong, and bypassed currency restrictions and reporting requirements.

In September 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi indicted Xiaobing Yan on two counts of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute multiple controlled substances, including fentanyl, and seven counts of manufacturing and distributing the drugs in specific instances. Yan and his network manufacture and distribute synthetic opioids, cathinones, and cannabinoids, selling directly to U.S. customers in multiple cities across the United States. Yan has tried to evade prosecution by modifying the chemical structure of his synthetic analogues based on his monitoring of legislation and law enforcement activities in the United States and China. Both Zheng and Yan are known to use digital currency (bitcoin), and OFAC is also identifying bitcoin addresses associated with these two drug traffickers to maximize disruption of their financial dealings.

OFAC closely coordinated today’s action with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi, the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Cleveland and Gulfport offices, and DEA’s Special Operations Division.

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these individuals and entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

Since June 2000, more than 2,200 individuals and entities have been named pursuant to the Kingpin Act for their role in international narcotics trafficking. Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1,503,470 per violation to more severe criminal penalties. Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $5 million. Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million. Other individuals could face up to 10 years in prison and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.

FinCEN Advisory Highlights Typologies of Fentanyl Traffickers

Fentanyl is sold in the United States in many forms, all of which can be deadly. Fentanyl can be purchased alone; mixed with heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine; or pressed into pill form and falsely sold as prescription opioids, often being ingested by unsuspecting victims.

FinCEN’s advisory highlights the primary typologies and red flags derived from sensitive financial reporting which are associated with the (i) sale of these drugs by Chinese, Mexican, and other foreign suppliers; (ii) methods used by Mexican and other transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) to launder the proceeds of fentanyl trafficking; and (iii) financial methodologies associated with the sale and procurement of fentanyl over the Internet by purchasers located in the United States.

The FinCEN advisory is being published as a part of a coordinated set of advisories issued by the U.S. Government to address the manufacturing, marketing, movement, and monetary aspects of the trafficking of illicit fentanyl and synthetic opioids. Specifically, the 21st Century Drug Trafficking: Advisories on Fentanyl and Other Synthetic Opioids contains a manufacturing advisory, focusing on the production of illicit fentanyl, which is aimed primarily at companies and businesses that manufacture precursor chemicals, synthetic pharmaceuticals and their support infrastructure.

A marketing advisory further focuses on the use of websites, including social media and darkweb platforms, to market synthetic fentanyl products for sale. The advisory lists red flags, such as web hosting platforms known to host large volumes of this activity and street names commonly used for fentanyl, and gives instructions for reporting any suspected fentanyl marketing activity to law enforcement.

Finally, the movement advisory is directed towards supply chain companies that explains how fentanyl products enter the United States and move domestically to their end users. The most common distribution medium is via the U.S. Postal Service.

These advisories, combined with the FinCEN advisory, which also serves as the monetary advisory on the financial aspects of the illicit trafficking of fentanyl and synthetic opioids, provide information relevant for financial institutions to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the fentanyl crisis and take action to protect the homeland from this deadly threat. The comprehensive 21st Century Drug Trafficking: Advisories on Fentanyl and Other Synthetic Opioids can be viewed here.

When filing a suspicious activity report (SAR), financial institutions should provide all pertinent available information in the SAR form and narrative and reference this advisory using the following key term: “FENTANYL FIN-2019-A006”

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The United Sates,, OFAC,, FinCen, Fujing Zheng

Treasury Designates Dominican Republic-Based Peralta Drug Trafficking Organization Under the Kingpin Act

WASHINGTON. – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) identified Dominican national Cesar Emilio Peralta and the Peralta Drug Trafficking Organization (Peralta DTO) as significant foreign narcotics traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act). OFAC designated eight additional Dominican nationals for providing material support to, or acting for or on behalf of, Cesar Emilio Peralta and the Peralta DTO. OFAC also designated six entities in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, including a number of nightclubs owned or controlled by Cesar Emilio Peralta.

“Cesar Emilio Peralta and his criminal organization have used violence and corruption in the Dominican Republic to traffic tons of cocaine and opioids into the United States and Europe. Treasury is targeting these Dominican drug kingpins, their front persons, and the nightclubs they have used to launder money and traffic women,” said Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “This Administration continues to systematically target strategically important drug kingpins and cartels fueling our country’s opioid epidemic.”

Cesar Emilio Peralta (Peralta) is a Dominican drug kingpin with a lengthy criminal record for his involvement in narcotics trafficking and violence. From their base of operations in Santo Domingo, Peralta and the Peralta DTO coordinate the transshipment of ton-quantities of cocaine and significant quantities of opioids through the Dominican Republic and onward to consumer markets in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Dominican nationals Ramon Antonio del Rosario Puente (a.k.a. “Toño Leña) and Kelvin Enrique Fernandez Flaquer (a.k.a. “Cotto”), both major Dominican drug traffickers in their own right, were also designated today for their support to Peralta and the Peralta DTO. Del Rosario Puente was arrested in May 2018 by Colombian authorities and is currently awaiting extradition to the United States on charges of narcotics trafficking conspiracy.

Peralta and the Peralta DTO also coordinate the shipment of the bulk currency proceeds of these narcotics trafficking activities from the United States, as well as the subsequent laundering of these proceeds in the Dominican Republic. A primary avenue for the laundering of these proceeds is a series of nightclubs in Santo Domingo, all owned or controlled by Peralta through front persons. These nightclubs, which are among the entities designated today, include VIP Room, Flow Gallery Lounge, Aqua Club, and La Kuora. Peralta reportedly employs women trafficked from Colombia and Venezuela at these nightclubs. The OFAC action also targets Yader Rafael Jaquez Araujo (a music promoter who uses the name “Jake Mate”) and Carlos Ariel Fernandez Concepcion, a former Dominican military officer, who play a role in managing and promoting the nightclubs owned by Peralta.

OFAC closely coordinated with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in order to execute today’s action pursuant to the Kingpin Act. The U.S. Department of the Treasury is committed to countering criminal networks that engage in human trafficking and is a member of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF).

As a result of today’s action, all assets in which these persons have an interest in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked persons.

Since June 2000, more than 2,100 entities and individuals have been named pursuant to the Kingpin Act for their role in international narcotics trafficking. Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1,466,485 per violation to more severe criminal penalties. Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $5 million. Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million. Other individuals could face up to 10 years in prison and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.

Identifying information on the individuals designated today.

The Kingpin Act chart on individuals and entities designated today.

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The United Sates,, Cesar Emilio Peralta, Dominican Republic

Satellite-connected tags set to boost marine conservation

BARCELONA, (ESA).- Four tiger sharks have been tagged with a new device that will help conservationists to conduct detailed analysis of their migrations over years.

The device, developed in collaboration with ESA, is smaller and more durable than existing tags, as well as being cheaper and more animal friendly.

It records pressure – indicating the depth of the shark – temperature, light level and tilt to enable three-dimensional mapping.

The tiger sharks were tagged off the coast of Saba in the Dutch Caribbean, during an expedition organised by the Dutch Elasmobranch Society, the Saba Conservation Foundation and Nature Foundation Sint Maarten.

“It’s important to track these animals over an extended period of time, as their migratory patterns can be long and far. Ideally you want to track them for several years,” says Irene Kingma of the Dutch Elasmobranch Society.

“The potential of the new technology used in these tags is amazing as it allows us to collect more data for a longer period of time.

“As ESA has the objective to have the tags produced at a considerably lower price point than the current tags on the market, this could change the way tagging is done in the future,” she says.

The tags communicate with passing satellites. This is known as “a handshake” and takes only minimal power – about the equivalent of sending a text message from a mobile phone.

Once the first contact has been made, the information is transferred. On receiving an acknowledgment from a satellite that its data has been received, the tag stops retransmitting.

This efficiency draws less battery power, making the tag last up to five times longer than existing devices that repeatedly retransmit their information.

The smaller and lighter tag can also hold more data. In fact, once the information has been uploaded to the satellite, the tag can clear its memory and start collecting new readings.

The results so far have shown that the device is highly accurate and robust.

“This technology opens the door to brand new possibilities. Currently tiger sharks are observed infrequently and it is difficult to say where they are. We don’t know about their breeding grounds or where they go,” says Tadzio Bervoets, director of the Nature Foundation Sint Maarten, who is charge of the tagging.

“With this revolutionary new tag we are able to better determine the migratory patterns of these critically important yet threatened apex predators and enact management solutions throughout their migratory range within the Caribbean basin.”

ESA worked with AnSem in Belgium under its programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) to develop the Artic microchip used in the devices. It was built into a marine tag manufactured by Star Oddi in Iceland.

The tag works in conjunction with the Argos satellite monitoring system operated by CLS in France, a leading provider of satellite services for environmental and maritime applications.

“The two-way link with the satellite is the key,” says ESA’s Peter de Maagt, who was also on the expedition.

“The increased efficiency has had knock-on benefits that have opened up new opportunities for better, less invasive tracking.

“This makes it easier to monitor how wildlife is coping in our fast-changing environment.”

http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Telecommunications_Integrated_Applications/Satellite-connected_tags_set_to_boost_marine_conservation

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North Korea Fires More Weapons; Criticizes South Korea

SEOUL, (WILLIAM GALLO-VOANEWS).- North Korea has launched a fresh round of short-range weapons into the sea off its east coast, South Korea’s military reported - Pyongyang’s latest apparent outburst of anger at continued U.S.-South Korean military drills.

The North fired two “unidentified projectiles” Friday from Gangwon province in the northeast part of North Korea, according to a statement from Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. The weapons traveled about 230 kilometers, reaching a height of 30 kilometers, the statement said.

North Korea has conducted six launches in about the past three weeks. Combined with a series of aggressive statements toward South Korea, the launches mark a return to a more provocative stance for Pyongyang, which has refused to hold talks with Seoul or Washington.

Following an emergency meeting Friday, South Korea’s National Security Council called on North Korea to stop the launches and warned that such activity may increase military tensions.

Though it isn’t clear what North Korea launched Friday, the North’s other recent tests involved short-range ballistic missiles that appear designed to evade U.S.-South Korean missile defenses.

North Korea is banned from any ballistic missile activity under United Nations Security Council resolutions. But U.S. President Donald Trump says he has "no problem" with the missile tests, saying they can't reach the United States.

Last week, Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered a "small apology" for the launches and vowed to stop them as soon as the current round of U.S.-South Korean military exercises end.

This round of drills is scheduled to end Aug. 20.

North Korea has long complained that the drills are aggressive. U.S. military leaders say the exercises are defensive and necessary to maintain readiness.

Trump last week called the drills "ridiculous and expensive," but said he signed off on the latest round because it helped prepare for "the turnover of various areas to South Korea."

"I like that because it should happen," Trump said.

The current drills are designed in part to test South Korea's ability to retake operational control from the U.S. during wartime.

Though the drills have been scaled back and renamed in an attempt to preserve the idea of talks, North Korea is still not happy and wants the drills to end completely.

North Korea has directed most of its recent outbursts toward its neighbors in the South.

On Friday, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) took aim at South Korean President Moon Jae-in, calling him an "impudent guy" and a "funny man."

"We have nothing to talk any more with the South Korean authorities nor have any idea to sit with them again," said the statement, which quoted a spokesperson at the semi-official Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country.

The comments come a day after President Moon pledged to work toward the unification of the two Koreas by 2045 — a bold proposal for a leader who is set to leave office in 2022.

Moon and Kim met three times in 2018, promising to bring in a new era of inter-Korean relations. Those talks have since broken down, amid North Korean complaints about continued military cooperation between South Korea and the United States.

In his speech Thursday, the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War Two, Moon insisted a unified Korea would become a global world power and eventually overtake Japan economically.

North Korea doesn't seem very impressed. KCNA on Friday called Moon's remarks a "foolish commemorative speech" that was enough to "make the boiled head of a cow provoke a side-splitting laughter."

https://www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/north-korea-fires-more-weapons-criticizes-south-korea

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South Korea, North Korea

Lake Balaton

BARCELONA, (ESA).- The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over Lake Balaton in western Hungary. With a surface area of around 600 sq km and a length of around 78 km, this freshwater lake is the largest in central Europe.

The lake is mainly fed by the Zala River at its western end. The lakewater flows out near the eastern end via an artificial channel called the Sió, which eventually feeds into the Danube River.

Originally five separate water bodies, the barriers between have been eroded away to create the lake it is today. Remnants of the dividing ridges can be seen in Balaton’s shape – with the Tihany Peninsula on the northern shore narrowing the width of the lake to approximately 1.5 km.

Lake Balaton’s striking emerald-green colour in this image is most likely due to its shallow waters and chemical composition. It is heavy in carbonates and sulphates, and there are also around 2000 species of algae that grow in its waters.

The lake supports a large population of plant and animal species. During migration and wintering sessions, the site is an important staging area for thousands of ducks and geese.

Owing to its pleasant climate and fresh water, the Lake Balaton area is a popular tourist destination. The mountainous northern region is known for its wine, while popular tourist towns lie on the flatter southern shore.

Sentinel-2 is a two-satellite mission to supply the coverage and data delivery needed for Europe’s Copernicus programme. The mission’s frequent revisits over the same area and high spatial resolution allow changes in inland water bodies to be closely monitored.

This image, captured on 27 February 2019, is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.

Copyright contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2019/07/Lake_Balaton_Hungary

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