The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is planning to open a new office in southern China amidst growing concerns over the country’s role in the global drug trade.

Of specific concern is the utilisation of trade-based money laundering (TBML) schemes to legitimise the drug profits of Guangzhou-based drugs criminals.

Guangzhou TBML

The planned new office will be in the city of Guangzhou and is likely to be staffed by two special agents, according to Russell Baer, a DEA special agent in Washington.

“Intelligence and investigative information have shown that Guangzhou has strong ties to international drug trafficking organisations operating in China and elsewhere,” according to Baer.

“These criminal groups in Guangzhou utilise TBML schemes to legitimise drug profits, use the port facilities as a transit point to ship illegal narcotics, and purchase synthetic drugs along with precursor chemicals,” he added.

Synthetic opioids

The DEA maintains that China is the top source country for synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its precursors, which have been fuelling the deadliest drug abuse epidemic in US history.

China is also emerging as a laundering destination for drug money, according to a 2015 US Justice Department indictment.