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Mexican Drug Cartels Laundering Money Through China’s Triads After Championing US Fentanyl Push

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: July 14, 2021
Tablets suspected to be fentanyl are placed on a graph to measure their size at the Drug Enforcement Administration Northeast Regional Laboratory on October 8, 2019 in New York. Mexico’s drug cartels are perhaps the major cohort for the Chinese Triad, an arm of the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, in the creation and import of America’s fentanyl endemic.
Tablets suspected to be fentanyl are placed on a graph to measure their size at the Drug Enforcement Administration Northeast Regional Laboratory on October 8, 2019 in New York. Mexico’s drug cartels are perhaps the major cohort for the Chinese Triad, an arm of the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, in the creation and import of America’s fentanyl endemic. (Image: DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)

America’s deadly fentanyl crisis is championed by Mexico’s notorious drug cartels relying on chemical precursors imported directly from mainland China, according to new reporting by the Washington Examiner. 

Although the Examiner’s story is not breaking news and has been brought to the public’s attention by various investigative journalists and researchers over the course of the last several years, the publication says what is new is that the cartels have begun to work with the Chinese Triad syndicate’s money laundering operations in order to return their made-in-America profits across the southern border to their home base. 

In a 2019 report by InsightCrime, a self-described investigative journalism think tank, Mexico’s geographically advantageous maritime ports make it a strategically ideal point of entry for both legal and illegal substances imported from Asia. Once the cartels import the substances, they are smuggled across the weak U.S.-Mexico border and then sold to users in the United States. 

InsightCrime found the majority of fentanyl seizures between 2015 and 2018, based on records obtained from FOIA requests to Mexican authorities, took place in the northwestern portion of the country where San Diego is in close proximity to hubs like Tijuana and Mexicali.

The investigation found a 500 percent increase in fentanyl seizures between fiscal years 2016 and 2018 by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s Office of Field Operations. Additionally, based on data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the vast majority of fentanyl usage was in the Northeastern and Midwest quadrants of the United States, making these areas the primary market for domestic dealers. 

Washington Examiner says in 2019, the Trump administration put pressure on the Chinese Communist Party during its trade war with China to make fentanyl illegal for export. After the Party began regulating it as a controlled substance in May of 2019, according to comments made by a U.S. State Department spokesperson to Newsweek in May of 2021, the result was a near 100 percent disruption to the flow of the poisonous substance into the U.S. 

However, Mexico’s cartels then simply began importing the chemical precursors required to make the opioid from China and synthesizing it themselves before resuming operations, the spokesperson was forced to concede. 

According to April of 2020 reporting by ABC during the peak of the world’s COVID-19 hysteria, the global drug trade was enormously impacted by the pandemic because the majority of China’s production of fentanyl and fentanyl precursors could be traced back to a single CCP-funded laboratory in Wuhan City.

It wasn’t the only concession the State Department spokesperson made. They also made it clear the Mexican cartels were working hand-in-hand with China’s Triad to launder their profits when they said, “Chinese money laundering organizations that exploit PRC institutions dominate money laundering globally, providing this service to cartels that manufacture fentanyl in Mexico using PRC-origin chemicals.”

Newsweek said it wasn’t until the DEA began investigating China’s international fentanyl shipping scheme that it discovered how central the Triad was to the entire world’s narcotic industry.

DEA New York Division Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan told the outlet, “Before that, we were so focused on Mexican cartels, the violence, everything that they’ve done. And what we didn’t realize was the real scope or the depth to which Chinese organized crime is involved with the entire drug trade.”

Donovan also said the DEA was able to link the Triad to meth trade in Australia and the cocaine trade in Europe. 

And it’s not just narcotics. The State Department’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report found that not only did CCP itself have a state-sanctioned “policy or pattern” of human trafficking its own citizens, but the mainland was a hub for different transnational organizations to move sex slaves and forced labor slaves throughout the world.

The difficulty in dealing with the Triad was both their professionalism and how they embedded themselves into Mexican society, said Donovan, “Their kids are born in Mexico, the generation now, they’re Chinese organized crime in Mexico that are part of the Mexican culture.”

A February article by Mexico-based San Miguel Post titled Fentanyl Trafficking and Mexico’s Debt With China reasoned the Mexican government had no standing to challenge Beijing on its collusion with the country’s cartels after not only accepting ten million doses of made-in-China COVID-19 vaccines, but allowing CanSino Biologics to conduct Phase 3 testing of its vaccine on Mexican citizens.

Washington Examiner said the cartels were recently found to be utilizing the Triad’s underground banking system, an elaborate scheme of front and shell companies, in addition to high net worth individuals, set up in different countries such as Canada and the United States, where dirty money in one location can be traded for laundered money in another location, minus a fee.

In Canada, mainstream media reporter Sam Cooper’s book Wilful Blindness: How a Network of Narcos, Tycoons and CCP Agents Infiltrated the West documents years of investigative reporting that reveals how the Triad would contract wealthy businessmen with legitimate backstories from Macau to travel to Vancouver to transform hockey bags full of dirty $20s acquired from Vancouver’s notoriously chronic heroin (and now fentanyl) market, to play $100,000 per hand baccarat at Richmond’s government-run casinos.  

The end result was the Triad was able transform warehouses of $20s into clean $100 bills or casino-issued bank drafts that could be converted without scrutiny into houses and cars and deposited into Canadian bank accounts, all while high ranking RCMP, BC gambling officials, and even the federal government turned a blind eye as casinos posted billion dollar profits.

Often, the money the Macau whales would be given to gamble with by the Vancouver Triad was underwritten by an exchange of funds in mainland China or Hong Kong, as wealthy Chinese nationals sought to circumvent the strict $50,000 per year export cap imposed by the CCP. 

Cooper also found the Triad was an arm of the CCP itself through its United Front Work Department, a branch of the Party created to co-opt and neutralize high value overseas targets, such as businesses and politicians.

In December of 2020, an investigative report by Reuters found 50-year-old Gan Xianbing, a Chinese businessman serving as a “money broker,” had laundered as much as $65 million USD in a Mexico-based operation for cartels as prominent as Sinaloa.