China Moves Crime Money to Fuel Fentanyl Crisis in the West, Investigative Reporter Says

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
and Joshua Philipp
Joshua Philipp
Joshua Philipp
Joshua Philipp is an award-winning investigative reporter with The Epoch Times and host of EpochTV's "Crossroads" program. He is a recognized expert on unrestricted warfare, asymmetrical hybrid warfare, subversion, and historical perspectives on today’s issues. His 10-plus years of research and investigations on the Chinese Communist Party, subversion, and related topics give him unique insight into the global threat and political landscape.
January 16, 2022Updated: January 19, 2022

Beijing is fueling the fentanyl crisis in Canada and the United States through a sophisticated web involving drug cartels, loan sharks, and foreign casinos, investigative journalist and author Sam Cooper said.

How Chinese money was funneled through such a web was described by Cooper as the “Vancouver model” in his book “Wilful Blindness: How a Network of Narcos, Tycoons and CCP Agents Infiltrated the West,” based on his investigations into crime networks in cities including Toronto and Vancouver.

Cooper said in a recent interview with EpochTV’s “Crossroads” program that Chinese organized crime figures “have become the major movers of financial crime money around the world,” as the model can be found in major U.S. cities.

“We can say that in cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, and others, I can see the very same underground banking, Vancouver-model activity,” Cooper said, where drug money was moved around on secret ledgers without the need for wire transfers across borders.

That model has surfaced because of China’s capital control, Cooper said, because each citizen in communist China has a foreign exchange limit of $50,000 per year. As a result, in order to move large sums overseas for activities such as buying a condo in a foreign city, wealthy Chinese would, for example, need to seek out underground banking channels.

Cooper explained how the Vancouver model works: Gang members from Vancouver travel to casinos in Macau, targeting wealthy Chinese gamblers, including Chinese officials who wish to get their money out of China. The two sides strike a deal, and Chinese gamblers travel to Vancouver, using cash supplied by local loan sharks who get the money from drug dealers.

Chinese gamblers use the money to buy casino chips, play them, cash them, and walk out with cleaned or laundered money. Then they transfer money from their bank accounts in China to the gangsters’ accounts in China to pay back the debt.

“The proceeds, of course, fund more fentanyl precursor production [in China] … which sends more drugs into the United States or Canada, produces more drug cash, and the cycle repeats,” Cooper said, adding that the gangsters would loan out the cash again to fund the gambling of more wealthy Chinese in Canada.

Cooper’s book illustrates cases in which state actors from the communist regime directed drug trafficking organizations in Vancouver and intervened in gang conflicts in the city.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more powerful than heroin.

More than 100,000 people in the United States died of drug overdoses from April 2020 to April 2021, a record number during a 12-month period, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fentanyl was involved in nearly two-thirds of those deaths.

U.S. officials have been trying to stop the influx of fentanyl into the country.

Earlier this month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that it seized 87,652 pounds of narcotics in south Texas ports between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021. Among the seized drugs, 588 pounds were fentanyl, up 1,066 percent from the year prior.

In April 2021, a Chinese national was sentenced to 14 years for laundering tens of millions of dollars of drug money for Latin American cartels. Less than six months later, another Chinese national was given a seven-year sentence for running a money-laundering network spanning several countries.