A few thousand dollars, a few minutes and a decent internet connection are all it takes to source carfentanil online from multiple Chinese vendors.
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Two Associated Press reporters, working independently, documented multiple offers from the companies listed below to export carfentanil, a substance so toxic it has been researched as a chemical weapon and described as a terrorist threat.
These are not your typical drug barons. Many come off as solicitous business owners, starting emails with "Hi, dear," and writing scrupulous follow-up notes to drum up sales. They sent price lists and photos of their merchandise, and promoted their wares, in English, on major business-to-business websites.
Carfentanil — whose median October price from the companies below was $3,700 a kilogram (2.2 pounds) — is banned from general use in the United States, where it is suspected in hundreds of overdoses. Fentanyl, acetylfentanyl and alpha-PVP are controlled substances in both China and the U.S. Many vendors also bragged openly about their ability to circumvent customs authorities around the world.
The companies' cheery let's-do-business attitude changed when the AP followed up with questions about the legality of the sales.
The AP did not actually order any of these products, nor test to see if they were genuine.
BENTON PHARMACY CO.
For sale: Carfentanil, fentanyl, to France, U.K., Europe generally.
The pitch: "We have fentanyl, good quality,"a saleswoman called Caroline said in an email, adding that she'd just gotten a two kilogram order.
Later, Caroline told the AP she was "shocked" to hear the AP had evidence of illicit substances on offer. "Our company has always respected China's relevant business regulations, our company has never sold the products you mentioned."
For sale: Carfentanil, fentanyl. No destination specified.
The pitch: "Contraband will be professionally packaged and parcel will be enhanced with appropriate stealth measures," Williams promised in an email.
Asked for comment by the AP, Williams Pharmacy responded with unpublishable invective, offering no further explanation.
APEX SPECIAL CHEMICAL MEDICINE TRADE CO.
For sale: Carfentanil, fentanyl. No destination specified.
The company pulled its product listings from the Korean business-to-business platform EC21.com after being contacted by the AP, but another company called Okkijeyhhd Plc registered with EC21 on Oct. 23. It had the same contact email as Apex and an identical listing for carfentanil. Requests for comment were not returned.
"Carfentanil is 10000 times more potent than m.o.r.p.h.i.n.e and 5000 times more potent than pharmaceutical grade (100% pure) h.e.r.o.i.n according to the illicit drug conversion table that issued by China Food and Drug Administration," the company said in its product listings.
At least five other vendors, most of which registered on EC21 in October, shared a non-functional phone number with Okkijeyhhd: Ujehhdfb Plc, Theydhhhne Plc, Okegdtsgdbfn Plc, Jhdncbvn Intl and Lkdheeed Plc, which advertised a cornucopia of misspelled drugs for sale.
SHIYAN FURUIYANG BIOLOGICAL TECHNOLOGY CO.
For sale: Carfentanil, fentanyl, acetylfentanyl, alpha-PVP to U.S.
The pitch: Clients "say fentanyl is the most fantastic," a saleswoman called Susie said by email.
Contacted later by the AP on Skype, another saleswoman, Cathy, said, "You did such a great job to get evidence, you can just report it." Then she quickly changed her profile from a photo of a studious-looking Chinese woman holding a child to a dish of snow-white powder.
JILIN TELY IMPORT AND EXPORT CO.
For sale: Carfentanil to Canada, Australia.
After being named in AP's Oct. 7 article, Jilin's website vanished and the company said it had never actually produced carfentanil.
HEBEI YAQIANG BIOLOGICAL TECHNOLOGY CO.
For sale: Carfentanil, acetylfentanyl, fentanyl to U.S, Belgium, France.
The pitch: "We usually ship with hiding in other products and all reached," the company said by email.
Contacted by the AP on a Skype chat, a woman named Lisa insisted Hebei Yaqiang only sells legal products: "if u want to buy. we can provide but if you have other purpose. am sorry. i am busy."
YUNTU CHEMICAL CO.
For sale: Carfentanil, acetylfentanyl to U.S., Canada.
A Yuntu representative hung up the phone when contacted by the AP and did not reply to emails seeking comment. Soon after, the company's website vanished. Reached later on Skype, a company representative who called herself Mary declined to offer carfentanil again.
IAMCOR BIOTECH CO.
For sale: Carfentanil, fentanyl to U.S., Canada
The pitch: "Dear, we use our special way to send you. We ensure you can get it," a woman who identified herself as Megan said in an email
Told later by AP that it had evidence of offers for illicit sales, she replied, "Really? How come I don't know about this?" Then she stopped answering questions.
HUNAN PROVINCE WAYNICK BIOLOGICAL TECHNOLOGY CO.
For sale: Carfentanil, acetylfentanyl, fentanyl to U.S.
Contacted by the AP, Waynick said it listed these products to "attract clients" but doesn't actually sell them. "The real products are substitutes," the company said in an email. "The substitutes are all legal products in China. You can do any investigation."
SHANGHAI KAIWODUN BIOCHEMICAL CO.
For sale: Carfentanil, acetylfentanyl to U.S.
The company did not respond to the AP's requests for comment.
SHANXI JINWEI TECHNOLOGY CO.
For sale: Carfentanil, fentanyl, acetylfentanyl, alpha-PVP, to U.S., Belgium, Germany, Europe generally.
The company did not respond to requests for comment from the AP.
SHANGHAI GOLDEN TIME BIOLOGICAL TECHNOLOGY CO.
For sale: Carfentanil to U.K.
The company didn't respond to AP requests for comment.
HEBEI MORUI CHEMICAL CO.
For sale: Carfentanil, fentanyl, acetylfentanyl, a-PVP to U.S., Canada, France, Belgium.
Morui denied offering the products.
SHANGHAI HONG TAI CHEMICAL CO.
For sale: Carfentanil, fentanyl to U.S., France, Europe generally.
The company denied making the offers. "China does not produce illegal products," a representative said by email.
SHANGHAI BOHUA FINE CHEMICAL CO.
For sale: Carfentanil to Germany, France, U.K.
Asked by the AP about offers to sell carfentanil, the company replied in an email, "I do not know what you're talking about."
Satter reported from Paris. Associated Press researcher Fu Ting contributed from Shanghai.
Follow Kinetz on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ekinetz and Satter at http://twitter.com/razhael