US Treasury Initiates Strike Force to Combat Illicit Fentanyl Trafficking

December 5, 2023

The U.S. Treasury Department has introduced a Counter-Fentanyl Strike Force, aimed at utilizing the department’s resources and expertise in a coordinated approach to combat the illegal trafficking of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic. As per the US Treasury press release, the Strike Force is jointly led by the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) and IRS Criminal Investigation (CI), bringing together personnel, skills, intelligence, and assets from essential treasury offices.

Effectively combating fentanyl involves strengthening anti-money laundering regulations to obstruct financial networks and transactions associated with drug production and distribution. Janet L. Yellen, secretary of the Treasury stated, “The Treasury Department’s Counter-Fentanyl Strike Force will allow us to bring the Department’s unrivaled expertise in fighting financial crime to bear against this deadly epidemic. Treasury will use every tool at its disposal to disrupt the ability of drug traffickers to peddle this poison in our country.”

The strike force led by Brian Nelson, secretary of TFI, and James Lee, Chief of CI, will be coordinated by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (OIA), and the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes (TFFC) to address financial threats across the entire department. Jim Lee said, “Partnerships are key to the work we do at IRS Criminal Investigation, and we welcome the opportunity to partner with our Treasury counterparts to combat fentanyl – one of the deadliest narcotics plaguing our country.”

Strategic Efforts by the Strike Force

Through the strategic alignment of investigations and consolidation of information from essential components, the strike force will amplify the financial effectiveness of measures against the trade of illegal fentanyl, including sanctions designations or law enforcement actions.

The Strike Force will combine FinCEN and CI’s analytic expertise with OIA’s insights to explore more chances for disrupting essential money laundering at international fentanyl trafficking networks, specifically those relying heavily on cryptocurrency. Moreover, the strike force will enhance operational coordination between OFAC and CI to strengthen the investigation and enforcement of narcotics sanctions violations via charging civil penalties or criminal referrals.

To better identify money laundering networks assisting fentanyl trafficking at the international scale, the strike force will integrate FinCEN and CI’s partnership with foreign national intelligence units. Additionally, it will advance outreach to foreign partners by closely supporting efforts between general Treasury and CI attachés.

Law Enforcement Collaboration

The strike force will collaborate with both local and federal enforcement, sharing financial leads and intelligence, and coordinating cases, particularly in the US regions heavily impacted by the opioid epidemic.

The treasury’s initiatives will further promote the agreement between President Biden and President Xi established in November, seeking to restore collaborative efforts to counternarcotics. The primary focus is to diminish the supply of precursor chemicals that contribute to the illegal trade of fentanyl and synthetic drugs.

Also read: Why OFAC imposed sanctions on 10 individuals in Sinaloa Cartel, associated with illicit fentanyl trafficking operations.