The late, great thriller writer Ian Fleming, author of such classic James Bond thrillers as From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and Dr. No, also wrote a short story about drug smuggling called Risico.
In Risico, James Bond is given the assignment to break up a drug smuggling ring in Italy. M, the chief of the British Secret Service in the Bond stories, tells Bond drug trafficking can be an instrument of psychological warfare, as drug addiction saps a country’s strength. He stated that subversion and not money may be at the back of it.
“In this pizniss is much risico,” the drug smuggler Kristatos tells James Bond at the beginning of the short story.
The Italian criminal Enrico Colombo, who smuggles cigarettes and other items — but not drugs — aids Bond in destroying a cache of Kristatos’s drugs. Colombo tells Bond that the drug shipment they had just destroyed was a gift from Russia. He explained that Kristatos ran the drug ring that smuggled heroin into the United Kingdom, but the Soviet Union provided him with the drugs.
Ian Fleming admitted that the plots in his novels were fantastic (the films much more so), but he also said they were based on the real world of intelligence.
Fleming, a naval intelligence officer in WWII, and a journalist who covered espionage for Reuters prior to WWII and the London Sunday Times post-war, knew his subject well.
I thought of Ian Fleming’s Risico when I read the remarks by Matthew Millhollin — the assistant director of Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department of Homeland Security — at a hearing on combating transnational criminal organizations and the trafficking of humans, narcotics, and firearms.
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Appearing before the committee on May 3, Millhollin spoke of the Chinese connection to the Mexican cartels who import heroin and other drugs, including the lethal drug fentanyl, which are devastating and killing drug addicts in Kensington, other parts of Philadelphia, and across the country.
“As the principal investigative component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), HSI is responsible for investigating transnational crime. In collaboration with its partners in the United States and abroad, HSI special agents develop evidence to identify and advance criminal cases against transnational criminal organizations (TCOs); terrorist networks and facilitators; and other criminal elements that threaten the homeland,” Millhollin told the committee. “HSI works with prosecutors to arrest and indict violators; execute criminal search warrants; seize criminally derived money and assets; and take other actions with the goal of disrupting and dismantling TCOs operating throughout the world.”
Millhollin added that TCOs have evolved beyond insular entities and have sought out partnerships with competing TCOs in furtherance of their criminal activities.
“For example, the illicit collaboration between Chinese TCOs and Mexican cartels have created a complex criminal ecosystem that is fueling money laundering and narcotics trafficking, specifically illicit fentanyl, operations into and within the United States. Chinese money laundering organizations (MLOs) have developed sophisticated networks in the United States, Mexico, China, and throughout Asia to facilitate three money laundering schemes,” Millhollin explained.
“These organizations utilize their vast global infrastructure to clean illicit proceeds for various criminal organizations, including Mexican cartels. Moreover, as Mexican cartels have taken over fentanyl production and operate on an industrial scale, they are procuring precursor chemicals from China and synthesizing these chemicals in Mexico to produce fentanyl. Mexican cartels then smuggle the fentanyl into the United States in either powder or pill form for distribution.”
Millhollin stated that HSI was attacking this illicit narcotics supply chain through an intelligence based counternarcotics operation that blends traditional investigative and analytical techniques with interagency collaboration, industry partnerships, and computer-based tools.
Millhollin did not suggest the Communist Chinese Government was involved in the exporting of fentanyl or turned a blind eye. But others have, and I suspect it is so.
“Chinese criminal organizations also facilitate the trafficking and distribution of illicit fentanyl pills. The most common is fake oxycodone pills, which are made to look identical to prescription oxycodone but are laced with deadly fentanyl. These fake pills are responsible for thousands of overdose fatalities, as the user believes they are taking a real oxycodone pill and unknowingly receives a lethal dose of fentanyl. In order to manufacture these pills, Mexican cartels require industrial pill press equipment to turn powdered fentanyl into pill form. The Mexican cartels are purchasing these pill presses directly from Chinese manufacturers who are producing the equipment specifically for illicit activity.
“HSI is actively disrupting the pill press supply chain, and to date has seized over 1,200 pill presses and parts used to make deadly fentanyl-laced pills. Moreover, TCOs, particularly those along the Southern Border, have employed a multipronged illicit business model encompassing the importation of narcotics into the United States and exportation of illicit firearms and ammunition to Mexico.”
Millhollin stated further that HSI has developed a multidiscipline approach to combating the flow of illicit drugs into the United States which includes countering the flow of illicit firearms and ammunition into Mexico.
Mexican President López Obrador also claimed fentanyl is being bought by Mexican gangs from suppliers in China. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning denied the claim and stated there was no such thing as illegal trafficking of fentanyl between China and Mexico.
“China has not been notified by Mexico of the seizure of scheduled fentanyl precursors from China,” she said.
This was plainly a dodge, as drugs listed in “schedules” are legal shipments subject to a number of official government restrictions, while “unscheduled” — smuggled by criminals — are not.
Mao Ning said the widespread fentanyl abuse in the US was a problem completely made in America.
Although Millhollin spoke of Chinese transnational crime organizations, he did not suggest the Communist Chinese Government was involved in the exporting of fentanyl or turned a blind eye. But others have, and I suspect it is so.
Just as the Soviet Union was the villain providing drugs to traffickers so that drugs would undermine the United Kingdom in Ian Fleming’s Risico, I wonder if the Communist Chinese Government allows their criminal gangs to ship fentanyl to Mexico and then on to the United States in an effort to undermine America.
Paul Davis, a Philadelphia writer and frequent contributor to Broad + Liberty, also contributes to Counterterrorism magazine and writes the On Crime column for the Washington Times.