Fentanyl sellers in the Netherlands and the UK are under sanctions from the Ministry of Finance

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two Dutch nationals, an Englishman and their nine companies were targeted this week by U.S. government sanctions for running an illegal fentanyl operation that generated millions of dollars in virtual currency.

Alex Adrianus Martinus Peijnenburg and Martinus Pterus Henri De Koning of the Netherlands and Matthew Simon Grimm of the United Kingdom are accused of using their firms to sell illegal substances to American customers and receive payments via digital assets.

The Treasury Department said that between November 2018 and February 2021, Peijnenburg and De Koning generated millions of dollars in virtual currency from illegal drug proceeds through a website selling synthetic drugs.

Grimm’s Netherlands-based companies Natural Gifts BV and UK-based Erjm Limited have been designated for sanctions.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Homeland Security assisted in the investigation.

Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, have become the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in the US. In 2017, 59.8% of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl, compared to 14.3% in 2010, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Treasury will continue to deploy its narcotics enforcement agencies to disrupt those involved in the global fentanyl supply chain,” Brian Nelson, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

Nelson said the Treasury Department is monitoring additional sources of virtual currency linked to drug-trafficking network activities “as we take further measures to counter the abuse of virtual currency.”

Also on Wednesday, the Treasury Department separately sanctioned two individuals, Mohamad Irshad Mohamad Haris Nizar of Sri Lanka and Musab Turkmen of Turkey, who allegedly assisted a sanctioned al-Qaeda financier known to plan “incursions into foreign countries for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities.”

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