It’s quite the dilemma: What do you do when you promised to hold the companies that triggered the opioid crisis accountable as president, but it turns out that the father of one of your top nominees for the Justice Department has ties to a company that may have been involved in selling cartels an ingredient needed to create high-grade methamphetamine and heroin?
According to a new report from Breitbart, President Joe Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, Vanita Gupta, is now under scrutiny over her reported ownership of millions of dollars of stock in her father’s company, which is alleged to have sold acetic anhydride to Mexican drug cartels.
Gupta owns between $11 million and $55 million worth of stock in Avantor, which stopped selling the substance only in September when a criminal investigation by Mexican authorities was announced, Breitbart reported. Gupta’s father, Raj, is reportedly the chairman of the company.
Notably, Biden’s platform stated he would “hold accountable big Pharma companies, executives, and others responsible for their role in triggering the opioid crisis,” according to Breitbart.
The now-president also said he intended to “[d]irect the U.S. Justice Department to make actions that spurred this crisis a top investigative and, where appropriate, civil and criminal enforcement priority.”
So how can someone who might be tasked with going after a company like Avantor be considered for the job when she owns millions in its stock?
The disconnect is a big one for Biden, and it is unclear whether he knows about the potential conflict.
Acetic anhydride has legal uses, such as for aspirin and cigarette filters, but is routinely diverted from those uses and used to make illegal drugs, according to a Bloomberg report. It is supposed to be highly regulated, but can routinely be found on store shelves in areas known for growing poppies, and only a little bit of the chemical is needed to make heroin or meth.
Gupta’s conflict of interest
Gupta, for her part, has pledged not to have any involvement in Avantor going forward, but she has not divested of the stock, according to reports — meaning the potential for conflict of interest remains.
She was questioned in a Senate confirmation hearing on March 9, but the subject of Avantor’s sales didn’t come up.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) did note that Gupta didn’t give direct answers about her own views during the hearing, but only said that she would “follow the law of the land,” as Breitbart reported.
Maybe more questions are necessary now that this development has come to light.