Japanese wholesaler arrested in scheme to divert drugs to Chinese tourists

Tokyo

The head of a Japanese drug wholesaler has been arrested, along with four other men, for illegally selling large quantities of prescription drugs to Chinese tourists.

Hidenobu Zaima, the 49-year-old president of Tokyo-based drug wholesaler Biken Pharmacy, was arrested on suspicion of violating the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Law, the Metropolitan Police reported. He is believed to have sold about 291,000 products to a Chinese broker for ¥15 million ($147,000) between September 2015 and May 2016, The Japan News reports.

Police also arrested surgeon Atsushi Takayama, an employee of Biken, a middleman and the 28-year-old Chinese broker who allegedly sold the drugs to the tourists through the Chinese social networking site WeChat. He indicated he was licensed to sell the meds but gave buyers no info on how the drugs should or shouldn’t be used.

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Authorities confiscated 26,000 prescriptions from the home of the broker, who the publication said has been convicted before on similar charges. Police said that Zaima recruited the doctor, who for a fee faked documents indicating the drugs had been shipped to his clinic. The doctor also created false medical records indicating he had prescribed the drugs to his patients. The men allegedly hid the scheme from authorities during official inspections.

Police told the publication that Zaima and the company employee had denied the charges and Takayama and the mediator admitted the scheme.

Chinese tourists often buy prescription and over-the-counter products in other areas, such as Japan and Hong Kong, where they can be cheaper and because of the belief they will get better quality products than those made in China.

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