• Kyodo

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Ten people have been arrested on suspicion of stealing drugs and cosmetics worth some 60 million yen, along with two wholesalers suspected of buying the goods with a view to reselling them, investigators said Thursday.

Police suspect that the gang, including three minors, are responsible for some 900 shoplifting incidents that have taken place in Tokyo and eight other prefectures since 2001.

Police are also searching for the prime suspect in the case, a 35-year-old man from Kanagawa Prefecture.

According to the police, gang members worked in pairs to shoplift merchandise such as cold medicine and hair growth tonic from large drug store chains, including Matsumotokiyoshi Co.

They are believed to have transported and sold the goods at the Tokyo-based wholesaler Takachiho, headed by 71-year-old Masato Hirano. Hirano allegedly kept the drugs without a license to sell them.

Investigators said Hirano apparently sold the goods at half their original retail price after buying them from the thieves at 30 percent to 40 percent of their market value.

Hirano is also suspected of buying cosmetics stolen by a Chinese gang in Hiroshima Prefecture.

The Hiroshima Prefectural Police on Thursday searched a Takachiho warehouse, police said.