Four men have been arrested for selling medicines to Chinese tourists without prescriptions, police said Friday.
One of those detained is the head of a pharmaceutical wholesaler, while another is a doctor who is alleged to have helped launder the products with fake receipts.
Hidenobu Zaima, the 49-year-old president of the Tokyo-based company, Atsushi Takayama, 47, a doctor, Hiroyuki Chikama, a 41-year-old adviser to the company, and Kazuo Takahashi, 66, were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of violating a law requiring pharmacies to dispense medicines based on prescriptions.
Police believe they were diverting prescription drugs to a Chinese broker to sell to Chinese tourists.
They said the 28-year-old broker, who was arrested in May and has since been convicted of violating the same law, sold medicines to tourists through a Chinese social networking service.
Police confiscated about 28,000 medical products from his home.
Japanese medicines are popular with Chinese tourists not just because they are perceived as being safe and high quality but because of tax exemptions they have been eligible for since October 2014.
Police say tourists have often been unable to obtain prescriptions from Japanese doctors, and this has given rise to a black market for diverted drugs.
Zaima and the other three are alleged to have sold about 7,000 prescription drugs, including sleeping pills and medicines for treating prostate enlargement, to the Chinese broker in April for around ¥470,000 ($4,700).
But police said the suspects may have also sold about 290,000 medical products to the broker between last September and May, reaping around ¥15 million in profits.
Zaima and the others laundered the medicined by pretending to sell them to Takayama, the police said. They allegedly paid the doctor to provide falsified receipts.
Zaima and Chikama have denied the allegations, but Takayama and Takahashi have admitted their roles in the scam, police said.
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