BestKenko, Pt. IV: Hitting Them Where It Hurts

We’ve explored how BestKenko uses deceptive marketing to allure Japanese consumers into purchasing drugs they think are safe, but actually come from an unregulated supply chain.

The next logical question is: How can they be stopped? Let’s consider the essentials that an organization like this needs to operate. They have to maintain a large network of websites, and they need access to banking and payment services so that they can profit from customer orders on those websites.

First, let’s examine the issue of its large stable of domain names. BestKenko is only able to reach its broad audience in Japan through its extensive network of affiliate marketing websites. You’d think that websites as flagrantly in violation of the law as these would be easy to shut down. However, with the cooperation of a rogue-friendly registrar, GMO Internet, the websites have been able to remain active. We’ve conducted significant outreach to GMO Internet, as we’ve discussed several times, but they are uninterested in cooperating. GMO Internet is the registrar for about 680 of the estimated 800 active BestKenko websites.

Payment processing services are the lifeblood of any online pharmacy network. BestKenko recently lost its ability to process credit card payments thanks to our recent effort to get its merchant account shut down. At that time, it was using the merchant ID “WWW.BESTKENKO.COM.” BestKenko still accepts bank transfers via an account in the name of E Protections Pte. Ltd. at Mitsui Sumitomo Bank, Kanto Daisan Branch. Accounts in this company’s name at Sumitomo Mitsui have been associated with various third-party foreign exchange providers (see here, here, and here) and we weren’t able to verify whether E Protections Pte. Ltd. is associated with BestKenko directly.

The Japanese Ministry of Health and LegitScript have worked for years to cut off BestKenko’s domain name registrations and merchant processing services. Although we’ve made progress, including a prior termination of BestKenko’s merchant account in 2015, it’s clear that shutting off BestKenko’s access to domain name registrations and payment services requires the compliance and cooperation of private sector actors in those industries.

In our next and final blog post on BestKenko, “The (Familiar) Road Ahead,” we’ll consider its place in the internet pharmacy landscape and its striking similarities to internet pharmacies targeting the US, the world’s largest online pharmacy market.