Founder of a French breast implant company sentenced to four years in prison by a Marseille criminal court for hiding the true nature of the sub-standard silicone used in implants sold to 300,000 women around the world.
Maker of faulty French breast implants given four years’ jail
MARSEILLE, FRANCE // The founder of a French breast implant company was sentenced to four years in prison by a Marseille criminal court on Tuesday for hiding the true nature of the sub-standard silicone used in implants sold to 300,000 women around the world.
The sentence for Jean-Claude Mas, 74, founder and long-time chief executive of Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), capped a scandal that fuelled worldwide panic in 2011 after France recommended that women with such implants have them removed due to an abnormally high rupture rate.
Once the third-largest global supplier of breast implants, the company was shut in 2010 and its implants ordered off the market after inspectors pursuing a tip-off discovered vats of industrial-grade silicone outside the PIP factory in southern France.
Mas, who had been pursued for aggravated fraud, was also ordered to pay a fine of 75,000 euros (Dh378,600) fine. His lawyer, Yves Haddad, said he would appeal.
Four other executives, including the chief financial officer, were sentenced to between one-and-a-half and three years in prison, some of it suspended, and fined.
However, in a decision that could affect thousands of women worldwide who have sought financial reparations, the court also ruled that the German product-testing company TUeV Rheinland, which cleared PIP for certification, was also a victim of Mas’s deception, which officials said included falsified paperwork and a shadow production line.
It was not immediately clear how the verdict would affect a decision in a Toulon commercial court last month that ordered TUeV to pay damages to more than 1,600 women and six distributors for the implants.
Because PIP is bankrupt, the 5,000 women who have joined a complaint against the French company are unlikely to retrieve much compensation. But TUeV, a leader in the industry that was charged with checking the quality of the implants, has deep pockets.
TUeV denies responsibility and has promised to appeal the commercial court ruling, which opens it to the possibility of at least €50 million in damages – about €3,000 per woman, lawyers say.
Mas has admitted using silicone that was never approved by regulators but has insisted the gel he had used since the founding of the company in 1991 was non-toxic.
The two-month trial in April and May was held in an exhibition centre to accommodate the 7,400 civil plaintiffs and 300 lawyers. Jeers from the crowd greeted Mas’s appearance in the makeshift courtroom.
*Reuters with additionl reporting by Associated Press