French breast implant arrest
French breast implant arrest Arrest made in French ‘breast-implant disaster’, Jean-Claude Mas, the former head of a large French breast-implant company , is in jail facing serious criminal charges for what’s been described as a 'breast-implant disaster' . Police say that the company, which was founded in 1991, used cheap, non-medical-grade silicone that could potentially leak into people’s bodies
ean-Claude Mas, the Frenchman who sparked a global health scare by selling substandard breast implants, was arrested on Thursday as Marseille prosecutors build a case against him for manslaughter. In the first arrests since the two-year-old scandal made headlines worldwide in Dec, Mas and a second executive at his now defunct company Poly Implant Prothese were seized at their homes in southern France shortly after dawn. The detention could lead within hours to Mas being placed under formal investigation on suspicion of manslaughter and causing bodily harm. That could in due course lead to criminal charges.
, which would carry longer sentences than those he now faces in a fraud case expected to be tried around October.
Women who have been campaigning against PIP since French authorities banned its products nearly two years ago welcomed the move as giving them a sense that the law was now in action:
“It’s been too long,” said Murielle Ajellio, who heads an association for women with implants. Up to now, she said: “You feel like you’re fighting against the wind.”
French authorities have been criticized for being slow to react to a case that has sown fear among tens of thousands of women who carry PIP implants. French inspectors ordered them off the market in March 2010, due to concerns over their quality.
But only last month did officials in Paris recommend their surgical removal, drawing attention to the problem for patients worldwide who had been fitted with products from the company, which was at one time the third biggest global supplier.
Lawyers for women in France who have filed complaints over PIP implants welcomed the arrests and said there must be no escaping justice for the 72-year-old Mas, who has been quoted as deriding those suing him as being motivated only by money.
“This is a comfort for the victims,” said Laurent Gaudon, whose clients are pursuing PIP and surgeons who used its implants for fraud. “It’s the feeling that justice is advancing and they have not been forgotten. It’s the assurance that the guilty are at last going to be held accountable.”
Philippe Courtois, who represents 1,300 people with PIP implants, said Mas should not be freed pending any trial.
Mas and PIP’s former chief executive Claude Couty were questioned at home, as police conducted searches. They were then moved to police custody in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille, under the orders of prosecutor Jacques Dallest.
PIP enjoyed years of success with international sales, but behind the scenes employees, and Mas himself, have admitted to hiding from certification agencies the fact they were using cheap, industrial silicone, not approved for medical use.
Health authorities in France and elsewhere have stressed that PIP’s products carry no proven link to cancer, but surgeons report that they have abnormally high rupture rates. Responses to the problem have varied among different foreign authorities.
Thursday’s arrests follow an investigation opened in Marseille, close to PIP’s former premises, on December 8 after the death from cancer in 2010 of a woman with PIP implants.
Mas and Couty can be held for up to 48 hours while a judge decides whether to open a formal probe and, if so, what bail conditions, if any, to set.
A trial date could be years away, given the extent of inquiry required, but the graver manslaughter case could make it harder for Mas to avoid appearing in court later this year on other charges of fraud and deception.
That latter case targets half a dozen former PIP executives and could also carry prison terms for them of several years. It has dragged on as investigators have had to quiz up to 2,700 women who have filed complaints over PIP implants.
Mas, who sold some 300,000 implants around the world, has acknowledged that he used unapproved silicone but dismissed fears that it constituted a health risk.
Earlier in January, leaks from a police document showed Mas admitting to lying about the quality of PIP’s implants and describing the women filing complaints against him as just seeking money. The comments sparked public anger against him.
PIP closed down in March 2010 after regulators discovered it was using a non-approved, industrial silicone gel, and pulled its implants off the market.
Last month, the French government advised women with PIP implants to have them removed, and said it would pay for the operations in France, sparking alarm around the world.
Officials in several other countries, including Britain and Brazil, have asked women to visit their doctors for checks.
France has called for tighter European Union regulations on medical devices in wake of the PIP affair, saying suppliers of prosthetics should require the same sort of authorization as manufacturers of prescription medicines.
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More than 400,000 women around the world are believed to have received implants made by Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), which shut down in 2010 after it was revealed to have been using substandard, industrial-grade silicone gel.
Mas, 72, was arrested Thursday on the orders of an investigating judge, Marseille prosecutor Jacques Dallest told AFP.
His lawyer, Yves Haddad, said Mas was later charged with “involuntary injuries” during a late-night hearing in the southern port city of Marseille, and released on bail pending further investigation.
Mas was grilled by investigators and answered hundreds of questions, Haddad said, describing his client as “very cooperative,” outlining the responsibilities of all company officials and his links with suppliers.
Prosecutors said police had also arrested Claude Couty, another former executive at the now-defunct PIP, in southern France.
Fears over PIP implants spread globally late last year after French health authorities advised 30,000 women to have theirs removed because of an increased risk of rupture.
Between 400,000 and 500,000 women in 65 countries are believed to have received implants from PIP, once the world’s largest silicone implant producers.
A number of countries, including Germany and the Czech Republic, followed France in recommending that the implants be removed as a precaution but Britain has said it will not follow suit.
Thirteen countries in Europe and Latin America have also urged women to have a checkup.
French officials have said that cancer, including 16 cases of breast cancer, had been detected in 20 French women with the implants, but have insisted there is no proven link.
Mas was arrested at his partner’s home in the south of France. Dallest said police searched the residence, in the town of Six-Fours-les-Plages, for evidence.
During earlier questioning, Mas has confirmed the implants were made with a non-authorized silicon gel but rejected any suggestion that they posed a health risk.
“I knew that the gel wasn’t approved, but I did it knowingly, because the PIP gel was cheaper ... and of much better quality,” Mas said, according to the minutes of a police interview conducted in October, and seen by AFP.
Philippe Courtois, a lawyer representing women who received the PIP implants, said he was encouraged by Mas’ arrest but did not expect his story to change.
“Considering the outrageous statements he has made in regards to all the victims, we do not expect very much from this hearing,” Courtois said.
Representatives of two groups campaigning for women who received the implants were to appear before the investigating judge on Friday.
Marseille prosecutors have received more than 2,500 complaints in the case, which has sparked calls for wider European regulation and monitoring of medical devices such as breast implants.
Mas, a former traveling salesman who got his start in the medical business by selling pharmaceuticals, founded PIP in 1991 to take advantage of the booming market for cosmetic implants.
He reportedly told investigators that he used fake business data to fool health inspectors.
The substandard gel was in 75% of PIP breast implants, saving the company about one million euros ($1.3 million) annually, according to an ex-company executive.