Makers of fraudulent breast implants on trial in France

Wed Apr 17, 2013 11:49am EDT
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By Jean-François Rosnoblet

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - Five French executives went on trial on Wednesday to jeers from victims for supplying women with hundreds of thousands of substandard breast implants and triggering a global health scare.

More than 300,000 women around the world were fitted over a decade with implants from the French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), and the trial includes 5,000 civil plaintiffs and 300 lawyers.

PIP's founder and long-time chief executive, 73-year-old Jean-Claude Mas, has admitted filling the implants with an unapproved homemade recipe made of industrial-grade silicone gel.

Mas and four PIP executives, including the chief financial officer, are charged with aggravated fraud and risk maximum prison terms of five years each, plus fines, for selling the implants around the world from 2001 to 2010, when they were ordered off the market.

Mas himself was in court an hour before the start of proceedings, which were mostly taken up with opening day legal arguments. "He bears the enormous weight of this trial on his shoulders," Mas's lawyer Yves Haddad said.

A vast exhibition building close to PIP's former premises has been set up as a makeshift courtroom to accommodate the huge crowds expected for the trial, due to last until mid-May.

Mas arrived at court under police escort and faced a crush of cameras as the trial began in the southern city of Marseille.

"Bastard!" shouted someone in the audience of some 300 victims as Mas appeared live on a giant video screen.   Continued...

Members of the court arrive for the start of the trial of PIP breast implant company at the improvised courthouse in Marseille, April 17, 2013. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier