French breast implant boss arrested

Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:17pm EST
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By Jean-François Rosnoblet

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - Jean-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 December, Mas and a second executive at his now defunct company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) 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.   Continued...

<p>An undated police mugshot photo shows Jean-Claude Mas, the founder of the French Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) company, displayed on the "red notice" posted by Interpol on its website. REUTERS/Interpol</p>