French implant boss jailed after missing bail payments

PARIS Wed Mar 7, 2012 6:39am EST

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PARIS (Reuters) - Jean-Claude Mas, the Frenchman who set off a global health scare by selling substandard breast implants, has been jailed for not paying his bail, a judicial source said on Wednesday.

Mas had been released from police custody on January 27 on bail of 100,000 euros ($131,600) and banned from leaving the country and from meeting former executives of his now defunct company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP).

He faces a charge of causing bodily harm, although he is not under investigation for the graver charge of manslaughter.

The judicial source said he was jailed on Monday night.

French authorities have been criticized for being slow to react to a case that has sown fear among tens of thousands of women around the world who have had the implants.

French inspectors ordered them off the market in March 2010, due to concerns over their quality.

But only in December did officials in Paris recommend their surgical removal, drawing attention to the problem for patients worldwide who have 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 arrest and said there should 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.

PIP enjoyed years of success with international sales, but employees, and Mas himself, have admitted to concealing 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.

Monday's jailing follows 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.

A trial date could be years away, given the extent of inquiry required, but the bodily harm 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 of several years. It has dragged on as investigators have had to question 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.

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