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Founder of French breast implant scandal firm jailed

Jean-Claude Mas of PIP will spend four years in prison, while a number of the firm’s ex-managers have been convicted of fraud.

n this photo taken on Jan. 26, 2012, a plastic surgeon holds a broken PIP breast implant after it was removed from a patient at a clinic in Caracas, Venezuela.
n this photo taken on Jan. 26, 2012, a plastic surgeon holds a broken PIP breast implant after it was removed from a patient at a clinic in Caracas, Venezuela.
Image: AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

A FRENCH COURT has convicted of fraud the ex-managers of a firm whose faulty breast implants sparked a global health scare, and sentenced the company’s founder to four years in jail.

The now-defunct firm, Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) was at the centre of worldwide concern two years ago after it was revealed to have used cheaper industrial-grade silicone in thousands of breast implants sold worldwide.

The court sentenced PIP founder Jean-Claude Mas to four years in prison, fined him €75,000 and banned him permanently from working in medical services or running a company.

‘Sorcerer’s apprentice’

Mas, a 74-year-old dubbed “the sorcerer’s apprentice of implants” by prosecutors, did not react as the verdict was read out in court.

“I am disappointed but not surprised,” Mas’s lawyer Yves Haddad said, blaming the verdict on “strong pressure” due to the public nature of the scandal and announcing plans to appeal.

Haddad said it was “shocking” that Mas had not been given a suspended sentence as he had no previous criminal record.

Four other former PIP executives were also convicted by the court in Marseille on the charges of aggravated fraud and given lesser sentences.

The scandal first emerged in 2010 after doctors noticed abnormally high rupture rates in PIP implants.

Some 300,000 women in 65 countries are believed to have received the faulty implants.

During a month-long trial in April, the defendants admitted to using the industrial silicone but Mas denied the company’s implants posed any health risks.

More than 7,500 women have reported ruptures in the implants and in France alone 15,000 have had the PIP implants replaced.

More than 7,000 women had declared themselves civil plaintiffs in the case and several dozen were in court for the verdict.

“It is an important symbolic first step – the first time that we can use the word ‘guilty’ for Jean-Claude Mas,” said Alexandra Blachere, the head of an association of women given the implants.

Industrial gel saved PIP millions

The court also sentenced PIP’s former general manager Claude Couty to three years in prison, with two years suspended.

Quality control director Hannelore Font and production director Loic Gossart were both sentenced to two years in prison, with one suspended, and research director Thierry Brinon was given an 18-month suspended sentence.

Mas founded PIP in 1991 to take advantage of the booming market for cosmetic implants.

Health authorities later discovered he was saving millions of euro by using industrial-grade gel in 75 percent of the implants. PIP’s implants were banned and the company eventually liquidated.

PIP had exported more than 80 percent of its implants, with about half going to Latin America, about a third to other countries in western Europe, about 10 percent to eastern Europe and the rest to the Middle East and Asia.

Some of the defendants, including Mas, have also been charged in separate and ongoing manslaughter and financial fraud investigations into the scandal.

Suspicious death

The manslaughter probe is related to the suspicious 2010 death from cancer of a woman who was fitted with the implants.

German safety standards firm TUV, which approved the implants for market, was last month found liable in the case.

A European Commission report found in October that the defective breast implants contain no potentially toxic compounds.

Approximately 1,500 Irish women were fitted with the defective implants, with 138 ruptures being reported in Ireland by May of this year.

It was announced in early May that the cost of removing the PIP implants from Irish women would be covered by the three clinics which used the faulty products.

- Additional reporting AFP. - © AFP, 2013

Read: Silicone in controversial PIP breast implants won’t cause cancer says report>

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