Jean-Claude Mas, the founder of French company PIP, which distributed defective breast implants around the world, has been sentenced to four years in prison for fraud.
Jean-Claude Mas was also fined 75,000 euros ($101,000) by a court in Marseille.
He will remain at liberty until a French court hears an appeal lodged by his lawyer.
PIP’s sale of faulty implants caused a global health scare which affected about 300,000 women in 65 countries.
The company was found to have used sub-standard silicone gel – rather than medical-grade silicone – which the result that many implants ruptured.
Apart from Jean-Claude Mas, four other former PIP executives were convicted and given lesser sentences.
With more than 5,000 women registered as plaintiffs in the case, and about 300 lawyers, the trial was considered one of the biggest in French legal history.
Jean-Claude Mas has been sentenced to four years in prison for fraud
The health scare came to public attention in 2011 when the French government recommended that women have PIP implants removed due to an abnormally high rupture rate.
The issue of whether the sub-standard silicone used in the implants posed any danger was not resolved by the trial, AFP news agency notes.
Jean-Claude Mas, 74, showed no sign of emotion as sentence was passed. His lawyer, Yves Haddad, blamed the severity of the sentence on pressure generated by the media, and said he would appeal, meaning that Mas will remain at liberty until the outcome of a further hearing.
He and the others had all admitted to fraud.
PIP’s director-general was sentenced to three years in prison, two of which were suspended.
The company’s head of quality control received two years, one of them suspended, and the head of research and development was sentenced to 18 months, suspended.
Throughout the trial, Jean-Claude Mas had denied the silicone used was harmful while all but one of the other defendants said they had not been aware of the risks.
When an implant ruptures, the silicone gel filling can leak into the body. Some women will not notice anything at all, and there is no evidence of an increased cancer risk.
However, it can result in the formation of scar tissue that can change the shape and feel of the breast. The gel can be an irritant, causing pain and inflammation. It can also be more difficult to remove an implant once it has ruptured.
France’s Health Products Agency (ANSM) has to date registered more than 7,500 implant ruptures and 3,000 cases of undesirable effects, mainly inflammations, among the 30,000 women using PIP products in France.
[youtube aHZfL_uyspw 650]
French Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) founder Jean-Claude Mas has been arrested at his home in Six-Fours-les-Plages, southern France, according to police.
In 2010, France banned PIP breast implants made with low-grade industrial silicone, amid fears they could rupture and leak.
Up to 400,000 women in 65 countries are believed to have been given implants.
Jean-Claude Mas, 72, remains at his home while police search it – as required by French law.
PIP owner is believed to have been detained as part of a judicial investigation started in December into manslaughter and involuntary injuries.
A second PIP executive, former chief financial officer Claude Couty, has also been arrested
Jean-Claude Mas has been under investigation since he revealed in a police interview last year that PIP ordered employees to hide the unauthorized silicone when inspectors visited its factory.
He told police that PIP had deceived European safety inspectors for 13 years.
But Jean-Claude Mas has insisted they posed no threat to health and attacked the French authorities for offering to pay for their removal because it put women through a “surgery risk”.
Jean-Claude Mas has been under investigation since he revealed in a police interview last year that PIP ordered employees to hide the unauthorized silicone when inspectors visited its factory
PIP owner also said he had “nothing” to say to women facing surgery for their removal and that victims had only filed complaints “to make money”.
Excerpts from Jean-Claude Mas’s interview have been re-examined by a French magistrate.
In France, 30,000 women have been advised to remove the implants and 2,700 have filed complaints against Jean-Claude Mas.
Women in 65 countries – mainly in Latin America and elsewhere in Europe – have received implants made by the company, which closed down in March 2010.
Health officials in Germany, the Czech Republic and Venezuela have advised women to have them removed.
The medical advice in the UK, where 40,000 are affected, is that there is no need for all the implants to be removed, only those causing problems such as pain or tenderness.
In England, the NHS will only replace them in exceptional circumstances, and the NHS in Wales said it would only do so when it was deemed medically necessary.
Women in Northern Ireland who received PIP implants for health reasons will have them replaced, but the NHS will only remove, not replace, those inserted for cosmetic reasons.
Scotland’s Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said concerned women who had them fitted privately would be offered advice and the option of removal if necessary. There are no records of PIP implants being used by the NHS.
The international police agency Interpol has said Jean-Claude Mas is wanted in Costa Rica over a drunk driving charge.
It said the “red notice” over an alleged incident in June 2010 was “totally unconnected” to PIP.