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BREAST IMPLANTS

Breast implant scandal: Founder of firm jailed

The founder of the firm that sparked a global health scare by using industrial-grade silicone in breast implants given to women across the world was jailed by a French court on Tuesday. Jean-Claude Masa had been dubbed "the sorcerer's apprentice of implants".

Breast implant scandal: Founder of firm jailed
A French court will hand out its verdict on a firm behind the scandal that saw thousands of women given industrial-grade silicone in breast implants. Photo: Webphotographer/Flickr

Jean-Claude Mas, the founder of PIP, the French firm at the centre of a global scandal over faulty breast implants, was convicted on Tuesday of fraud and sentenced to four years in prison.

Mas, dubbed "the sorcerer's apprentice of implants" by prosecutors,  was also handed a €75,000 ($103,000) fine and banned permanently from working in medical services or running a company

Four other former PIP executives were also convicted and given lesser sentences.

The others jailed were PIP's former general manager Claude Couty, quality control director Hannelore Font, production director Loic Gossart and research director Thierry Brinon.

The scandal first emerged in 2010 after doctors noticed abnormally high rupture rates in PIP implants. It gathered steam worldwide in 2011, with some 300,000 women in 65 countries believed to have received the faulty implants.

Prosecutors had called for sentences of between six months and four years in prison for the accused.

They also urged the court to impose a €100,000 ($137,000) fine on Mas and ban him from working in medical services or from running a company.

During a month-long trial in Marseille in April, the defendants admitted to using the industrial-grade silicone but Mas, who has spent eight months in pre-trial detention, 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.

But health officials in various countries have said they are not toxic and do not increase the risk of breast cancer.

The court did not rule on the question of whether the implants posed a risk, only whether the five managers defrauded their clients and German safety standards firm TUV, which approved the implants for market.

More than 7,000 women have declared themselves civil plaintiffs in the case and hundreds packed the court during the trial in April, which was moved to the Marseille convention centre.

Mas, a one-time travelling salesman who got his start in the medical business by selling pharmaceuticals, founded PIP in 1991 to take advantage of the booming market for cosmetic implants.

He built the company into the third-largest global supplier of implants, but came under the spotlight when plastic surgeons began reporting an unusual number of ruptures in his products.

Health authorities later discovered he was saving millions of euros 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.

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

German firm TUV was last month found liable in the case, with a court in the French city of Toulon ruling that the German firm had "neglected its duties" by failing to properly verify the implants.

The company was ordered to pay more than 50 million euros in compensation to six distributors and to more than 1,600 women fitted with the implants.

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BREAST IMPLANTS

Faulty breast implants: French court orders German safety body to pay out €60 million

A French court on Friday ordered German safety certifier TUV to pay 60 million euros ($64 million) in compensation to 20,000 women who received defective breast implants that the group had approved.

Faulty breast implants: French court orders German safety body to pay out €60 million
Photo: AFP

A French court on Friday ordered German safety certifier TUV to pay 60 million euros ($64 million) in compensation to 20,000 women who received defective breast implants that the group had approved.

TUV Rhineland was ordered to make a provisional payment of 3,000 euros to each plaintiff for certifying that implants made by French firm Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) met safety standards.

In the far-reaching health scandal, the devices were later found to contain substandard, industrial-grade silicone gel that was seven times cheaper than medical-grade silicone.

“The final amount will be determined after an assessment, but (TUV) is required to make a provisional payment of 3,000 euros” per person, said lawyer Laurent Gaudon, representing 7,000 women.

Another lawyer Olivier Aumaitre, representing some 13,000 women, praised the commercial court in the southern port of Toulon for a ruling he said was inevitable given “TUV's glaring negligence”.

TUV's lawyer Cecile Derycke said the firm would appeal the latest ruling in a long-running saga.

The court “persists in ignoring very clear elements of the PIP dossier that establish that (TUV Rheinland) fulfilled its mission of a certifying body with diligence and full conformity with applicable regulations,” she said in a statement.

The Toulon court in 2013 ordered TUV to pay 53 million euros to six foreign distributors of the implants as well as 1,600 users.

But an appeals court later overturned that decision, saying that TUV had fulfilled its obligations as a certifying body and could not be held responsible for failing to detect PIP's cover-up.

The company maintains it was never its job to check the actual implants, and their task was only to inspect the manufacturing process.

The court said that if TUV staff had carried out “the slightest unannounced inspection… the fraud would have been easily detected.”

The scandal made global headlines in 2011, the year after doctors first noticed abnormally high rupture rates in the implants.

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

PIP's founder, Jean-Claude Mas, was convicted of fraud and sentenced to four years in jail in 2013, confirmed on appeal in 2016.

Toxicity ruled out

Mas was ordered to pay a fine of 75,000 euros and was banned from working in the health sector or running a business

He has appealed that ruling.

Two other pending legal cases are pending against Mas, one for involuntary manslaughter — the implants were suspected in several deaths from systemic toxicity — and another linked to the financial implications of the scandal.

He always denied the implants posed any health risks.

In a setback for the plaintiffs, a scientific panel mandated by the European Commission concluded in May 2014 that the implants could not be linked to toxicity and users did not have to remove them as a precaution.

Thousands of women have had the implants removed, even though health officials in several countries have said they are not toxic and are not thought to increase the risk of breast cancer.

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