Paris: The former head of a French company at the centre of a breast implant scandal affecting tens of thousands of women worldwide has been arrested in southeast
Jean-Claude Mas, who founded and ran the now-defunct French company Poly Implant Prothese, was detained today as part of a judicial investigation in the southeastern city of
Marseille into manslaughter and involuntary injuries, an official close to the investigation said.
So far no specific defendant has been named. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, because the case is in the hands of judicial investigators.
Investigating judge Annaick Le Goff opened the probe after a woman filed a lawsuit in the wake of the 2010 death from cancer of her daughter who had received a suspect implant. As many as 3,000 other complaints by other alleged victims have been taken into account.
The implants have been removed from the marketplace in several countries in and beyond Europe amid fears they could rupture and leak silicone into the body.
Mas is also on Interpol`s most-wanted list, but the international police agency said its "red notice" was issued in June at the request of Costa Rica, where he faces a drunken driving charge.
Mas, 72, was detained shortly before dawn during a search of a residence in the Mediterranean coastal town of Six Fours Les Plages, a police official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
A secretary at the office of Mas` defense lawyer Yves Haddad said the lawyer, who was with Mas during police questioning, was not immediately available for comment.
Authorities worldwide have been scrambling to strike a proper public response to the scandal -- notably concerning who will pay to remove the implants -- made with cheap, industrial-grade silicone instead of medical-grade gel – or if the implants need to invariably come out.
European governments have taken different positions: German, Czech and French authorities say the implants should be removed, while Britain says there is not enough evidence of health risks to suggest they should be taken out in all cases.
On Wednesday, health authorities in Brazil said the government will fine private health plans that refuse to pay for the removal and replacement of faulty breast implants sold by PIP and a Dutch company.
A lawyer for Mas said in a statement earlier this month that his client, who ran PIP until it was closed in March 2010, would not speak publicly on the case.
The scandal has put pressure on French health authorities for allegedly not doing enough to vet the quality of a product used by untold thousands of women both in France and abroad.