MARSEILLE, France (AP) — A court has ruled that the French businessman who sold tens of thousands of faulty silicone breast implants around the world is guilty of fraud.
With dozens of women looking on, the Marseille tribunal handed Jean-Claude Mas, the founder of Poly Implant Prothese, the maximum four-year prison sentence on the aggravated fraud charge. He was also ordered to pay a 75,000-euro ($103,000) fine. Defense lawyer Yves Haddad said Mas planned to appeal.
However, in a decision that could affect thousands of women worldwide who have sought financial reparations, the court also ruled that the German product-testing company TUeV Rheinland, which cleared PIP for certification, was also a victim of Mas’ fraud.
It was not immediately clear how Tuesday’s verdict affects a decision in a Toulon commercial court last month that ordered TUeV to pay damages to over 1,600 women and six distributors for the implants.
The PIP implants were filled with industrial grade silicone and prone to leak. Some 125,000 women underwent plastic surgery with PIP implants.
Mas has since dissolved the company. Because PIP is bankrupt, the 5,000 women who have joined a complaint against the French company unlikely to retrieve much compensation. But TUeV, a leader in the industry which was charged with checking the quality of the implants, has deep pockets.
TUeV denies responsibility and has promised to appeal the commercial court ruling, which opens it to the possibility of at least 50 million euros ($67 million) in damages — about 3,000 euros per woman, lawyers say.
PIP once claimed its factory in southern France exported to more than 60 countries and was among the world’s top implant makers. According to government estimates, more than 42,000 women in Britain received the implants, more than 30,000 in France, 25,000 in Brazil, 16,000 in Venezuela and 15,000 in Colombia.
Sales of the implants ended in March 2010. After the first reports emerged of implants rupturing, regulators across Europe tightened oversight of medical devices.
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