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France upholds jail term for defective breast implant company boss

A French appeals court has upheld the 4-year prison sentence handed down in 2013 to the founder of a defective breast implant firm. Hundreds of thousands of women received the faulty implants in Europe and South America.

The court in the southern city of Aix-en-Provence upheld Monday the fraud conviction against Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) founder Jean-Claude Mas.

A court in Marseille found the 76-year old guilty of

aggravated fraud

in December 2013 and sentenced him to the maximum four years in jail. The court also ordered him to pay a fine of 75,000 euros ($103,000).

PIP's sale of faulty implants caused a global health scare which affected about 300,000 women in 65 countries, with 42,000 British, 30,000 French, 25,000 Brazilian, 15,000 Colombian and 16,000 Venezuelan women receiving PIP implants. They were not sold in the United States.

The company was found to have used sub-standard silicone gel rather than medical-grade silicone. This resulted in many implants rupturing.

Throughout the trial Mas denied the silicone used was harmful. All but one of the other defendants said they had not been aware of the risks. Four other former executives received lesser sentences.

The company's head of quality control received two years, one of them suspended, and the head of research and development was sentenced to a suspended 18 month term.

With more than 5,000 women registered as plaintiffs in the case, and about 300 lawyers, the trial was one of the biggest in French legal history.

Marseilles courthouse where the 2013 trial of Jean Claude Mas was held

The Marseilles courthouse where the original trial was held in 2013

Case explodes in 2011

In late 2011

Interpol

issued a "red notice" seeking the arrest of Mas. The international agency said the faulty products could potentially be affecting 30,000 French women. Mas was listed as being sought in Costa Rica for offenses concerning "life and health."

PIP, which was once the world's third largest breast implant company supplying over 100,000 implants a year, was shut down and its products banned in 2010 after it was found to have been using the non-authorized silicone gel.

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.

jbh/jm (AFP)

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