French police arrested Jean-Claude Mas, the founder of the breast implant company PIP at the centre of an international health scare, police said Thursday.
“Jean-Claude Mas was arrested at the home of his companion … and taken into custody,” said a police source, adding that officers had picked him up on Thursday morning.
Mas was arrested over an investigation opened in December in the southern port of Marseille into the health implications of PIP’s breast implants. Police are investigating possible charges of homicide and involuntary harm.
French doctors have registered 20 cases of cancer among women fitted with the implants, 16 of whom had breast cancer, although as yet no direct causal link has been established.
Between 400,000 and 500,000 women around the world are believed to have received implants made by Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), the now-defunct company that Mas founded in southern France.
France, Germany and the Czech Republic have recommended that the devices be removed as a precaution but Britain has said it will not follow suit.
The prostheses were withdrawn from the European market in 2010 after France’s health watchdog discovered they were made from sub-standard, industrial-grade gel.
Frenchman Mas has already confirmed they were made with a non-authorised silicon gel but has rejected any suggestion that they pose a health risk.
Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) intervened in the affair for the first time urging women with the devices to seek medical advice if they had any concerns in a “Global Alert and Response” statement issued on its website.
The WHO said data about adverse events from the implants was sketchy and hoped for stronger reporting of episodes in order to get a clearer picture.
“While the rupture rate of PIP prostheses was observed to be higher than expected in France, rates reported by other national authorities vary,” it noted.