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French Court Sentences Executive For Selling Faulty Breast Implants

A French court has sentenced the head of a company that sold tens of thousands of defective breast implants to four years in prison for aggravated fraud. Poly Implant Prothese was once among the world's leaders in supplying implants. But its product was found to have a high rupture rate.

From Paris, NPR's Eleanor Beardsely reports:

"The Marseilles court convicted Jean-Claude Mas, the founder of the company, and three colleagues.

"PIP's sale of faulty implants caused a global health scare in 2011, with an estimated 300,000 women in 65 countries affected. PIP used substandard silicone gel, causing many implants to rupture.

"With more than 5,000 women registered as plaintiffs in the case, the trial was considered one of the biggest in French legal history.

"The health scare came to public attention in 2011, when the French government recommended that women have PIP implants removed due to an abnormally high rupture rate."

Poly Implant Prothese eventually went bankrupt and was dissolved, making it a challenge for thousands of women affected by the faulty implants to receive compensation. Tuesday's ruling stated that a German product certification company, TUeV Rheinland, was also a victim of the fraud. An earlier ruling by a different French court had ordered the German firm to pay damages in the case.

As The Associated Press reports, "TUeV, a leader in the industry which was charged with checking the quality of the implants, has deep pockets."

Lawyers for Mas, 74, say he plans to appeal. He has admitted to using silicone that wasn't cleared for medical use, but he denies engaging in fraud at the company he founded in 1991.

"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," the AP says.

Public interest in the case has been intense, forcing the two-month trial in Marseilles to be held in a large exhibition center instead of a courtroom, according to Reuters.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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