PARIS, France — Jean-Claude Mas, the owner of the French breast implant company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) that spurred a global health scare, was arrested this morning by police, France Info radio reported.
Mas, whose company used low-grade industrial silicone to make the implants, was taken into custody at his home in Six-Fours-les-Plages, in the south of France.
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PIP director Claude Couty was also arrested, and police were searching the homes of both men, the Nice-based Connexion newspaper reported.
It is understood that police have 48 hours to question Mas, before deciding whether to press charges of homicide and involuntary injury.
The investigation was opened in the southern port city of Marseille, close to PIP's former premises, on December 8.
In France, 20 cases of cancer, 16 of which are breast cancer, have been reported in women fitted with PIP implants, but doctors have not established a definitive cancer link to the implants.
Mas has admitted to using substandard silicone in PIP implants, but insisted it posed no danger, France Info reported. He told police last year:
“I knew that this gel was not certified, but I deliberately used it because the PIP gel was cheaper and much better.”
Mas also told police that PIP had ordered employees to hide the unauthorized silicone when they visited its factory, the BBC reported, adding that he admitted to deceiving European safety inspectors for 13 years.
PIP closed down in March 2010, and France banned the implants, after they were discovered to contain non-medical grade silicone.
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French health authorities have recommended that 30,000 women have the implants removed, amid fears they could rupture and leak, leading to worldwide panic.
Up to 400,000 women in 65 countries are believed to have have received implants made by PIP.