Jailed French implant firm founder appears set for release
The jailed founder of a French breast implant company at the heart of a global health scare could be freed Monday after eight months in prison ahead of a much-awaited trial next April.
Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) founder Jean-Claude Mas, 73, was jailed at Marseille's Baumette prison for four months in March, after refusing to pay bail. He was charged in January with causing grievous bodily harm after the scandal erupted.
Mas was due to be released in July but his detention was extended by another four months, basically over fears that he could skip the country.
A Marseille judge was set to rule Monday on a plea for Mas's release filed by his lawyer on October 17. The period of provisional detention runs out on November 4.
"Theoretically, the judge has no option but to order his release, placing him under judicial supervision and ordering him to report to the police once a week or more," Mas's lawyer Yves Haddad told AFP.
PIP shut down in 2010 after it was revealed to have been using substandard, industrial-grade silicone gel.
Between 400,000 and 500,000 women in 65 countries -- including 30,000 in France alone -- are believed to have implants from PIP, once the world's third-largest silicone implant producer.
Philippe Courtois, who represents more than 2,300 women who received PIP implants, said the risk of Mas fleeing the country "still exists" but added: "I am however confident of the French judicial system."
Mas, a former travelling salesman who got his start in the medical business by selling pharmaceuticals, founded PIP in 1991 to take advantage of the booming market for cosmetic implants.
He reportedly told investigators that he used fake business data to fool health inspectors.
Substandard gel was used in 75 percent of PIP breast implants, saving the company about one million euros ($1.3 million) annually, according to an ex-company executive.
Mas and four other former PIP officials are due to go on trial from April 17 to May 14 next year in a keenly awaited trial that draws 180 lawyers and some 4,600 complainants.
French officials have said that cancers, including cases of breast cancer, has been detected in 20 French women with the implants, but have insisted there is no proven link.