Breast implant boss linked to second firm

The French manufacturer of defective breast implants had tried to set up a new factory

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The Independent Online

The French businessman at the centre of the international scandal over defective breast implants tried to set up a new factory last summer to continue his activities.

Although already facing possible charges of fraud in France and other countries, Jean-Claude Mas was named as a "consultant" in a business plan registered by his son and daughter in June to restart the manufacture of breast implants at his original factory site near Toulon. Plans to launch the new company, France Implant Technologie have now collapsed because of the scandal surrounding the original company, PIP.

However, the fact that the new project reached an advanced planning stage raises fresh questions about the slow response of French regulatory and legal authorities to the activities of Mr Mas.

According to the official commercial prospectus obtained by the Nice Matin newspaper, Mr Mas, 72, was to be the "techno-commercial" consultant of the new company.

His son, Nicolas Lucciardi, 27, yesterday denied his father was involved in the plan to manufacture 400 breast implants a day in the disused premises of the PIP factory operated by Mr Mas for 19 years until March 2010.

Official French commercial documents registered in Toulon in June name Mr Lucciardi as the chief sponsor of the new project with his sister, Peggy, 24. He told the website of the magazine Elle: "Obviously, this project is going nowhere because of all the hounding of PIP by the media... It has fallen completely flat on its face."

PIP breast implants, fitted to 300,000 women worldwide, including 50,000 in Britain, are now known to have been manufactured from a low-grade form of silicon, approved only for industrial uses. There have been hundreds of cases of the implants leaking or ripping, raising unconfirmed fears of a possible link with cancer.

This month, the French government announced that it would pay €60m to cover the cost of the removal of PIP implants from 30,000 women in France. British health authorities insist there is no case for such drastic action and have refused to pay for the removal of PIP implants from women in the UK.

Mr Mas, who is said to be recovering from an operation at an undisclosed address in the south of France, is the subject of two fraud investigations in France. He is also sought by Interpol after his failure to answer a drink driving charge in Costa Rica.

A former salesman of medical products, Mr Mas set up Poly Implant Prothèses in 1991 and the company grew to become the third largest manufacturer of breast implants in the world. The first alert about the quality of its products was raised by the United States in 2000. A number of legal actions were also brought in Britain in 2007.

The company continued to operate until the French health watchdog, L'Agence des produits de santé, raised serious doubts about the quality of the silicon used in PIP implants in March 2010. Investigations found they were made from a grade of silicon inferior to the type that had been declared to the authorities.

This week, a French lawyer representing women fitted with PIP implants started a civil action against the German health standards agency TUV, which for years certified PIP products. TUV has announced it is suing Mr Mas.

French lawyers are also suing plastic surgeons who fitted the implants for "failing in their duty". The surgeons say it was impossible to tell that the silicon was below the declared quality. Many questions remain, however, on the failure of French authorities, and plastic surgeons in France and other countries, to react to the first US indications in 2000 that the PIP implants were potentially dangerous.