The former senior executive of the French company at the centre of a breast implant scandal affecting tens of thousands of women worldwide has been arrested, police said today.
Police officials said Jean-Claude Mas - who ran the now-defunct French company Poly Implant Prothese - was detained at his residence in the Mediterranean coastal town of Six-Fours-Les-Plages shortly before dawn.
The implants were pulled from the market in several countries including the UK amid fears they could rupture and leak silicone into the body.
A police search of the Mediterranean property is under way, said the official.
Authorities worldwide have been scrambling to strike a proper public response to the scandal - notably about who will pay to remove the implants made with cheap, industrial-grade silicone instead of medical-grade gel, or if the implants need to invariably come out.
European governments have taken different positions: German, Czech and French authorities say the implants should be removed, while the UK says there is not enough evidence of health risks to suggest they should be taken out in all cases.
Health authorities in Brazil yesterday said the government will fine private health plans that refuse to pay for the removal and replacement of faulty breast implants sold by PIP and a Dutch company.
A lawyer for Mas said in a statement earlier this month that his client, who ran PIP until it was closed in March 2010, would not speak publicly on the case.
The scandal has put pressure on French health authorities for allegedly not doing enough to vet the quality of a product used by thousands of women in France and abroad.
France's Health Safety Agency has said the suspect implants - just one type of implant made by PIP - appear to be more rupture-prone than other types. Investigators say PIP sought to save money by using industrial silicone, whose potential health risks are not yet clear.
PIP's website said the company exported to more than 60 countries and was one of the world's leading implant makers.
According to estimates by national authorities, more than 42,000 women in Britain received the implants, over 30,000 in France, 9,000 in Australia and 4,000 in Italy. Nearly 25,000 of the implants were sold in Brazil.