In an eagerly awaited move, a fraud complaint has been filed by France's state health insurance fund against a firm that sold hundreds of thousands of allegedly faulty breast implants around the world.
It also emerged Friday that the firm's founder and his children were in the process of creating a new company to take over the operations of the now-defunct Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) when the implant scandal erupted.
AdvertisementProsecutors in Marseille said the National Health Insurance Fund (CNAM) had filed the complaint for aggravated fraud after French authorities advised 30,000 women to have their PIP implants removed because of an increased risk of rupture and agreed to pay for the procedure.
The prosecutors' office said the case being taken by the CNAM would allow it "to eventually demand compensation," adding that its complaint would be jointly investigated with others.
Prosecutors in Marseille, near PIP's laboratory at Seyne-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean, have received more than 2,500 complaints from French women who received the implants and are pursuing a criminal investigation.
Officials had earlier said the cost of removing the implants could reach 60 million euros ($78 million) and that the state would seek compensation.
Between 300,000 and 400,000 women in 65 countries from Europe to Latin America have received implants made with sub-standard silicone gel by PIP, once the world's third-largest producer of silicone implants.
Local newspaper Nice-Matin meanwhile reported that PIP founder Jean-Claude Mas and his children, Nicolas and Peggy Lucciardi, had in June founded a new firm to restart the implant manufacturing business.
The firm, called France Implant Technologie (FIT), was registered under the names of Nicolas Lucciardi, 27, and Peggy Lucciardi, 24, at the address of their mother, Dominique Lucciardi, who was Mas's former civil partner.
In a business plan for FIT obtained by Nice-Matin, Mas is named as a "technical-commercial consultant" to the company and its objectives are listed as exporting implants on the "European, South American and Chinese markets".
The report said the company was looking to invest 2 million euros to get the former PIP plant up and running by next June. Two former managers at PIP were also listed in senior positions with the new company.
The business plan said the company's goal was to manufacture 400 implants a day with about 20 employees.
It planned to continue PIP's low-cost approach, vowing to offer implants at a price 10 percent lower than its competitors.
PIP was shut down and its products banned in April 2010 after it was revealed to have been using non-authorised silicone gel that caused abnormally high implant rupture rates.
According to PIP's 2010 bankruptcy filing, it had exported 84 percent of its annual production of 100,000 implants.
Authorities in other countries have advised women to consult their doctors over the implants, while some nations, including Bolivia and Venezuela, have said that in some cases the implants will be removed for free.
Mas has admitted through his lawyer that the company used non-standard silicone gel but insisted there is no evidence of any health risk.