A French businessman was convicted of fraud and sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday for filling tens of thousands of breast implants with industrial-grade silicone, but left the courthouse freely after lodging an appeal, meaning that thousands of women will have to wait longer to discover if they will receive damages.
The Marseille court presiding over the criminal case, which has all the trappings of a class-action lawsuit, ordered Jean-Claude Mas’ company, Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), to pay up to 40 million euros (US$55 million) in damages to a fraction of the 125,000 women worldwide who received the implants.
However, the sum was largely theoretical because the company is bankrupt and because the appeal froze any efforts to find alternate sources of funding. It will be months, if not years, before any women see the money many say they need to remove the faulty implants.
In addition to his prison sentence, Mas was fined 75,000 euros.
His lawyer promised to appeal immediately and Mas left the courthouse without comment. The appeal freezes the jail term, fine and any damages awarded to the plaintiffs.
Four managers in the now-defunct Poly Implant Prothese received lesser sentences.
The decision established a complex system of damages for about two-thirds of the 7,100 women who joined the case, with a potential total of 40 million euros to be paid by those convicted. However, like Mas’ fine, it was not clear where that money would come from.
Further complicating any payments, the court also ruled that German product-testing company TUeV Rheinland, which cleared PIP for certification, was a victim of Mas’ deception, which officials said included falsified paperwork and a shadow production line.
A Toulon court last month ordered TUeV to pay damages to more than 1,600 women and six distributors for the implants. TUeV denies responsibility and has vowed to appeal, saying it was deceived by PIP.
Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said he had nothing to do with the Toulon decision.
“That will have to play out,” he said. “It is two interpretations.”
The PIP implants were filled with industrial-grade instead of medical-grade silicone and prone to leaks.