PARIS (Reuters) - Jean-Claude Mas, the Frenchman who set off a global health scare by selling substandard breast implants, has been jailed for not paying his bail, a judicial source said on Wednesday.
Mas was released from police custody on January 27 on a bail of 100,000 euros ($131,600) and banned from leaving the country or from meeting former executives of his now defunct company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP).
He faces a charge of causing bodily harm, but is not under investigation for the graver charge of manslaughter.
The judicial source said he was jailed on Tuesday night after failing to pay the agreed bail amount however.
French authorities have been criticized for being slow to react to a case that has sown fear among tens of thousands of women around the world who have had the implants.
French inspectors ordered them off the market in March 2010, due to concerns over their quality.
But it was only in December that officials in Paris recommended their surgical removal, highlighting a problem that affects patients worldwide who have been fitted with products from the company, which was at one time the third biggest global supplier.
Mas had not been able to make a first installment on his bail, his lawyer Yves Haddad told Reuters TV. Mas had offered his flat as a guarantee but it had been refused, he added.
Mas is due to appeal the decision and offer his flat again. If the appeal is rejected, Mas can remain in detention for no more than four months, according to his lawyer.
However, a lawyer for the civil plaintiffs, Laurent Gaudon, said that Mas's failure to pay his bail was not driven by his alleged lack of funds. "He does not want his wealth to go towards damages for victims and he deliberately chose not to pay the bail," he told Reuters TV.
Haddad vigorously rejected the claim.
"You are not going to make me believe that a man who had a heart attack a year ago and had a serious operation prefers to go to jail at 73 ... rather than paying a guarantee," he said.
TRIAL DATE COULD BE YEARS AWAY
Lawyers for women in France who have filed complaints over PIP implants welcomed the arrest and said the 72-year-old Mas, who has been quoted as deriding those suing him as being motivated only by money, should not escape justice.
PIP enjoyed years of success with international sales, but employees and Mas himself, have admitted to concealing the fact that they were using cheap, industrial silicone not approved for medical use from the relevant certification agencies.
Health authorities in France and elsewhere have stressed that PIP's products carry no proven link to cancer but surgeons have reported that the implants have abnormally high rupture rates. Foreign authorities have responded to the problem in different ways.
Tuesday's jailing follows an investigation opened in Marseille, close to PIP's former premises, on December 8 after the death from cancer in 2010 of a woman with PIP implants.
A trial date could be years away, given the extent of inquiry required, but the bodily harm case could make it harder for Mas to avoid appearing in court later this year on other charges of fraud and deception.
The other charges are being brought against half a dozen former PIP executives and could carry prison terms of several years. The case has dragged on as investigators have had to question up to 2,700 women who have filed complaints over PIP implants.
Mas, who sold some 300,000 implants around the world, has acknowledged that he used unapproved silicone. But he has dismissed fears that it constituted a health risk.