The founder of a French breast implant company was sentenced to four years in prison by a Marseille criminal court on Tuesday (December 10) for hiding the true nature of the sub-standard silicone used in implants sold to 300,000 women around the world.

The sentence for Jean-Claude Mas, 74, founder and long-time chief executive of Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), capped a scandal that fuelled worldwide panic in 2011 after France recommended that women with such implants have them removed due to an abnormally high rupture rate.

Once the third-largest global supplier of breast implants, the company was shut in 2010 and its implants ordered off the market after inspectors pursuing a tip-off discovered vats of industrial-grade silicone outside the PIP factory in the southern town of La-Seyne-sur-Mer.

Mas, who had been pursued for aggravated fraud, was also ordered to pay a €75,000 fine.

Four other executives, including the chief financial officer, were sentenced to between one and a half and three years in prison, some of it suspended, and fined.

Mas has admitted using silicone that was never approved by regulators but has insisted the gel he had used since the founding of the company in 1991 was non-toxic.

Health experts insist that no link has been established between PIP implants and breast cancer.

Still, women around the world with PIP implants, whether in Venezuela, France or Britain, rushed to their surgeons after the scandal broke to have them removed, fearing health complications.

Since France recommended removal, some 14,729 women in France have opted for this choice - nearly half of all French women with PIP implants - either due to a problem or out of caution, according to French regulators

Presented by Adam Justice