French health insurance fund files complaint over implants

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France's state health insurance fund has filed a fraud complaint 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.

Prosecutors 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 complaint "would allow this organisation to eventually demand compensation for its damages," a spokesman for the prosecutor's office said, adding that the CNAM 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 2,000 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 to obtain compensation.

Between 300,000 and 400,000 women in 65 countries from Europe to Latin America have 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".

© 2011 AFP

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