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Implants chief wanted by Interpol

The chief executive of a French company whose questionable breast implants are under international scrutiny is on the Interpol police agency's most-wanted list.

Interpol's website says Jean-Claude Mas is wanted by Costa Rican authorities for crimes involving "life and health".

It bears a photo of 72-year-old Mas but does not elaborate on his alleged crimes or link to Costa Rica.

The international police agency based in France issued a so-called red notice for Mr Mas, who ran Poly Implant Prothese, which is in liquidation.

France offered yesterday to pay for 30,000 women to have their PIP implants removed because of the risk the products could rupture and leak industrial-grade silicone.

Tens of thousands of other women elsewhere in Europe and in South America have the same French-made implants, but authorities there have so far refused to follow suit. The silicone-gel implants are not sold in the US.

Over the past week, the safety fears have created a public furore over something usually kept private, even in France. Women, some whose own families did not know they had their breasts enlarged, marched on Paris to demand more attention to worries about what might be happening inside them.

Images of leaky, blubbery implants and women having mammograms have been splashed on French TV.

More than 1,000 ruptures pushed health minister Xavier Bertrand to recommend that the estimated 30,000 women in France with the implants get them removed at the state's expense.

Mr Bertrand insisted the removals would be "preventive" and not urgent and French health authorities said they had found nothing to link the implants to nine cases of cancer in women.

The death last month of a woman who had the implants and developed a rare cancer - anaplastic large-cell lymphoma - had intensified worries.

The implants were taken off the market last year in countries around Europe and South America where they had been sold. The company's website said it exported to more than 60 countries and was one of the world's leading implant makers.

France's health safety agency says the PIP implants appear to be more rupture-prone than other types. Also, investigators say PIP used industrial silicone instead of the medical variety to save money, but the medical risks posed by industrial silicone are unclear.

The financial burden of the French government's decision falls on the state health care system, which estimated the removals could cost 60 million euros (£50.1 million) at a time when the country is teetering on the brink of another recession and struggling with debt.

In recommending removal, the government noted the risks associated with major surgery and general anaesthesia.

Because of those risks, many women may decide against removal. The government said those women should be examined every six months.

After the French decision, Britain's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced that it did not see enough proof of cancer or an excessive risk of rupture to recommend women have the implants removed. Up to 40,000 women in Britain may have had the implants, even more than in France.

Britain's chief medical officer, Sally Davies, said women "should not be unduly worried".

"While we respect the French government's decision, no other country is taking similar steps because we currently have no evidence to support it," she said.

The president of Brazil's Plastic Surgeons Association, Jose Horacio Aboudib, said it would be premature to have women remove the implants if they were not having any problems. About 25,000 women in Brazil received PIP implants.

"There is always a risk associated with surgery, and there is a cost. In France, the government is paying for it. Here it's not considered a public health risk, so the patient would have to pay for it," he said.

Medical authorities in Argentina and Venezuela recommended closer monitoring of women who have the implants.

In the US, concerns about silicone gel implants in general led to a 14-year ban on their use, in favour of saline-filled implants. Silicone implants were brought back to the US market in 2006 after research ruled out links to cancer, lupus and other concerns.

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