The defendants are accused of aggravated fraud for using cheap industrial-grade and agricultural-grade silicone in breast implants for 10 years and concealing evidence from inspectors.
The defendants are:
- PIP founder Jean-Clade Mas;
- Chair of the board of directors Claude Couty;
- Director of production manager Loïc Gossart;
- Technical director Thierry Brinon;
- Quality director Hannelore Font.
They face up to five years in jail and a 37,500-euro fine if convicted.
As the trial began, Mas, who was jailed for several months for failing to pay 100,000 euros bail, was booed when he took the stand to state his name and profession.
He had earlier arrived, accompanied by his lawyer, Yves Haddad, who complained of media treatement of his client, who will turn 74 next month.
"Whatever happened, what you are doing to a 74-year-old man is not dignified," he told reporters.
PIP was the world’s third largest supplier of breast implants and sold 300,000 in 65 countries.
About 4,000 French women report ruptures in their implants and about half of the 30,000 who had them have had them removed.
Most of the plaintiffs are French but 220 are from abroad.
Other trials are expected to take place involving different plaintiffs.
To accommodate the plaintiffs and their 300 lawyers, the trial is being held in a conference centre in the southern French city at the cost of 800,000 euros.
Some lawyers for the plaintiffs are also expected to request the case be expanded to include others they claim should be held responsible, such as plastic surgeons, public health authorities and a German safety standards firm that gave the implants the go-ahead.
A 10-year case study has been launched in France to determine the long-term effects.