French Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) founder Jean-Claude Mas has been arrested at his home in Six-Fours-les-Plages, southern France, according to police.
In 2010, France banned PIP breast implants made with low-grade industrial silicone, amid fears they could rupture and leak.
Up to 400,000 women in 65 countries are believed to have been given implants.
Jean-Claude Mas, 72, remains at his home while police search it – as required by French law.
PIP owner is believed to have been detained as part of a judicial investigation started in December into manslaughter and involuntary injuries.
A second PIP executive, former chief financial officer Claude Couty, has also been arrested
Jean-Claude Mas has been under investigation since he revealed in a police interview last year that PIP ordered employees to hide the unauthorized silicone when inspectors visited its factory.
He told police that PIP had deceived European safety inspectors for 13 years.
But Jean-Claude Mas has insisted they posed no threat to health and attacked the French authorities for offering to pay for their removal because it put women through a “surgery risk”.
PIP owner also said he had “nothing” to say to women facing surgery for their removal and that victims had only filed complaints “to make money”.
Excerpts from Jean-Claude Mas’s interview have been re-examined by a French magistrate.
In France, 30,000 women have been advised to remove the implants and 2,700 have filed complaints against Jean-Claude Mas.
Women in 65 countries – mainly in Latin America and elsewhere in Europe – have received implants made by the company, which closed down in March 2010.
Health officials in Germany, the Czech Republic and Venezuela have advised women to have them removed.
The medical advice in the UK, where 40,000 are affected, is that there is no need for all the implants to be removed, only those causing problems such as pain or tenderness.
In England, the NHS will only replace them in exceptional circumstances, and the NHS in Wales said it would only do so when it was deemed medically necessary.
Women in Northern Ireland who received PIP implants for health reasons will have them replaced, but the NHS will only remove, not replace, those inserted for cosmetic reasons.
Scotland’s Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said concerned women who had them fitted privately would be offered advice and the option of removal if necessary. There are no records of PIP implants being used by the NHS.
The international police agency Interpol has said Jean-Claude Mas is wanted in Costa Rica over a drunk driving charge.
It said the “red notice” over an alleged incident in June 2010 was “totally unconnected” to PIP.