JEAN-Claude Mas, the founder of Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), which was found to use non-medical grade silicone in its breast implants, has been arrested.
Jean-Claude Mas was detained by police at his home in Marseilles in southern France, according to a police source.
Claude Couty, another executive from the French company, closed down in March 2010, was also held.
The implant firm is at the heart of a scandal over breast implants, which were discovered to be faulty. A leading surgeon has claimed around one in 10 could have ruptured.
Around 50,000 British women were believed to have the implants filled with an unregulated industrial silicone. It is thought 3,000 of them were NHS patients who had the implants fitted after breast cancer surgery.
"Jean-Claude Mas was arrested at the home of his companion ... and taken into custody," the source said, adding that officers had picked him up on Thursday morning.
The investigation into the health implications over PIP plants was launched in December. Police are said to be looking at charges of homicide and involuntary harm.
In France, 20 women who had the implants have been diagnosed with cancer, 16 of whom had breast cancer, although no direct link has been established.
Some 2,700 women have filed complaints against Mas.
Health authorities in France, Germany and the Czech Republic have advised women to have the implants removed but the UK Government has said there is no need.
There has been a public outcry among patients after a number of private health care firms have failed to offer free surgery to remove or replace the implants.
Mas, 72, has admitted that some of his company's implants contained industrial-grade silicone but there is no evidence it is more harmful than regulated medical material.
Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a Global Alert and Response, urging women with the implants to seek medical advice if they had any concerns.
The WHO said data about implications from the implants was sketchy and hoped to get a clearer picture as more cases were reported.
"While the rupture rate of PIP prostheses was observed to be higher than expected in France, rates reported by other national authorities vary," it said.