- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 21, 2002

PARIS (AP) A French court convicted George Soros of insider trading in a 1980s stock deal and fined him $2.2 million. Soros, an American billionaire investor and philanthropist, said he was "astounded and dismayed" by yesterday's ruling.
The fine by the court was in line with the request by prosecutors the same amount Soros, who was born in Hungary, was accused of having made from buying stocks at French bank Societe Generale with insider knowledge 14 years ago.
Soros, 72 and president of Soros Fund Management, said he would appeal "to the highest level necessary."
"At no point was I in possession of inside information regarding Societe Generale. The charges against me are unfounded and without merit," he said in an e-mail to the Associated Press. He was not in court.
His lawyer, Bernard du Granrut, said the court "did not acknowledge the essential elements of the arguments we presented."
The court cleared two other men Jean-Charles Naouri, former top aide to France's then-Finance Minister Pierre Beregovoy, and Lebanese businessman Samir Traboulsi of any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors had sought fines of $290,000 for Mr. Naouri and $1.98 million for Mr. Traboulsi.
Societe Generale was privatized in 1987. A year later, its stock price went up during an unsuccessful takeover bid. Mr. Soros was accused of having obtained insider information before the abortive corporate raid pushed up the stock price.
French stock market regulators first noticed anomalies in the Societe Generale stock surge in 1989. Mr. Soros was put under judicial investigation, one step short of being charged, in June 1993.
Mr. Soros has said he was interested in Societe Generale based on information he says was widely known: France's leftist government of the time favored takeovers to change the leadership at recently privatized companies.
Mr. Soros said he was buying stock in many companies and had no reason not to include Societe Generale. Afterward, he sold the stock, saying he felt the takeover attempt was politically motivated and was not going to benefit the company.
In court testimony in November, Mr. Soros said: "I have been in business all my life, and I think I know what is insider trading and what isn't."
Mr. Soros was reportedly the first American to earn $1 billion in a year. Born in Budapest in 1930, he emigrated to the United States in 1956 and became a citizen five years later. He made his fortune managing investment funds.
Forbes magazine ranked him this year as the 37th richest person in the world, with an estimated fortune of $6.9 billion.
Prosecutors said the case dragged on because Swiss authorities took years to respond to requests for information. Defense lawyers argued unsuccessfully that the case should be thrown out because it took so long to bring to court.
The Soros Fund was created in 1973 with about $12 million and evolved into the multibillion-dollar Quantum Group of Funds.
Mr. Soros also leads the Open Society Institute, a philanthropic network that has funneled more than $1 billion into education, public health, science and nongovernmental groups in the former communist bloc.

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