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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 22:57 GMT
Soros faces trial for 'insider trading'
George Soros
George Soros faces a prison sentence if found guilty
The billionaire turned philanthropist George Soros has been put on trial for alleged insider trading.

Hungarian-born Mr Soros is probably more used to dealing rooms than courtrooms, but on Thursday he found himself in the dock in Paris.

If the 72-year old is found guilty, he faces up to two years in prison and a multimillion dollar fine.

The trial relates to an attempted takeover of the French bank Societe Generale in 1988.

Bank raid

The bid was led by the corporate raider Georges Pebereau, who built up a substantial stake in the bank, before trying to take control.

The bid failed, but not before Societe Generale's share price had more than doubled.

Mr Soros and three other defendants are accused of using inside knowledge to make millions of dollars.

They allegedly bought Societe Generale stock when it was cheap, before cashing in their investment when the price rose after the bid became public.

Two of the other defendants are Jean-Charles Naouri, former head of the office of then-Finance Minister Pierre Beregovoy, and Lebanese businessman Samir Traboulsi.

The third defendant is former French banker Jean-Pierre Peyraud, who was also scheduled to stand trial, but the court ruled the 88-year-old must undergo a medical analysis.

Mr Peyraud is having problems with his memory and cardiovascular system. His case will come up again in January.

Seven other people had originally been placed under formal investigation, but escaped being charged after a French judge's decision to dismiss them.

Two other businessmen implicated in the scandal - Edmond Safra and Robert Maxwell - have since died.

High-profile

The case has attracted widespread publicity in France, not least because the socialist government of the time is widely believed to have been involved in the attempted takeover.

Mr Soros - who denies the charges - is no stranger to controversy.

He is widely known as the man who broke the pound, for his role in currency speculation which forced Sterling out of Europe's exchange rate mechanism in 1992.

His actions delivered a severe political blow to the British government in the process.

Mr Soros was also reportedly the first American to earn a billion dollars in a single year.

He was born in Hungary in 1930, and emigrated to the US in the 1950s.

In 1973, he established Soros Fund Management, his principal investment vehicle.

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