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Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 18:00 GMT
Soros could face $2.2m fine
George Soros
George Soros denies the charges
French prosecutors say they are seeking a 2.2m euro ($2.22m) fine from billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros, who is on trial for alleged insider trading.

The case revolves around allegations that Mr Soros used insider knowledge of a 1988 takeover bid for a French bank to make money in a share deal.


The information which George Soros had was by nature confidential, it was his job to know it, he had an obligation to refrain from buying the shares

Marie-Christine Daubigney, prosecutor

There are also allegations that the failed takeover bid of the bank, Societe Generale, was actually an attempt by the Socialist government of the day to regain control of the bank from its right-wing opponents.

The fine equals the amount of money Mr Soros - who denies the charges - is accused of making from the deal.

Prosecutors have indicated they are not seeking a jail term.

They allege that Mr Soros knew about plans by corporate raider George Pebereau, who bought up a substantial amount of stock in the bank before trying to take control.

The say Mr Soros bought his shares before the bid became public, when the price was low, and then sold them after the news became known and the price had tripled.

"The information which George Soros had was by nature confidential, it was his job to know it, he had an obligation to refrain from buying the shares," said prosecutor Marie-Christine Daubigney.

George Soros
Soros is known as 'the man who broke the pound'

Mr Soros testified last week that the planned takeover was common knowledge on financial markets - and that he had no other confidential information.

He said he purchased shares in the bank because he thought the takeover bid would actually see the bank freed from political influence.

He said he then became convinced this was not likely, and so sold his shares in the bank.

The takeover bid for Societe Generale came after it was privatised in 1987 by a right-wing government that was sharing power with then Socialist President Francois Mitterrand.

By 1988, the Socialists were back in government, and were allegedly trying to regain control of the bank from shareholders aligned with the French right.

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

Prosecutors argued that Mr Traboulsi should be fined almost 2 million euros - or half of what he allegedly made in the deal. Mr Naouri, they said, should pay 290,000 euros or the equivalent of his alleged total profit, if convicted.

'Broke the pound'

A third defendant, former French banker Jean-Pierre Peyraud, 88, is undergoing medical tests to determine if he is fit to stand trial.

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

The trial is expected to finish next week.

Mr Soros, lauded for his philanthropy through his foundations in many countries, is also known as "the man who broke the pound" for his role forcing Britain's currency out of Europe's exchange-rate mechanism in 1992.

He was born in Hungary, emigrated to the United States in 1950s.

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