* European court upholds Soros insider trading conviction
* Soros lawyer says wants legal record cleared
* Says Soros to appeal against decision
STRASBOURG, France, Oct 6 (Reuters) - The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday dismissed an attempt by billionaire financier George Soros to have a 2005 conviction for insider trading in France overturned and his legal record cleared.
The ruling made it less likely that Soros — who was ordered by a French court at the time to pay a fine of nearly 1 million euros — will achieve his objective of being cleared of what he considers an unjust conviction.
His lawyer told Reuters in Strasbourg that Soros, whose net worth is estimated to be more than $20 billion, did not want to be reimbursed for the fine and planned to appeal the European court’s decision at a higher level.
“All we want is a decision that will allow us to get this conviction cancelled,” said the lawyer, Ron Soffer.
Thursday’s ruling opens a new — and possibly final — chapter in a major financial affair dating to the presidency of Socialist Francois Mitterand, and a government-backed attempt to take over French bank Societe Generale in 1988 from a small cadre of private shareholders.
Soros, 81, now well known for his philanthropic works as well as for having amassed a fortune speculating against the British pound, was the only person to be convicted in the Societe Generale case.
At the time a private businessman had approached Soros about throwing his weight behind the failed takeover attempt, according to the Paris court that handled his case in 2005.
Soros refused, but the court found he used his knowledge of the impending raid on Societe Generale to speculate on the bank’s share price, scoring a windfall profit of $2.2 million.
A French market regulator found it impossible to determine whether what Soros had done was illegal. But the Paris court nonetheless found him guilty of insider trading and fined him $2.2 million. The penalty was later cut to a fine of 940,500 euros, the amount Soros had speculated in France.
On Thursday, the Strasbourg-based human rights court dismissed Soros’ argument that French legislation on insider trading in 1988 only applied to people who had gained knowledge about an upcoming financial event through their professional position. Soros had no affiliation with Societe Generale.
“On the basis of the ... principle on the generality of laws, the description of these cannot be absolutely precise,” the human rights court said in its ruling.
It argued that while insider trading laws in 1988 were indeed applied more narrowly , jurisprudence existed that already covered cases like that of Soros — exterior to a company, but with alleged privileged access to a deal.
The rights court, an offshoot of the Council of Europe, can rule that a conviction by a national court is not valid because it breaches the European Convention on Human Rights, of which France is a signatory. (Reporting by Gilbert Reilhac; Additional reporting and writing by Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Mark Heinrich)