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Malaysian Leader Speaks on Soros Ruling

December 21, 2002 GMT

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who blamed U.S. financier George Soros for plunging Asia into an economic crisis in 1997, on Saturday said he was glad the billionaire had been convicted of insider trading.

``I am glad to hear that (about the conviction),″ the national news agency Bernama quoted Mahathir as saying. ``It shows that he is not very ethical.″

The French court that convicted Soros also fined him $2.2 million on Friday.

The fine was the same amount Hungarian-born Soros was accused of having made from buying stocks at French bank Societe Generale with insider knowledge 14 years ago.

Mahathir blamed currency speculation by Soros, president of Soros Fund Management LLC, and others for the 1997 Asian economic crisis. The two have often traded barbs at international forums.

Recalling the war of words between them over the years, Mahathir said: ``When he (Soros) said that I was a menace to my own country, actually he is the menace to the world’s economy.″

Mahathir took bold measures to rejuvenate Malaysia’s economy during the economic crisis, and unlike neighboring Thailand and Indonesia, did not turn to the International Monetary Fund for economic assistance.

The country recovered from its worst recession in a decade after fixing its currency, the ringgit, at 3.8 to the dollar in 1998 to insulate it from fluctuations, and imposing sweeping exchange controls.