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George Soros, billionaire at odds with Modi govt, is hard Right’s bogeyman who broke British pound

Soros founded Open Society Foundations to fund 'independent groups' working for democracy & civil liberties. He is also known as 'one of the most successful investors of all time'.

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New Delhi: Holocaust survivor, railway porter-turned-billionaire, and a “bogeyman for the hard right” — George Soros, the Hungarian-American businessman-cum-philantrophist, straddles multiple identities. 

On Friday, Soros (92) elicited a sharp reaction from the Government of India over remarks he made in a speech ahead of the Munich Security Conference. Commenting on the fallout of the Hindenburg Research report accusing the Adani Group of “brazen stock manipulation”, he said, “Modi and business tycoon (Gautam) Adani are close allies. Their faith is intertwined.”

“Adani enterprises tried to raise funds in the stock markets, but failed. Adani is accused of stock manipulation and his stock collapses like a house of cards. Modi is silent on the subject, but he would have to answer questions from foreign investors and in Parliament,” Soros added.

Born in 1930 in Budapest, Soros survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary (1944-1945). According to his biography, Soros’ family managed to survive by securing false identity papers to conceal their real identities.

In 1947, Soros moved to London where he worked part-time as a railway porter and a nightclub manager to fund his studies at the London School of Economics. He eventually moved to the US in 1956 where he made his fortune in the high-stakes world of finance.

He is the founder of Soros Fund Management, a family office with about $28 billion in assets. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index pegs Soros’ personal wealth at $8.5 billion, making him the 250th richest person in the world. 

Soros has given away much of his personal wealth to charity including the $32 billion he is believed to have donated to Open Society Foundations — an organisation he founded in 1979 to fund “independent groups working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights”. The organisation promulgates democracy and civil liberties in more than 120 countries.

Ahead of the 2018 parliamentary elections in Hungary, Soros was accused by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government of trying to “flood the country” of his origin with Muslim migrants. The Hungarian Parliament even passed a “Stop Soros” law in June 2018 outlawing the act of helping illegal immigrants claim asylum and apply for residence.

The BBC, in a 2019 profile on Soros, described him as a “Bogeyman for the hard right”. The profile mentioned how Soros had criticised the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and how the millions of dollars he gave away to the Democratic Party in political donations made him an easy target for conspiracy theorists and supporters of former president Donald Trump.

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Soros, the ‘legendary hedge fund manager’

Soros is seen as a “legendary Hedge Fund manager, who is considered one of the most successful investors of all time”. A fund he managed reportedly earned an average annual return of about 30 per cent between 1970 and 2000.

Union Cabinet minister Smriti Irani, reacting to Soros’ criticism of the prime minister, had said in a press conference Friday that “the man who broke a bank in England, an economic offender, has said that his desire is to break Indian democracy”. Irani also accused Soros of “funding over a million dollars to target leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi”.

There is a reason why Soros is known as the man who ‘broke the British Pound’. When the UK devalued its currency in 1992 after facing pressure from members of the European Union (EU), Soros took advantage of the opportunity to gain a billion dollars in a single day.

But despite making a fortune from financial markets, Soros himself has been critical of the free market system. In an article he wrote for the Financial Times in 2009, he said, “One could easily speak of an open society and a market economy in the same breath, and people, including me, often do. But appearances are deceptive. There is a deep-seated conflict between capitalism and open society, market values and social values”.

Asked about Soros’ remarks during a media interaction in Sydney, External Affairs minister S. Jaishankar said Friday that the 92-year-old is an “old, rich, opinionated person sitting in New York, who still thinks that his views should determine how the entire world works.”

“Now, if I could only stop at old, rich and opinionated, I would put it away but he is old, rich, opinionated and dangerous,” he added.

Jaishankar also said that people like Soros “think an election is good if a person who we like wins”.

“If an election throws up a different outcome, then we actually would say it’s a flawed democracy. All this is done under the pretense of advocacy of open society, transparency etc.,” the external affairs minister said.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

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