Belgian watchdog widens Fortis insider trade probe

BRUSSELS, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Belgium's Banking Finance and Insurance Commission (CBFA) is asking 640 "insiders" to tell it what they knew about the Fortis FOR.BR break-up before it was announced and whether they acted on the information.

The Belgian watchdog, which is investigating possible market abuse, is examining the week of trading between Sept. 29 and Oct. 3, 2008, after Fortis had received an 11.2 billion euro ($16.5 billion) capital injection and before it was carved up by the Netherlands and Belgium.

The CBFA said it had sent letters to the 640 people -- “insiders” as the watchdog has called them -- as they may have had access to information about the break-up before it was announced.

They are are not being accused of insider trading, a CBFA spokesman said, declining to give further details.

Belgian business daily De Tijd said the people were being asked if they had passed on any information they had about Fortis to others and if they had traded in the bank’s shares. They were also being asked to supply their bank account numbers.

Belgian prosecutors are also investigating Belgian holding company Bois Sauvage CBOS.BR and the chief executive of Belgian foam maker Recticel RECT.BR, Luc Vansteenkiste, who was on the boards of Bois Sauvage and Fortis Bank.

Bois Sauvage sold 3.6 million Fortis shares on October 3, 2008, just before the Netherlands announced the nationalisation of Fortis’s Dutch operations. It has denied any wrongdoing. ($1=.6785 Euro) (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Karen Foster)