A U.S. District Court judge yesterday ordered a director of Santa Fe International Corp. to pay back nearly $279,000 in profits that the Securities and Exchange Commission charged were made illegally by trading on insider information.

The SEC charged that Darius N. Keaton Jr., former chief executive officer of Charter Oil Co., ordered 10,000 shares of Santa Fe common stock through a Swiss bank account Sept. 22 -- the day that directors were briefed on a merger offer from Kuwait's national petroleum company at a special board meeting. The public announcement of the merger, which sent stock prices soaring, was not until two weeks later.

According to the SEC complaint, Keaton paid approximately $23 for the stock, which was exchanged in the merger for $51 a share.

The action was the second insider trading action involving the Santa Fe-Kuwait Petroleum Corp. merger in two days. The SEC has charged that nearly $8 million in illegal profits were generated by several investors illegally acting on insider information.

Keaton was one of a group of investors charged with illegal insider trading in a case filed by the SEC in New York against "certain unknown purchasers" of Santa Fe stock and options.