Hungary-born financier’s donation makes his Open Society Foundations the third largest charitable foundation in the world.
The financier George Soros has transferred about $18bn (£13.7bn) to his human rights foundation, bringing his lifetime giving to $32bn and making the foundation one of the world’s largest.
The donation makes Soros’s Open Society Foundations the third largest charitable foundation in the world, behind the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the Wellcome Trust.
Officials from the foundation told the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times that the Hungarian-born investor has increased the pace of donations from the proceeds of his successful hedge fund. The latest combined donations of $18bn represent the bulk of Soros’s estimated fortune of $23bn.
Open Society works globally to “build vibrant and tolerant democracies” and has given away nearly $14bn since it was founded in 1979.
Soros, who made huge profits betting against the British pound when it crashed out of the European exchange rate mechanism in 1992, is a vocal supporter of liberal causes. He was a large contributor to Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid and makes his latest donation amid rising tensions with the government of Hungary in a row over academic and press freedom.
The pro-government website 888.hu, run by an ally of Hungary’s rightwing president, Viktor Orbán, has been widely criticised after it published a list of journalists it claimed were “agents” of Soros, who is originally from Budapest.
On Tuesday, David Kostelancik, the US chargé d’affaires in Budapest, said: “This is dangerous to the individuals, and also to the principles of a free, independent media.”
Orbán has accused Soros of being a “national security risk” and a “public enemy” over his alleged support for what he calls the dangerous mass immigration of Muslims into Europe.
Orbán’s government is also engaged in a legal stand-off with the Budapest-based Central European University (CEU), which was founded by Soros.
Its rector, the Canadian former politician Michael Ignatieff, accused Orbán’s government of trying to “slowly strangle” the university by refusing to sign an agreement with New York state to allow it to continue to operate in Budapest.
Ignatieff said: “A solution is on the table, but every time we get within reach of a solution, the goalposts get moved. A university that is deliberately kept by the government in a state of legal uncertainty to suit their political convenience, is a university that is in danger.”
Orbán’s government had maintained it was merely seeking to level the playing field between foreign and domestic universities in Hungary. But in July, Janos Lazar, Orbán’s chief of staff, admitted that Soros’s campaigning on migration changed the relationship between CEU and the government.