The Saudi Crown Prince behind the Kingdom’s austerity and anti-corruption drive has been named as the mystery buyer of a luxury French chateau, reported to be the most expensive in the world, according to the New York Times.
The newspaper describes the paper trail behind the purchase of the 54,000 square foot mansion as a “financial whodunnit” through various shell companies that leads to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old heir apparent of the Saudi royal kingdom.
Chateau Louis XIV, in Louveciennes, near Versailles boasts has a wine cellar, a cinema, indoor and outdoor pools and even a transparent underwater chamber beneath a moat filled with koi and sturgeon.
When the property was purchased for $300 million in 2015 the buyer remained anonymous, but the New York Times revealed documents showing the house was bought by Eight Investment, Prince Mohammed’s personal foundation.
Prince Mohammed has lately been leading a purge against corruption in Saudi Arabia that has seen high-profile Saudi figures, including princes, ministers and billionaire businessmen, locked up in the plush Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. As the kingdom’s economic tsar he has also been behind a move to reign in government spending involving unprecedented cuts to the public purse.
“[Prince Mohammed] has tried to build an image of himself, with a fair amount of success, that he is different, that he’s a reformer, at least a social reformer, and that he’s not corrupt,” Bruce O. Riedel, a former C.I.A. analyst and author told the New York Times. “And this is a severe blow to that image.”
The report also identifies the prince as the owner of the world’s most expensive painting, a Leonardo da Vinci which recently sold at auction for $450 million and is due to be exhibited in the new Louvre Abu Dhabi.
The sales went through shell companies registered in Luxembourg, France and Lichtenstein. The Saudi government has not commented on the New York Times report.