Saudi prince the mystery buyer of ‘world’s most expensive home’
The Saudi crown prince leading a corruption crackdown that has led to dozens of his country’s wealthiest men being locked up has been revealed as the buyer of “the world’s most expensive home”, a report has said. The Chateau Louis XIV, a 4645-sqaure-metre palace near Versailles that Kim Kardashian once considered as a potential wedding location, was sold for 320 million euros (NZ$538m) in 2015.
The buyer was not identified at the time, but a New York Times investigation has revealed that the purchaser was Mohammed bin Salman. It showed a paper trail that leads from the purchase of the castle, which Forbes magazine has called the “world’s most expensive home”, to the heir to the Saudi throne. The claim is likely to embarrass the 32-year-old prince who is preaching fiscal austerity at home while leading a major crackdown on corruption and self-enrichment by the oil-rich kingdom’s elite.
Princes, sheikhs and business moguls used to sleeping in royal suites have been spending their nights on the floor of Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh guarded by security forces loyal to the crown prince.
Chateau Louis XIV’s ownership was concealed by various shell companies in France and Luxembourg, The New York Times reported.
But they are all owned by Eight Investment Company, a Saudi firm run by the head of Prince Mohammed’s personal foundation, it said, basing its claims on information revealed in the so-called Paradise Papers leak of millions of documents hacked from a Bermuda law firm.
The newspaper said that the purchase appeared to be one of several extravagant recent acquisitions by the prince, including a US$500 million yacht and a $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting.
Eight Investment also recently bought an 250-hectare estate near Paris, known as Le Rouvray, according to the paper.
Chateau Louis XIV is modelled on 17th-century French castles but was in fact only built a few years ago.
It has indoor and outdoor pools, a private cinema, a squash court, two ballrooms and a nightclub. There are 10 bedroom suites, a grand reception room with a 15m-high frescoed dome ceiling, a library, a wine cellar with space for 3,000 bottles, and a “meditation room” under the moat circled by an aquarium with a huge sturgeon inside. The chateau is the work of Emad Khashoggi, a Saudi developer.
In the grounds of the 23-hectare estate is a 1.6-kilometre maze with a three quarter-sized replica of the Chateau de Versailles’ fountain of Apollo, whose statues are covered in gold leaf.
The facade has a genuine monumental bronze and enamel clock identical to the one on the facade of Versailles.
The Daily Telegraph
– The Telegraph, London