Middle East Eye 17 December 2017
Mohammed bin Salman has been named in reports as the new owner of a $300m French chateau described by Fortune magazine as the world’s most expensive home.
The vast property west of Paris would be the latest in a string of extravagant purchases by the Saudi crown prince, who has been waging a sweeping anti-corruption campaign at home.
The newly built chateau was sold to a mystery buyer in 2015, and though its ownership is concealed through shell companies, advisers to the royal family have confirmed the prince is its ultimate owner, the New York Times reported first on Saturday.
Saudi officials have declined to comment on the report, which comes after French investigative website Mediapart similarly pointed to the prince as the owner in July.
Fortune magazine reported at the time of the 2015 sale that the Chateau Louis XIV – which has fountains that can be controlled by iPhone – had smashed records to become the world’s priciest home.
On the outside, the mansion looks like a 17th-century chateau in the style of the palace at nearby Versailles, but it is in fact a new-build that went up after its Saudi developer bulldozed the existing 19th-century property.
Its antique facades hide modern facilities including a cinema, deluxe swimming pool and a moat with a transparent underwater chamber so that visitors can enjoy the sight of koi carp swimming past.
The 57-acre plot includes manicured gardens, huge fountains and a maze, while the interiors are lavishly decorated with gilding and fresco ceilings.
The Times report comes after the prince had dozens of members of the Saudi elite including princes, ministers and tycoons locked up in Riyadh’s five-star Ritz-Carlton hotel as part of an anti-corruption campaign.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz said last week his government was determined to confront corruption with “justice and decisiveness,” signalling continued support for the crown prince’s crackdown, Reuters reported.
Many of those detained have since agreed to hand over allegedly ill-gotten gains in exchange for their freedom, Saudi attorney general Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said earlier this month.
In an interview with the Times in November, Prince Mohammed described as “ludicrous” reports equating the crackdown with a political purge to eliminate rivals before he becomes king.