Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old heir to the throne who has been leading the kingdom in recent social and political reforms, including a crackdown on corruption, is the anonymous buyer behind the mysterious purchase of the Chateau Louis XIV, a gargantuan palace-like architectural pearl situated in France’s Louveceiennes commune, located in the Ile-de-France region.
The New York Times reported Saturday that the Saudi crown prince allegedly bought the castle, which sprawls over 57 acres, in 2015 for a whopping $301,000,000.
The chateau stands on territory that once formed part of the Versailles estate, and pays tribute to France’s historic and self-proclaimed “Sun King” Louis XIV.
The home features a wine cellar, home theater, moat filled with koi carp and a gold-leafed fountain, among other amenities.
Fortune magazine dubbed it “the world’s most expensive home,” and other publications reported the costly acquisition as a world record price for a residential property.
The Times has revealed that Mohammed bin Salman was aided by several entities in secretly buying the chateau, primarily using the backing of a lawyer from the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg.
The ownership of the chateau has been kept under wraps, allegedly with the help of shell companies operating from France and Luxembourg. Those companies are owned by a mother company named “Eight Investment Company,” a Saudi firm that is managed by the chief of Prince Bin Salman’s personal foundation.
It appears that Eight Investment is the same company that aided the prince in buying a 440-foot yacht from a Russian vodka tycoon in 2015. Under the company’s name, a successful bid has been made to buy a 620-acre estate in Conde-sur-Vesgre, another commune in the Ile-de-France region located about an hour’s drive from Paris.
In a separate purchase, the prince reportedly bought a painting by Leonardo da Vinci for $450,300,000.
Prior to the report, the identity of the chateau buyer was unknown. The Saudi crown prince’s outing as its owner is likely to cast him in a negative light, as the he had already garnered a reputation for exorbitant splurges.
The prince’s shopping sprees are being reported against the backdrop of a political purge in Riyadh. Throughout November, the crown prince ordered arrests of Saudi Arabian princes, ministers and business people following his establishment of an anti-corruption committee.
The crown prince told investors in Saudi Arabia that the suspects detained on suspicion of money laundering, bribery, extortion and taking advantage of public office for personal gain, have likely committed “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to illicitly accrue money.”
The New York Times wrote that advisers to the Saudi royal family have confirmed to the paper that the palace does ultimately belong to the prince, while he calls for the kingdom to cleanse itself of corruption.