Pro-austerity Saudi prince buys world's most expensive home

Rory Mulholland
The Chateau Louis XIV, a 50,000 sq ft palace near Versailles that Kim Kardashian once considered as a potential wedding location, was sold for €275 million (£200 million) in 2015.

The Saudi crown prince leading a corruption crackdown that has seen dozens of his country’s wealthiest men locked up has been revealed as the buyer of "the world's most expensive home," a report has said.

The Chateau Louis XIV, a 50,000 sq ft palace near Versailles that Kim Kardashian once considered as a potential wedding location, was sold for €275 million (£200 million) in 2015.

The buyer was not identified at the time, but the New York Times now reports that its investigation shows that the purchaser was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The newspaper’s probe 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.

The New York Times said that the purchase of the French castle appeared to be one of several extravagant recent acquisitions

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 under the watchful eyes of security forces loyal to the crown prince.

Profile | Mohammad bin Salman

The New York Times said that Chateau Louis XIV's ownership was concealed by various shell companies in France and Luxembourg.

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 New York Times said that the purchase of the French castle appeared to be one of several extravagant recent acquisitions, including a $500 million yacht and a $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting, by the prince.

The Château Louis XIV is a château constructed between 2008 and 2011 in the commune of Louveciennes in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France region

Eight Investment also recently bought an 620-acre estate near Paris in Condé-sur-Vesgre, 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 52ft-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 huge sturgeon inside.