While Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is currently spearheading an anti-corruption probe and wealth accumulation at home that saw more than 200 princes and dozens of former ministers being detained, reports have emerged that the crown prince is the owner of a $300 million chateau near Versailles, France.
According to an exclusive report by The New York Times, Chateau Louis XIV landscaped in a 57-acre park in Louveciennes, near Versailles, was sold anonymously in 2015, with Forbes magazine calling it the "world's most expensive home".
The report states that the chateau's ownership is meticulously hidden through various shell companies in France and Luxembourg, all of which are owned by Eight Investment Company, a Saudi firm led by the head of Prince Mohammed's personal foundation. Sources close to the Saudi royal family said the purchase was for the crown prince.
The Eight Investment Company came to light when Paradise Papers, records leaked from a Bermuda law firm Appleby, broke news. The company also backed Prince Mohammed's 440-foot yacht purchase in 2015.
A Leonardo da Vinci painting "Salvador Mundi" sold for a record $450 million in November, is reported to have been acquired by an obscure Saudi prince, close to Crown Prince Mohammed, as per the report. The revelation that Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud was the buyer, was according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. He is a friend and associate of the country's 32-year-old Crown Prince.
While Saudi Arabia recently lifted a ban on cinemas after 35 years as part of reforms under the crown prince, the new revelations could do much damage to his anti-corruption probe.
Al-Arabiya had earlier reported that the anti-graft committee under the crown prince was looking into devastating and deadly floods that overwhelmed parts of the city of Jiddah in 2009 and investigating the Saudi government's response to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus that has killed several hundred people in the past few years.
The government said that the anti-corruption committee, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed has the right to issue arrest warrants, impose travel restrictions and freeze bank accounts. It can also trace funds, prevent the transfer of funds or the liquidation of assets and take other precautionary measures until cases are referred to the judiciary.
Prince Mohammed's rise to power began in 2013 when he was named the head of the Crown Prince's Court, with the rank of a minister. He capped his rapid rise to power in June this year by replacing his elder cousin Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, widely known as MbN, as crown prince.
Prince Mohammed's crackdown on corruption is just the latest in a wave of frenetic changes in the kingdom over the past two-and-a-half years. He said he's determined to remodel his conservative country into a modern state no longer dependent on oil.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Dec 17, 2017 12:46:00 IST