During his trip to France to meet President Emmanuel Macron, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is staying in a lavish castle that was described as “the most expensive house in the world” when he bought it in 2015.
The Chateau Louis XIV in Louveciennes outside Paris is a newly built mansion designed to emulate the extravagant luxury of the nearby Palace of Versailles, once the seat of the French royal family.
The 7,000-square-foot mansion was purchased by an unknown buyer in 2015 for €275 million ($300 million at the time), leading to Fortune magazine dubbing it “the most expensive home in the world.”
Bin Salman, 36, was reported two years later by the New York Times as the ultimate owner of a number of shell companies.
Local government officials confirmed to AFP that the controversial Saudi heir to the throne was staying at the property ahead of his dinner with Macron later Thursday.
Reporters outside the perimeter wall saw security personnel in suits guarding the entrance and a large police presence, including half a dozen vehicles.
– Khashoggi Link –
Macron and bin Salman were due to meet later on Thursday at the more modest Elysee presidential palace for talks critics in France see as inappropriate.
Bin Salman was convicted by US intelligence for authorizing the gruesome 2018 murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
But after four years as an international pariah, the prince is once again being courted by Western leaders desperate for new supplies of energy to replace lost Russian production.
In a twist of history, the Chateau Louis XIV was built by Khashoggi’s cousin, Emad Khashoggi, who runs a luxury real estate development company in France.
The castle features a nightclub, a gold-leafed fountain, a cinema, and an underwater glass chamber in the moat that resembles a giant aquarium with white leather sofas.
Photos on the website of Emad Khashoggi’s company Cogemad also show a wine cellar, although alcohol is strictly forbidden in Saudi Arabia.
Chateau Louis XIV was built in 2009 after a 19th century castle was bulldozed on the property.
Bin Salman’s extravagant spending since he rose to become Saudi Arabia’s top ruler has repeatedly made headlines.
King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s son bought a $500 million yacht in 2015 and is also said to have been the mysterious buyer of a $450 million painting by Leonardo da Vinci in 2017.
The latter purchase was officially rejected.
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