On his trip to France to meet President Emmanuel Macron, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman resides in a lavish castle that was dubbed “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 intended to recreate the extravagant luxury of the nearby Palace of Versailles, once the seat of the French royal family.
The 7,000-square-foot property was bought in 2015 by an unknown buyer for $275 million ($300 million at the time), leading Fortune magazine to call 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 through a series of shell companies.
Local government officials confirmed to AFP that the controversial heir to the Saudi throne stayed at the property ahead of his dinner with Macron later on Thursday.
Reporters outside the perimeter wall saw security personnel in suits guarding the entrance and a large police presence, including half a dozen vehicles.
Macron and bin Salman were set to meet later Thursday at the more modest Elysee presidential palace for talks critics in France deem inappropriate.
Bin Salman was judged by US intelligence as having consented to the gruesome murder and mutilation of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
But after four years as an international pariah, the prince is once again being courted by Western leaders as they desperately seek new energy supplies to replace lost Russian production.
In a pinch 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 has a nightclub, a gold-leaf fountain, a movie theater and an underwater glass chamber in the moat that resembles a giant aquarium with white leather couches.
Photos on Emad Khashoggi’s company website, Cogemad, also show a wine cellar, although alcohol is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia.
Chateau Louis XIV was built in 2009 after a 19th century castle on the lot was bulldozed.
Bin Salman’s extravagant spending since he emerged as the leading power broker in Saudi Arabia has repeatedly made headlines.
The son of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud bought a $500 million yacht in 2015 and is said to be the mysterious buyer of a $450 million painting by Leonardo da Vinci in 2017.
The latest purchase has been officially declined.
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