What do you call somebody who publicly leads a campaign against corruption while privately buying the most expensive things in the world for himself? In Saudi Arabia, the answer to that question is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, per a New York Times investigation that exposes the 32-year-old king-in-waiting as the buyer of a mansion in France that became known as the world's most expensive home after it was sold for more than $300 million in 2015. The Times traced ownership of the Chateau Louis XIV, which was completed in 2011 on the former site of a castle, to the prince through a network of shell companies that led back to a firm managed by the chief of the prince's personal foundation.
The prince also acquired a $500 million yacht as an "impulse buy" in 2015, and a Saudi buyer who paid a record $450 million for a Leonardo da Vinci painting last month is believed to have been acting for the prince. In Riyadh, meanwhile, dozens of businessmen and other prominent citizens accused of corruption are being detained in the Ritz-Carlton hotel. The prince "has tried to build an image of himself ... that he is different, that he's a reformer, at least a social reformer, and that he's not corrupt," former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel tells the Times. "And this is a severe blow to that image." The Saudi government declined to comment on the Times report, though a spokeswoman for the country's embassy in the US accused the paper's journalists of serving a "personal agenda," the BBC reports. (Read more Saudi Arabia stories.)