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Saudi prince stays in ‘world’s most expensive home’ during Paris trip

During his trip to France to meet President Emmanuel Macron, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is staying at a lavish chateau dubbed "the world's most expensive home" when he purchased it in 2015.

Saudi prince stays in 'world's most expensive home' during Paris trip
The Chateau Louis XIV in Louveciennes in 2017. It is owned by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

The Chateau Louis XIV in Louveciennes outside Paris is a new-build mansion intended to mimic the extravagant luxury of the nearby Versailles Palace, once the seat of the French royal family.

The 7,000-square-metre property was bought by an undisclosed buyer in 2015 for 275 million euros ($300 million at the time), leading Fortune magazine tocall it “the world’s most expensive home.”

Bin Salman, 36, was reported two years’ later by The New York Times to be the ultimate owner via a series of shell companies.

Local government officials confirmed to AFP that the controversial heir to the Saudi throne was staying 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.

Khashoggi link

Macron and bin Salman were set to meet at the more modest Elysee presidential palace later Thursday for talks that critics in France view as inappropriate.

Bin Salman was judged by US intelligence to have approved the gruesome murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

But after four years as an international pariah, the prince is being courted by Western leaders again as they urgently seek fresh energy supplies 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 property development business in France.

The chateau features a nightclub, a gold-leafed fountain, a cinema, as well as 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 prohibited in Saudi Arabia.

Chateau Louis XIV was built in 2009 after a 19th-century castle on the plot was bulldozed.

Bin Salman’s extravagant spending since emerging as the main powerbroker in Saudi Arabia has repeatedly made headlines.

The son of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud bought a $500-million yacht in 2015 and was also reported to be the mystery buyer of a $450-million Leonardo da Vinci painting in 2017.

The latter purchase has been officially denied.

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POLITICS

French minister advises: ‘Wear a turtleneck sweater this winter’

France's finance minister has branched out into fashion advice - suggesting that Frenchmen wear "turtleneck sweaters" rather than ties this winter, in order to help save energy.

French minister advises: 'Wear a turtleneck sweater this winter'

Bruno Le Maire, interviewed on Tuesday by France Inter radio, said: “You will no longer see me with a tie but with a turtleneck. And I think it will be very good, it will allow us to save energy.”

He was commenting on the government’s energy-saving plans for the winter, which include limiting the heating in public buildings and government ministries to a maximum of 19C.

Households are also advised not to turn their heating up above 19C, but for private individuals this is voluntary. There are also exceptions to the rules for public buildings such as hospitals and nursing homes.

Le Maire is not the only European politician to give an energy-saving lead through fashion – this summer Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez announced that he would no longer wear ties to the office, although in his case this was to keep cool as Spain imposed limits on air-conditioning.

France’s plan for sobriété enérgetique (energy-saving) will be revealed in full in October, but involves public buildings and businesses making cuts to their energy usage, while households are advised – although not required – to do likewise. France intends to cut its total energy usage by 10 percent this winter in order to avoid the risk of blackouts since Russia has cut off its gas supplies.

REVEALED How likely are blackouts in France this winter?

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