Crown prince ‘was mys­tery buyer of $450m Leonardo’

The Daily Telegraph - - World news - By Josie En­sor MID­DLE EAST COR­RE­SPON­DENT

A MEM­BER of the Saudi Ara­bian royal fam­ily act­ing as a proxy to Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Salman has been re­vealed as the mys­tery buyer of the most ex­pen­sive art­work in his­tory.

Prince Bader bin Ab­dul­lah bin Mo­hammed bin Farhan Al Saud paid $450 mil­lion (£336 mil­lion) for Leonardo da Vinci’s Sal­va­tor Mundi at an auc­tion in New York last month.

Ac­cord­ing to the New York Times,

Prince Bader, who has links with the crown prince, was not present at the auc­tion but sent an agent to bid on his be­half. How­ever, it was claimed last night that the art­work would end up in the hands of Prince Mo­hammed.

US gov­ern­ment in­tel­li­gence and sources in the Saudi art world told the

Wall Street Jour­nal that Prince Bader was merely the nom­i­nal win­ner of the auc­tion. It is un­clear how Prince Bader made his money, with no pub­licly known source of wealth. How­ever, he paid a $100mil­lion de­posit to qual­ify for en­try to the bid­ding at Christie’s.

He has no his­tory in the art mar­ket and the pur­chase comes at a time when Prince Mo­hammed him­self is lead­ing a crack­down on some of the ex­cesses of the coun­try’s ex­tended royal fam­ily.

More than 200 roy­als were ar­rested last month on cor­rup­tion charges and the bank ac­counts of 376 were frozen.

The king­dom has been squeezed by low oil prices and Prince Mo­hammed was seek­ing to re­cover hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars in al­leged il­licit gains. Prince Mo­hammed’s own ex­trav­a­gance – in­clud­ing the $500mil­lion pur­chase two years ago of a 440 ft yacht, and now the art­work – has raised ques­tions.

It looks likely the paint­ing will be housed first at the newly opened out­post of the Lou­vre in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emi­rates. The UAE is an ally of the Saudi royal fam­ily.

Saudi of­fi­cials did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Prince Bader paid $450 mil­lion for Sal­va­tor Mundi at Christie’s in New York in Novem­ber

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