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Saudi Crown Prince Was Behind Record Bid for a Leonardo

08 December 2017

The newspaper confirmed that the Prince Bader purchased the rare painting after citing documents it had reviewed while in the midst of an investigation into Saudi Arabia's elite class, including his family and associates. Prince Bader is close to Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who recently had hundreds of the country's princes, businessmen, and government officials arrested, accusing them of having made billions illicitly.

That's according to US intelligence officials who keep a close eye on the kingdom's young and powerful crown prince, says the Wall Street Journal.

The painting will be exhibited at the Abu Dhabi branch of the Louvre, according to a tweet by the museum yesterday. United States intelligence reports, it seems, corroborated this version of events, noting that Prince Bader has previously collaborated with MBS on various deals and transactions.

He and Prince Mohammed, 32, both attended King Saud University in Riyadh around the same time.

There are more connections, such as Bader being the chair of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, which is reportedly controlled by the Salman branch of the royal family.

The firm's website describes him as "one of Saudi Arabia's youngest" entrepreneurs, present in sectors including real estate, telecommunications and recycling.

According to the Times, Bader was one of at least four anonymous bidders competing by telephone through representatives in the auction room.

This is the highest price ever paid for a work of art. Christie's said the identity of the buyer has been the most sought-after secret in the art world and beyond.

Bidding opened at $100m and began jumping by increments of up to $10m.

Prince Mohammed also put Prince Bader in charge of governing a commission overseeing the development of Al Ola, which contains an important archaeological site. When bidding reached $330m, Bader offered $350m. The auction took 19 minutes. Five are for $58,385,416.67.

The WSJ reporters cite unnamed USA intelligence officials and a member of the Saudi art community, the latter of whom asserts: "It's a fact that this deal was done via a proxy".

The work was sold to the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev who purchased the da Vinci painting for $127.5 million in 2013.

It had sold for a mere 45 British pounds in 1958, when the painting was thought to have been a copy, and was lost until it resurfaced at a regional auction in 2005. Many clerics in Saudi Arabia consider the artistic depiction of any of the prophets to be a form of sacrilege.

Saudi Crown Prince Was Behind Record Bid for a Leonardo