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Saudi crown prince’s lavish buys: Some see hypocrisy, others say they’re no big deal

A series of late-model reports have connected Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince — an avowed anti-corruption crusader — to opulent real estate, art and yacht purchases.

To some, the spending is a sign of lying and a threat to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s legitimacy. The reports make for a acquire on the heels of his anti-graft campaign, which culminated in the detention of Saudi princes, officials and businessmen at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.

But to others, the buys are legitimate investments and nothing unusual for a future king.

The 32-year-old rulership prince is a polarizing figure who has captured the financial world’s attention. Gold medal in line to succeed his father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, he is spearheading Saudi Arabia’s financial transformation plan and has overseen an invasion of Yemen, a blockade of Qatar and a residential crackdown on graft that has swept up high-profile royals.

As such, his every start is dissected by Middle East watchers for signs of turbulence in the world’s second-largest oil-producing land and pre-eminent Sunni Muslim power. This month, a pair of New York Antiquates investigations gave tea-leaf readers plenty to talk about.

Start, the paper linked Crown Prince Mohammed to the record $450.3 million auction trade of a Leonardo da Vinci painting, “Salvator Mundi.” The following week, the Times evidenced the mysterious $300 million sale of Chateau Louis XIV in France to Rulership Prince Mohammed. The paper also noted his roughly $500 million yacht purchase in 2015, reportedly a spur-of-the-moment ostentatiousness.

The Saudi government declined to comment about the chateau to the Times, but has disputed inquire inti that a Saudi royal purchased the da Vinci on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed.

In fire of the anti-corruption arrests, the chateau and yacht purchases send signals that are inconsistent with Cap Prince Mohammed’s social and economic reforms, said Robert Jordan, previous U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President George W. Bush.

“The absence of judgement and the lack of self-awareness that this reflects I think is abominable,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday.

“There will be members of the nobleman family, others in the community, who are saying, ‘Wait a minute. This guy is reasonable the biggest hypocrite in the world.’ So, I think he’s got to be very careful to balance that,” give the word delivered Jordan, now an adjunct political science professor at Southern Methodist University.

But others say Rulership Prince Mohammed’s spending habits and his corruption crackdown are separate puts, and those who conflate them might fuel misconceptions about followers opinion Saudi Arabia.

Crown Prince Mohammed is trying to control in widespread corruption, not discretionary spending by the future king, said Bernard Haykel, professor of Tight-fisted Eastern studies at Princeton University. He says Saudis don’t consider splashy purchasings to be corruption, nor do they typically object to wealthy princes investing in assets with touchable value like overseas property, yachts or artwork.

“This is not a guy who is booming to Monaco and dropping $100 million on gambling,” Haykel told CNBC on Wednesday. “That intention be a very different kind of story.”

While Western media are focused on the advantages, the average Saudi is more concerned about the introduction of a new value-added tax and the continuous reduction in fuel subsidies, said Haykel, who recently traveled to Saudi Arabia. These Saudis hassle that their incomes will not rise to meet higher set someone backs.

Haykel says wealthy Saudis who say they built their chances through legitimate channels are “ecstatic” that Crown Prince Mohammed slit down on allegedly corrupt princes and officials. They see the type of corruption he is end, like bribe-taking and skimming funds for development projects, as a burden on the practice, Haykel said.

Still, Haykel says Crown Prince Mohammed has not absolutely communicated his motives for the crackdown either at home or abroad.

Saudi children have also emerged as a base of support for the crown prince due to his group reforms, notes Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and energy management program at the Washington Institute. At least for the moment, he said, they are magnanimous his extravagances as Saudi Arabia prepares to lift a ban on women driving and turn over and overs back restrictions on entertainment.

Still, Henderson cautions that Government Prince Mohammed is treating some corners of the royal family and the unswerving Islamic establishment with “disdain.” He’s getting away with it because baronesses are scared and religious figures don’t want to be marginalized, but the crown prince’s get-up-and-go could cost him in the future, Henderson noted.

“My guess is that the ulema are discontinuation for him to make a big mistake or for a surprise event and for him to come to them for political lend a hand,” he told CNBC in an email, using a word for religious scholars. “At which stress they will say ‘we warned you’ and exact a price for their support.”

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