By Staff writer
Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly purchases yacht from Russian vodka tycoon Yuri Shefler
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia, reportedly bought a €500 million ($549 million) superyacht shortly before the kingdom launched its biggest austerity drive in decades.
Prince Salman bought the 440-foot Serene while holidaying in the south of France earlier this year, the New York Times said.
The prince reportedly spotted the luxury yacht off the coast and dispatched an aide to go and buy it from Russian Stolichnaya vodka tycoon Yuri Shefler.
The deal was done within hours and Shefler moved off the boat the same day, it was said.
However, the purchase has been viewed as insensitive at a time when Saudi Arabia is embarking on its biggest economic reform programme in years and is preparing to make sweeping cuts to salaries and public spending to plug a widening budget deficit.
The UK’s Times newspaper reported on Tuesday that Saudi’s foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir dismissed reports of the purchase, saying: “I do not know anything about the price of yachts.”
He also reportedly said that Saudi Arabia had an “image problem” that made it a regular target for attacks focussing on “oil, wealth, royalty and religion”.
Serene is among the world’s biggest superyachts, and two years ago was rented by Bill and Melinda Gates for a holiday at a reported cost of $5 million per week, The Times said.
It is said to have 12 bedrooms, a cinema, nightclub, two hot tubs and a climbing wall, among other facilities.