Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum – eldest son of the billionaire ruler of Dubai – died on Saturday from a heart attack.
The shock death – at such a young age – has shone a light on the reclusive royal’s murky past – and led to suggestions his coronary was caused by DRUGS.
The handsome Arab studied at Sandhurst military academy in England – like the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry – had a glittering career as a sportsman and as eldest son was destined to rule oil-rich Dubai.
But just a few years later he was passed over for the throne in favour of his younger brother – and had almost disappeared from public view.
After graduating from Sanhurst in 2002 Sheikh Rashid – a talented horseman and keen Man U fan – returned to head up a number of companies and charitable organisations in Dubai.
He set up investment companies and a racing stable – Zabeel Racing International – amassing a reported personal fortune of $1.9billion.
He was a founding member of Dubai Sports and Cultural Club and went on to sporting success himself – picking up two gold medals for horse events in the Asian Games.
But two years later – in 2008 – he was stripped of the title of crown prince in favour of his brother – Hamdan.
The reason for the change in succession was revealed in a confidential memo sent from the US consulate in Dubai back to Washington.
In the leaked diplomatic cable – published by Wikileaks – acting consul general David Williams wrote: “It is alleged that Rashid killed an assistant in the Ruler’s office, thereby forfeiting his opportunity to be heir.”
Rumours of Arab royals attending drug-fuelled orgies – including at posh London hotels – are widespread.
In another leaked cable Martin Quinn – US consul general in the Saudi city of Jeddah – writes: “Behind the facade of Wahabi conservatism in the streets the underground nightlife for Jeddah’s elite youth is thriving and throbbing.
“The full range of worldly temptations and vices are available – alcohol, drugs, sex – but strictly behind closed doors.
“This freedom to indulge carnal pursuits is possible merely because the religious police keep their distance when parties include the presence or patronage of a Saudi royal and his circle of loyal attendants.”
Sheikh Rashid’s disappearance from public life has been put down to repeated spells in rehab – as well as the killing.
When the apparently health – and sporty – young man died of a heart attack died aged just 33, speculation about drug use is almost inevitable.