IT was where Queen Victoria began a lifelong love of the Highlands.

Nestled amid Perthshire hills, neo-Gothic Taymouth Castle was transformed from a bolthole for the Breadalbane Campbells into a luxury retreat mooted, over the years, as anything from a potential seven-star hotel to a new home for Cher or Madonna.

Now the blue-grey A-listed building is routinely described as the most significant stately home still in private hands. But whose hands exactly?

After years of speculation, an international team of investigative journalists have suggested the early 19th historic monument belongs to an allegedly corrupt ally of former Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi.

HeraldScotland:

Taymouth Castle

Ali Ibrahim Dabaiba has hit UK headlines before. After the fall - and killing - of Gaddafi the seventy-something former development chief was eventually accused of skimming millions from public contracts.

Libyan authorities, in a 2014 formal request for assistance to the United Kingdom, said their man had invested what they claim is stolen wealth in around 40 properties in Scotland.

Those properties, as reported back in 2016, included the Kenmore Hotel a stone’s throw from Taymouth Castle.

HeraldScotland:

The Kenmore Hotel

The managers of the hotel, sometimes described as Scotland’s oldest inn, however, dismissed that claim as “ludicrous”.

Earlier this year the Sunday Times said Mr Dabaiba and his family owned flats in both Edinburgh and Glasgow. All such reports cite a document relating to the Dabaibas’ properties provided by Libyan prosecutors to their Scottish counterparts. Mr Dabaiba and his family are understood to deny any wrongdoing.

HeraldScotland:

Mr Dabaiba and his son Osama

Now the Organized Crime and Corruption Project or OCCRP - in a major investigation of Mr Dabaiba’s offshore finances - have said the document also included Taymouth Castle.

There has been community speculation for some time that the castle, on a loop in the Tay, was linked to Kenmore Hotel.

The Courier last year revealed that the castle and its grounds had been sold to a company called Mount Two Limited based in a free economic zone of the United Arab Emirates.

The paper, which covers Perthshire, said the previous owners Meteor Asset Management had invested some £23m in to plans to turn the castle in to a hotel and timeshare destination.

The Courier later linked both Mount Two Limited and a firm called Rebus carrying out the reconstruction work to an English based developer called Clynt Wellington.

The Courier in April said work had “ground to a halt” after a tax probe in to Rebus and said investors backing the projects were in talks with the developer.

The Herald was unable to reach Mr Wellington for further clarification. The businessman has been involved with several different enterprises regenerating the castle. One, called Farnham Developments Limited was dissolved earlier this year after going in to liquidation. Another, The Sunday Herald, reported in 2012, had gone in to administration in 2009 leaving unpaid debts.

A firm called Taymouth Estates Limited was liquidated in Guernsey in 2015 owing Farnham Developments £1.5m. Its only asset, Farnham liquidators said, was mortgaged land at Taymouth.

HeraldScotland:

Inside Taymouth Castle

Mr Dabaiba - whose whereabouts and exact age are unknown - has had strong links to Scotland and the rest of the UK. A former mayor, he received what is described as a modest wage to run a government department responsible for billions of dollars in development and regeneration contracts. He was previously subject to an Interpol red notice after post-Gaddafi and bitterly divided Libya sought reckoning with the inner circle of the old regime.

The OCCRP late last month published a detailed investigation, based on leaked documents, accusing Mr Dabaiba of skimming 20 per cent from contracts.

It said the former official may have used 16 bank accounts and seven companies in Cyprus as part of a complex international offshore finance mechanism.

Libyans, OCCRP reported, turned to Cyprus and its then confidential banking system after the international sanctions composed after the Lockerbie bombing, the biggest crime in modern Scottish history.

Taymouth Castle was built in the early 1800s and finalised in its current form before Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and hundreds of others in the royal household visited in 1842 on the monarch’s first visit to Scotland.