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He orchestrated the overthrow of the sultan of a Middle Eastern state, threw a lifeline to white rule in Rhodesia and South Africa, gave arms to the mujahedeen of Afghanistan, amassed a fortune estimated to be twice that of the Queen's and died last week in his privately owned hamlet in south England.

In Oman, where he spent much of his adult life, he was known as the White Sultan. In his adopted home of Britain, he's been heralded as a latter-day Lawrence of Arabia. But in his native land of British Columbia, this real life lord of war seems long forgotten.

The son of a British Army officer and a Canadian mother, James Timothy Whittington Landon was born on Vancouver Island on Aug. 20, 1942. He left Canada at age 11 and later pursued an education at Sandhurst, Britain's top military academy, before serving with the British Army and Special Forces in Oman.

But from his deployment to Dhofar, the southern region of Oman in the late 1960s, until his death from cancer on July 5, the career and life of Brigadier Timothy Landon - as he came to be known - were shrouded in more than a white veil. They were shrouded in secrecy and controversy.

Brigadier Landon arrived in Oman around the same time that oil was discovered in the struggling state of the south Persian Gulf. He was part of a British military operation sent to help then Sultan Said bin Taimour defeat a Soviet-backed insurgency in Dhofar.

In the south of the country, he was stationed as an intelligence officer before he was transferred to the capital, Muscat, where he became integral to a British-backed coup to remove the Sultan, who had fallen out with the British government over interests in Oman's oil reserves.

The brigadier's role was to discuss the proposed overthrow with the Sultan's son, Qaboos bin Said - a fellow graduate of Sandhurst who was allegedly spared the wrath of school bullies when young Brigadier Landon took him under his wing.

Having foreseen a potential coup, the Sultan had placed his son under house arrest on the coast of Salalah upon the son's return to Oman. There he was allowed only a select group of visitors - among them Brigadier Landon.

According to John Beasant, author of Oman: The True Drama and Intrigue of an Arab State, the brigadier's role in the coup has been romanticized but not exaggerated as he personally persuaded Qaboos to overtake his father.

"Landon was the catalyst for the coup. There were all these rip-roaring stories of him climbing the palace steps brandishing a pistol toward the Sultan, but Landon never went into the palace during the coup," he says.

Brigadier Landon stayed with Qaboos as the plot unfolded on the afternoon of July 23, 1970, when the Sultan was confronted at his palace by a sheik and a British Army officer, who told Sultan Said his rule was at an end. The coup turned out to be a near-bloodless affair, with the only major casualty being Said's foot, which he inadvertently shot while drawing a pistol from beneath his robe.

The deposed sultan spent the next two years in exile and died in a London hotel in 1972, having reportedly claimed that his greatest regret was "not having had Landon shot."

Brigadier Landon assisted the new Sultan Qaboos as a trusted adviser during the first decade of his rule. Mr. Beasant says it was with the brigadier's guidance that the young and inexperienced Qaboos was able to transform Oman into a prospering state.

"[Landon's]single greatest achievement was being available to the Sultan at a time when Qaboos came to the throne yet had no experience of governance whatsoever," Mr. Beasant says.

His role as a trusted adviser to an Arab ruler has led some in the British press to herald him as a latter-day Lawrence of Arabia, but Mr. Beasant knew Brigadier Landon and says he was no Lawrence.

"Tim was a man who always had his eye to the main chance. This Lawrence of Arabia slant is ridiculous; there's no comparison at all. What he did do through his advisory to Qaboos in fashioning a modern state, which primarily meant establishing a modern navy, army and air force, meant that he was able to make huge amounts of money through the arms deals he brokered on behalf of the Sultan," Mr. Beasant says.

The White Sultan of Oman, as Brigadier Landon became known, amassed an estimated £200-million ($425-million) from trade deals and gifts from his grateful patron. He also built up Oman's military into one of the best-armed small forces in the world and helped to defeat the Soviet-backed insurgents.

But his arms dealings and questionable enterprises didn't end there.

In the late 1970s, as Ian Smith's internationally ostracized Rhodesian state struggled to withstand international sanctions and a bloody bush war, Brigadier Landon lent the white-minority ruler a helping hand in the form of Omani oil.

He similarly helped South Africa's apartheid regime.

"He was a product of the British Empire. He was born in the Dominion of Canada but had family relations who were under siege in Rhodesia and South Africa and here he was with his finger on the Omani oil tap," Mr. Beasant says.

In the early 1980s, Brigadier Landon enjoyed intimate ties to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her son, Mark, a known arms trader. The latter connection helped him to facilitate Oman's key role as a weapons conduit across the Gulf to the Pakistani port of Karachi, where weapons were imported and sent overland to mujahedeen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.

By 1982, Brigadier Landon held not only a Canadian passport but also an Omani passport when he helped organize the Sultan's visit to Britain. His connections with the British prime minister earned him an honorary knighthood that same year.

Brigadier Landon returned in the early 1980s to Britain, where he lived a reclusive life in his rural hamlet and travelled to London in an inconspicuous, personally owned black cab.

His secret business in the city has attracted controversy in Hungary, where it's alleged he bribed an Austrian businessman to influence Hungarian authorities to purchase Swedish fighter jets.

That most recent scandal never infiltrated Brigadier Landon's life in the hamlet he owned in Hampshire, south England.

Brigadier Landon lived out his latter days with his wife and son. It's said he enjoyed relaxing with a gun during pheasant shoots in the English countryside. He's also said to have enjoyed skiing holidays in Canada.

Mr. Beasant says Brigadier Landon's reclusive lifestyle was a result of his operations in Oman.

"He became very concerned about his own personal security. Tim realized that the way in which he had amassed his riches provoked such sentiments and he was fearful of the consequences," he says.

Mr. Beasant himself could be viewed as a man once wronged by Brigadier Landon. Mr. Beasant was a journalist and author based in Oman for 11 years when he was ejected from the country after refusing a bribe to keep from publishing his 2002 book.

He says Brigadier Landon was likely partial to the Sultan's decision to send him into exile in his native land of England. But despite this, Mr. Beasant doesn't hold any ill will against the dead brigadier.

"Timothy Landon was by any measure an exceptional man. He was very much an individual who pursued his interests with a single-mindedness which can really only be respected. You can't help but admire him," he says.

Brigadier Landon leaves his wife, Kata, a member of the Austro-Hungarian Esterhazy family, and their son.

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