A DEFECTOR from the private guard of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, has given the first comprehensive account of the private life of the secretive figure who has led the country for 20 years.
The opposition Green Movement has compiled a catalogue of the 70-year-old leader's opulence and eccentric tastes from the accounts of the defector, who is said to be in hiding in France.
He was a member of a 200-strong permanent personal protection team who provide the Supreme Leader's security.
He claims that the ayatollah has a voracious appetite for trout and caviar and is an avid hoarder of collectables from jewelled pipes to horses. He is said to have a prized collection of as many as 170 antique walking sticks
He also suffers bouts of depression, treated in part by audiences with a mid-ranking mullah who tells vulgar jokes.
Claims from three intelligence officials, who have also fled Iran, have documented the Khamenei family's wide-reaching business connections, including interests in European manufacturers, African mobile phone companies and international commodities markets.
But the glimpse at the imperial lifestyle of an otherwise austere theologian is unprecedented. The Supreme Leader was once a fanatical equestrian. His stables reportedly include more than 100 of the country's leading horses. His cloaks are said to be woven from the hair of specially bred camels.
Ayatollah Khamenei is claimed to have accumulated a private court that stretches across six palaces. Two of the palaces have deep, reinforced concrete nuclear bunkers.
Iran's embassy in London refused to comment on the allegations. (© Daily Telegraph, London)