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British banker William Duff who helped transform Dubai into financial powerhouse dies

Published on Feb 16, 2014 11:14 PM

DUBAI (REUTERS) - The British banker who helped transform Dubai into a financial powerhouse, serving as an advisor to its ruling sheikh, has died at the age of 92.

William Duff, a Scot, came to Dubai after a stint as a banker in Kuwait and became financial advisor to the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al-Maktoum in 1960. At the time, the emirate's population was about 50,000; it survived largely on fishing, herding and small-scale trade across the Gulf in wooden dhows.

Duff set up the Dubai Customs Department and Department of Finance, helped to establish the emirate's electric utility, and was later instrumental in creating the Jebel Ali Free Zone, which includes the biggest port in the Middle East. The emirate is now the region's top financial centre, with a population above 2 million.

An Oxford-educated Arabist and classical Arabic speaker, Duff navigated the inner circle of the ruling family in the days when his employer and other senior royals spoke little English.

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