The couple who turned up at the US embassy with heroin and crack cocaine

Eva Rausing, wife of Tetra Pak heir Hans Kristian was held at the US embassy in London after a routine bag search allegedly uncovered crack cocaine.

"The contents of a woman's handbag are a mystery, even to herself," says The Daily Telegraph. "Make-up from the dawn of time, grubby tissues, odd keys and, if you are Eva Rausing, allegedly a wrap or two of Class A drugs." Invited to a party at the US embassy, "the most scarily secure venue in the capital", Mrs Rausing was held after a routine bag search.

Was it stupidity, arrogance or forgetfulness? Whatever the answer, her lapse, and the discovery of £2,000-worth of heroin and crack cocaine at her home, have brought serious embarrassment to the Swedish family who made their pile from Tetra Pak milk cartons.

Yet other than the mention of crack "a drug associated more with council estates than a millionaires' row off Cadogan Square" the story came as no great surprise to friends, says The Sunday Times. Both US-born Eva and husband Hans Kristian (aka "Hans K"), heir to the family billions, have a long history of drug abuse: they first met in rehab. In fact, if they were 25 years younger, and not themselves parents, you might consider them "poor little rich kids", says The Independent. Born into vast wealth (she is the daughter of a Pepsi-Cola boss), they've both struggled to find a path in life that extends beyond hedonism and charity-giving.

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Ironically, their preferred good cause is anti-drug charity Mentor UK. The Prince of Wales describes Hans K as "one very special philanthropist", but it is Eva who takes centre-stage on the party circuit. Hans described as "a recluse of Howard Hughes proportions" is said to have no interests beyond watching TV. Born to run the family business, he seems to have decided at an early age "that he could not measure up to his father or grandfather", choosing instead to take the hippie trail to India.

The roots of Hans K's fortune a simple idea that would transform the packaging industry go back to wartime Sweden. Family lore has it that his grandfather, Ruben, was watching his wife make sausages. Intrigued by the way she folded over and pressed shut the skin at either end, he decided to apply the same principle to milk containers.

Reuben Rausing had already seen the possibilities of packaging (he'd studied economics in the US in the 1920s and saw the growth of self-service grocery stores), but he left it to his sons Gad and Hans to build the business via the aggressive deployment of patents. By the 1970s, notes The Sunday Telegraph, "Tetra Pak had established a near-global monopoly in its market". The brothers moved to Britain to escape punitive Swedish taxes.

The current patriarch, Hans Rausing, 81, no longer controls the company: he sold out to his brother (since deceased) for a reported £3.2bn in 1995. The latter's children now formally call the shots. But, at 6ft 8, he still towers over the family, while his shrewd investments continue growing the coffers.

He may once have been Britain's richest man, says The Evening Standard, but Rausing Snr is "almost comically careful" about money driving an old banger around his Sussex estate and getting his hair cut at the village barbers. "He believes in people making their own way and living within their means," says The Sunday Times. Hence his likely distress at the drug revelations. "I am very sorry for the upset I have caused," said Eva Rausing last week." That may not be enough to protect her husband's inheritance.

Inherited wealth: a great blessing, or poisoned chalice?

"I have lived with this great fortune of yours for many years, and to its increase and its uses I have given every thought, until it has become a part of myself, almost as if it were my own," Fred Gates, financial adviser to John D Rockefeller, once wrote to his boss. "I warn you that unless you give most of your money away, it will crush you, and your children, and your children's children."

It's a maxim the Rausing family, despite their tradition of philanthropy, must be taking to heart, says The Sunday Telegraph. The histories of the Gettys, the Guinnesses, the Rothschilds and the Kennedys remind us that "wealth offers little defence to human weakness". As Hans K's sister Sigrid once said: "The pros of inherited wealth, I believe, are largely illusory and can become pathological An illusory sense of being special and different and subsequent feelings of isolation."

Hans K's older sisters "appear to have reconciled fabulous wealth to meaningful careers", says The Sunday Times. Both have huge houses in London and Scottish estates, but they also operate at the heart of London's intellectual life. Lisbet, a generous donor to the School of Oriental and African studies, is married to historian Peter Baldwin; Sigrid and her film-maker husband, Eric Abrahams, own Portobello books and Granta magazine and are seen "as one of London's foremost literary power couples".

In fact, the family which really lost out are the descendants of a little-known Swedish engineer named Erik Wallenberg, says The Independent. He was the man who designed the Tetra Pak carton in return for a one-off payment of six months' salary from the Rausings. He must have dearly wished he had patented his design.