Egypt to auction luxury gifts received by officials

Thu Jun 13, 2013 10:29am EDT
 
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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will auction off pricey gifts received by its senior government officials next week, including luxury watches and a solid silver sword, with proceeds going into the public coffers where they belong, the government said on Thursday.

Cartier and Omega timepieces, silk rugs, ornate vases and a model boat will be among the items on sale next week in an auction organized by Egypt's finance ministry.

The auction follows a decision by Prime Minister Hisham Kandil to forbid officials from keeping gifts valued at more than $100.

President Mohamed Mursi took office last June pledging to root out the corrupt practices of Hosni Mubarak's regime which had angered so many in Egypt, where one in four live below the poverty line.

Proceeds from the sale will be returned to public coffers "to establish the principles of transparency and accountability and protection of public money," the ministry said in a press release.

Egypt's economy has not recovered from more than two years of political turmoil and street violence. The government has been resistant to introducing austerity measures needed to secure a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan, fearing they could provoke social unrest.

Kandil and other officials, including the head of Egypt's leading Islamic authority Al-Azhar, Grand Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, handed a total of 42 gifts they received since last July to the finance ministry.

The gifts were from "senior Arab officials, leaders of foreign countries, and international figures" who visited Egypt from July 2012 to early this month, a statement from the ministry said.

(Reporting By Asma Alsharif and Maggie Fick; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)