World leaders lavished President Obama and top administration officials with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewels, artwork and other extravagant gifts last year, the State Department disclosed Thursday.
Most of the gifts are turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration or the General Services Administration (GSA), though recipients are allowed to retain many for official use or buy them for their personal collections.
Bestowed upon Clinton by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, the jewelry is valued at half a million dollars. It is pending transfer to the GSA, according to the State Department.
The complete list of 2012 gifts, to be published in Friday’s Federal Register, includes dozens of gifts to the president. They range from the relatively modest – a 41-inch saber from the president of Mongolia, valued at $440 – to elaborate presentations, such as a collection of art, photographs and other items from Italy, valued at $124,000.
Bottles of liquor were among the gifts from then-Mexican President Felipe Calderon; the vice president of the People’s Republic of China autographed a red, white and blue basketball for the renowned hoops fan; and British Prime Minister David Cameron gave him a custom table tennis set with U.S. and U.K. decals and paddles.
Descriptions of each of the gifts to White House, agency and military officials was accompanied by the blanket justification that, “Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. Government.”