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Sunday, November 22, 1998 Published at 15:47 GMT

World: Europe

Ceausescu treasures up for auction

The Ceausescus were renowned for their opulent lifestyle

Romanian authorities are preparing to auction off belongings and gifts of the late dictator Nikolae Ceausescu worth an estimated half a million dollars.

[ image: The couple were executed in 1989]
The couple were executed in 1989
During their 24 years in power, Nikolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena amassed thousands of luxury gifts of paintings, cars and fine wines and a wardrobe which included thousand of men's suits.

The couple were notorious for enjoying an extravagant lifestyle while the rest of the country suffered in poverty.

The Ceausescus were finally ousted by the bloody 1989 revolution, and were tried and executed by a firing squad on Christmas day that year.

Treasure trove

[ image: Magnificent Snagov Palace]
Magnificent Snagov Palace
The gifts are housed at Snagov Palace, north of the Romanian capital, Bucharest, where the Ceausescus spent much of their time in power.

Government officials face the tremendous task of going through the gifts, pricing them and preparing them for the sale next year.

About 1,000 items will go to auction, and are expected to fetch nearly half a million dollars.

Among the expensive gifts are huge oil paintings exalting the Ceausescus, crystal, cigars, fine wines, boats and hundreds of Persian carpets.

Cars up for auction include a Buick - a gift from former US President Nixon in 1976 - and a 1974 Hilman presented by Iran's last shah.

Leper colony

[ image: Luxury furs for leper colony]
Luxury furs for leper colony
Not all of the Ceausescu collection is up for sale. Many of the luxury clothes once worn by the Ceausescus are to be given to Europe's last leper colony in Romania.

The patients will receive an assortment of crocodile skin bags, leopard-skin purses, snake-skin shoes, mink furs, gold-thread bathrobes, evening dresses and an enormous collection of men's suits.

Ceausescu is said to have had a new suit everyday - after almost a quarter of a century in power this means there are nearly nine thousand suits up for grabs.

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