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Monday, December 21, 1998 Published at 23:19 GMT

World: Europe

Ceausescu's wine cellar under the hammer

Nicolai Ceausescu lived the life of luxury

More than 1,000 bottles of wine, champagne and cognac which belonged to the former Romanian ruler, Nicolae Ceausescu, have been auctioned in Bucharest, with the money going to an old people's home.

The bottles were bought by a Romanian hotel chain, Savion SA., which paid around $17,000 for the collection.

Most of the wines are Romanian - the oldest coming from the Tirnave vineyard in the east of the country and dating from 1918.

[ image: Mr Ceausescu's wife, Elena, awaiting execution]
Mr Ceausescu's wife, Elena, awaiting execution
Others were given to Mr Ceausescu by fellow communist leaders.

Savion outbid five other Romanian companies to buy the collection. Each bottle bore a gold ribbon and a card reading "Ceausescu's family residence".

The state would now like to auction Mr Ceausescu's cars and boats, but are awaiting a government decision to go ahead.

Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were executed on 25 December 1989, following a summary trial after being overthrown.

During Mr Ceausescu's 25 year-rule, the couple lived in the lap of luxury, while many Romanians struggled to survive.

Overnight stays in dozens of the couple's marble and gold-plated palaces will soon be available as part of a luxury travel package, according to government plans.

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