WASHINGTON, DC — Top US officials, including President Barack Obama and first lady, appear to have received expensive gifts from Azeri officials last year, according to the State Department’s annual accounting of gifts published in the Federal Register on Tuesday.
Elin Suleymanov, Azeri Ambassador to the US, presented President Obama with a large Azerbaijani rug with red, white and blue geometric designs worth $6,560 on December 5th 2013, while first lady Michelle Obama received a traditional Azerbaijani red headscarf worth $435, according to the official records.
Secretary of State John Kerry also was handed by the ambassador a 24.5’ × 39’ hand-woven silk rug worth approximately $760, last December in Washington DC, while his then-top diplomat to Baku Richard Morningstar was given a 39.25’ × 47.25’ silk carpet last November worth $625.
Safar Abiyev, Azerbaijan’s former defense minister presented Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense wine serving set worth of $600, during his trip to Washington, DC last August.
Besides gifts, the Azeri government officials also appeared to have upgraded a bunch of top US gov’t officials travels to business class while flying from Baku to Paris last August, according to the official records.
The State Department’s report comes just hours before several top American elected officials are reportedly to gather tonight at the luxury gala dinner hosted by Ambassador Suleymanov and a son of an Azeri multi-billionaire minister in the US Capital, Contact.az reports.
Dozens of guests from the US administration, Congress, diplomatic corps and think tanks are estimated to attend the dinner named “Celebrating the Natural Beauty of Azerbaijan,” at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
Among the “Honorary Host Committee” of today’s gala there will be dozen of lawmakers, such as Congresswoman Corrine Brown, Senator Richard Burr, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Congressmen Michael Fitzpatrick, Steve Cohen, Cory Gardner, Gene Green, Billy Long and many others, according to the source. The official organizer of the event is shown as Azerbaijani American for Alliance, a group chaired by Anar Mammadov, son of Azerbaijan’s transportation minister Ziya Mammadov.
None of the mentioned above immediately returned a request for comment on Tuesday.
Mammadov has paid at least $2 million for covering expenses of 2012 gala dinner, according to the official records.
Last year, Mammadov’s organization spent $5 million for a single DC lobbying group Fabiani& Company to establish contacts with the US officials.
Since when are our Federal officials permitted to accept gifts from foreign national officials? I may be naive, but doesn’t that fall into the category of international bribery?