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US lawmakers turned over gifts after secretly funded trip to Azerbaijan

Lawmakers who took a trip secretly funded by the government of Azerbaijan turned over jade earrings, tea sets, silk scarves, woven rugs and other gifts to the government after a watchdog report called the trip improper, The Hill reports.

The list of gifts returned to the General Services Administration (GSA), which was obtained by The Hill through a Freedom of Information Act request, fills in more details about the trip to a 2013 conference in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku.

In all, nine current member of Congress and 32 staff members attended the conference, each receiving thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts, according to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). Some of the lawmakers also went to Turkey after the conference in Baku and received additional gifts on that stop.

The OCE report on the trip was submitted to the House Ethics Committee on May 8, 2015, but was leaked to The Washington Post, which revealed the details of the report days later.

The watchdog said Texas-based nonprofits filed false statements saying they were paying for the trip, when, in reality, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic, known as Socar, helped fund the conference and trips by funneling $750,000 to the nonprofit corporations.

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