New pilfering allegations made against Klaus

A reporter recounts a tale of a sticky-fingered Czechoslovak economist having to explain why he took a woman’s gloves during a dinner

Politics & Policy
Raymond Johnston | 14.04.2011
In the wake of a viral video, a tale of an old faux pas resurfaces

The recent appropriation of a jeweled pen at a press conference in Chile by Czech President Václav Klaus is not his first brush with allegations of petty theft. A video of the pen incident, which has been viewed more than 2 million times on Youtube, has inspired a journalist to recount an incident from two decades ago.

“Back in 1991 when Klaus was still a young economist making waves in then-Czechoslovakia, I was in Slovenia with journalists covering the outbreak of the Yugoslav war. Talk turned to all the new characters emerging in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Klaus’ name came up,” Robert Marquand, a Paris-based reporter for the online newspaper Christian Science Monitor, wrote in a column. ‘Why Mr. Klaus, you have taken my gloves!’

According to Marquand, an Irish correspondent said that she had previously attended a dinner with Klaus and put her dinner gloves on the table. She saw Klaus reaching his hand out, and then noticed the gloves were gone. “Why Mr. Klaus, you have taken my gloves!” she said, according to Marquand. The gloves were returned after some explanation that apparently involved Klaus’ wife and her fashion taste. While it is not clear exactly when the glove incident took place, Klaus was finance minister of Czechoslovakia from December 1989 to July 1992 — and “young” is a bit misleading, as he was born in 1941.

While taking clothing items from neighbors at ceremonial and diplomatic events seems a bit questionable, Klaus maintains it is normal to take items like pens — and says he does it all the time. A spokesman for Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said that presidential guests are free to take the lapis lazuli decorated pens, as well, according to UK daily The Guardian.

The pen-demonium goes both ways, as Klaus told the Czech press he routinely presents pens and notepads to visiting dignitaries.

Daily Právo in 2008 reported that Klaus signed the oath of office for his second term as president with a gold-and-platinum pen worth $60,000 donated to the Czech state by famed writing instrument maker Koh-i-noor. The gift was because the pen he used in his first inauguration failed to work, and he embarrassingly had to borrow one. 

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