Italian influencer under investigation in scandal over sales of Christmas cakes for charity: reports

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ROME (AP) — A popular Italian influencer has been placed under investigation by prosecutors looking into the purportedly charitable sales of traditional Christmas cakes sold with her logo.

Chiara Ferragni, who has 29.5 million followers on Instagram, was already fined 1 million euros by Italy’s anti-trust authority last month. The agency said her company led consumers to believe that sales of the branded Balocco pandoro cakes would result in a charitable contribution to a Turin hospital.

Italian news agency LaPresse reported Monday that Milan prosecutor Eugenio Fusco had placed Ferragni and the head of the cake company, Alessandra Balocco, under investigation for aggravated fraud. Ferragni’s publicist confirmed the news.

The development followed weeks of polemics over the “pandoro-gate” scandal and questions about the relationship between influencers and the products they are paid to promote, especially when claims of charitable donations are involved.

In a statement Monday, following word that she was now officially under investigation, Ferragni said she was calm and trusted in the work of the judiciary.

“I am calm because I have always acted in good faith and I am certain that this will emerge from the ongoing investigation,” the statement said. “I have full confidence in the work of the judiciary and with my lawyers. I immediately made myself available to cooperate and clarify every detail of what happened as soon as possible.”

Ferragni started as a fashion blogger and went on to sell clothing, accessories and makeup under her own brand in addition to doing promotional work as an influencer. She is also on the Tod’s luxury fashion group board of directors.

In an Instagram video post last month, after the agency fine, Ferragni said that she had not given sufficient oversight to the communications surrounding the sales of the Balocco-brand pandoro with her logo, and that she would no longer link charitable work with commercial activities.

Ferragni apologized and said she would donate 1 million euros to the Regina Margherita Hospital in Turin to give “concreteness” to her apology, but she said she would challenge the fine itself.

Italy’s anti-trust agency also fined Balocco 420,000 euros for giving consumers the impression that part of the earnings from sales of the cakes would benefit the Turin hospital. In reality, the agency said, Balocco had donated 50,000 euros before the campaign launched in November 2022 and made no additional donations.

The agency noted that the Ferragni-branded “Pandoro Pink Christmas” cakes sold for more than 9 euros apiece, compared with the usual 3.70-euro price tag.

There was no immediate response late Monday to emails and calls to Cuneo, Italy-based Balocco.

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