Marymount - International School Rome
Marymount - International School Rome
Marymount - International School Rome
Marymount - International School Rome

Chiara Ferragni: Italy’s top influencer at centre of charity scandal

Influencer makes €1 million donation to Turin hospital amid storm over misleading charity claims

Italy's top fashion influencer, Chiara Ferragni, is at the centre of a controversy for allegedly profiting handsomely from charity drives involving the sale of branded Christmas cakes and Easter eggs.

The Italian antitrust authority on Friday fined Ferragni more than €1 million for duping consumers into thinking that their purchases of a pricey pandoro cake would help to fund medical equipment for a children's hospital in Turin.

The case of the Ferragni-branded pandoro could now have criminal implications, news agency ANSA reported on Wednesday, with the Milan prosecutor's office apparently ready to open a file on the matter.

The "designer" pandoro with pink icing sugar was on sale in Italy last year with a price tag of €9, more than double the normal retail price of unbranded cakes made by confectioner Balocco.

The competition authority handed a fine of €420,000 to Balocco which it found had made a one-off donation of €50,000 to the hospital months in advance of the pandoro going on the market.

The authority also found that two Ferragni-controlled companies received promotional fees of around €1 million, none of which was handed over to the children's hospital.

The case was brought to light by journalist Selvaggia Lucarelli in a story that has gripped Italy and even made international headlines.

On Monday Ferragni, who has almost 30 million followers on Instagram, posted an emotional video in which she apologised for the pandoro case, admitting to a "communication error" but claiming it was a "mistake made in good faith".

She pledged to donate €1 million to the Regina Margherita children's hospital in Turin and vowed that in the future she would keep business and charity "completely separate".

The social media entrepreneur, 36, also said she would appeal against the competition authority ruling and the fine which she described as "disproportionate and unjust".

However worse news was yet to come for the Milan-based influencer when Lucarelli published a new report into a similar case involving Ferragni-branded Easter eggs in support of I Bambini delle Fate, an association that helps children with autism.

The sale of the Easter eggs, produced by Dolci Preziosi, allegedly earned Ferragni far in excess of the amount that was given to the charitable cause.

"After a few telephone calls to delve into the egg issue yesterday, the old posts promoting the Easter eggs on Ferragni's Instagram page quickly disappeared", Lucarelli wrote on X on Tuesday, adding that "fortunately" she and others had made screen shots the day before.

Dolci Preziosi owner Franco Cannillo told Lucarelli that "there was absolutely no correlation between egg sales and the donation to I Bambini delle Fati", which received €36,000 from the company over two years (€12,000 in 2021 and €24,000 in 2021).

Asked how much Ferragni received for endorsing the initiative, Cannilo said: “From memory, €500,000 in 2021 and around 700,000 in the second year, then she asked for an exorbitant sum and we never closed another deal”.

Fedez and Chiara Ferragni attend the premiere of the Amazon Prime Video tv series The Ferragnez at Arco della Pace, Milan, 17 May 2023. Photo : Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com.

 

Ferragni's husband, the rapper Fedez, lashed out over the pandoro controversy on Sunday, stressing: "It doesn't concern me, my wife is an independent woman".

Fedez took particular umbrage over thinly-veiled criticism of Ferragni by Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni who said on Sunday: "The real models to follow are not the influencers who make lots of money by wearing clothes and showing bags or even promoting expensive cakes that make people believe they are charitable."

Fedez also defended the track record of the couple, known in Italy as the Ferragnez, recalling significant donations made at the start of the covid pandemic.

"My wife and I raised funds of €4 million and in 10 days we built a 150-bed intensive care unit that saved lives", Fedez said on Instagram.

Subsequently the Lombardy region issued a statement clarifying that the number of beds created in the intensive care unit thanks to donations collected by Ferragni and Fedez amounted to 14, not 150.

Fedez also took aim at Lucarelli, boasting of past charitable donations by the Ferragnez and asking the "non-journalist" what exactly she has done for charity, adding: "Spoiler, jack shit."

Lucarelli relied to Fedez immediately, noting that thanks to her a children's hospital has just received a donation of €1 million.

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