The great gold-wrapped chocolate heist leaves entente less than cordiale

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The Independent Online

Ambassadors' receptions all over Europe have announced a state of emergency. In diplomatic circles, this is the worst news since the Great Canapé Disaster of 1927.

From Mayfair to Minsk, grinning party guests, bleached vice-consuls and laughing socialites will have to face an ugly truth – supplies of Ferrero Rocher have suffered a terrible blow. An articulated truck loaded with half a million quid of the chocolate pralines was stolen from a Midlands industrial estate at the weekend.

Every connoisseur of tacky TV advertisements knows that Ferrero Rocher is the snack du choix of well-heeled guests at embassy drinks parties. As the classic commercial explains, they are a sign of the ambassador's "exquisite taste"... (inexplicable pause) ... "which captivates his guests".

Exactly what the sophisticated sweetmeats were doing in so déclassé a location as the Maybrook Industrial Estate, Willenhall, West Midlands is something of a mystery. They had come from Cork, presumably on the Swansea-Cork ferry, inside a 38-ton Mercedes Powerline HGV truck with an Irish registration. On Saturday evening, it was left unattended in the estate for a few minutes, and stolen by an opportunistic thief presumably in the market for a haul of bullion or cigarettes.

Or can it be that Ferrero Rocher now have a street value as golden as their wrappers? The family-owned Italian company is the fifth-biggest sweetmaker in the world, with annual sales of £2.4bn and an empire of 13,000 workers in 16 factories. It was started by two Piedmontese brothers, Piera and Pietro Ferrero, who invented the classic combination of chocolate, nougat and hazelnuts so apparently irresistible to chargés d'affaires and their gushing lady friends. The current patron, Michele Ferrero, was investigated last year by German tax authorities amid claims that the company regularly struck fiscal deals with the mayor and councillors of a small town, Sadtallendorf, where it owns a factory.

Back in the Midlands, Inspector Paul Lewis said there were no witnesses to the theft of the lorry or the chocs. But you can confidently expect that, in some Limehouse drinking den in the East End of London, a villain is lifting a shiny-wrapped delicacy to his face and gushing: "Why, Nosher, wiz these Ferrero Rocher, you are really zpoileeng us."

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