Bucharest: Romanian prosecutors opened an investigation Wednesday into alleged child trafficking after Britain’s Sun newspaper claimed young children there were assembling chocolate Kinder Eggs like “slave” workers.
The tabloid published a story Monday on a couple living in Carei, northern Romania, saying their six- and 11-year-old children were working up to 13 hours a day packing toys into plastic containers, ready to be placed in the chocolate eggs made by Italian giant Ferrero.
Ferrero, quoted by Romanian TV station Digi24, said it was “saddened and concerned” by the report, adding that it was “examining the accusations”.
The children’s work was reportedly helping their mother earn the equivalent of $1.23 (Dh4.51) an hour.
“We have launched an investigation for child trafficking,” Mihaela Porime, prosecution spokeswoman for organised crime, told AFP.
Local authorities dealing with child protection, however, cast doubt on The Sun’s version of events, saying the allegations “did not bear out”.
“It has been ruled out that the children were exploited... or that they worked 13 hours a day, because they regularly go to school and kindergarten,” the school’s director Mariana Dragos told Agerpres news agency.
The children’s mother Timea Jurj confirmed that she worked for a Romanian distributor for Ferrero but said her children did not take part in the work.
“It was a set-up, the journalists showed the children how to sit beside me,” she told local reporters.
Work inspectors have opened a probe to investigate whether the mother is working legally for the Romanian company.