Someone used a UK government agency credit card to spend $8,000 on fancy chocolate

Elegant chocolate truffles in heart-shaped packaging
Photo: Helen H. Richardson / Contributor

Wielding the company credit card is a powerful, anxiety-inducing thing. I once had to buy a bunch of lumber for a nonprofit job, and it was the sweatiest event of my goddamn life. Now, imagine having the credit card information for your very official government agency employer—and using that information to buy several thousand dollars’ worth of fancy, fancy chocolates.


That appears to be the case in the UK, where officials at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have begun an internal investigation after a report from Insider uncovered a massive credit card charge from a high-priced chocolatier. The Insider report found that £6,248.40—the equivalent of more than $8,500—was spent on a corporate credit card at Hotel Chocolat on a single day. Needless to say, this is an unusual purchase for the ICO, which is an independent, government-funded agency that regulates information rights including data use, privacy issues, and the Freedom of Information Act in the UK.

Insider caught the December 21 transaction in the ICO’s corporate charge payments for the 2020–’21 tax year. It’s apparently the single largest transaction made on an ICO corporate credit card in the last 10 months, sparking what an ICO spokesperson called “an internal investigation.” Jon Baines, chair of the National Association of Data Protection Officers, told Insider: “On the face of it, it looks extraordinary that someone at the ICO made a £6,000 card payment to Hotel Chocolat.” Yes, official British man, it certainly does look extraordinary.

Insider reports that the most expensive chocolate available on the Hotel Chocolat website is a 147-piece collection of chocolates and biscuits, called The Signature Cabinet. It costs £170, which means the culprit could have purchased a total of 36 Signature Cabinets. Or did they spend the cash on a large assortment of individual truffles? I’m not sure which is funnier. Either way, I hope some chocoholics were happy.

Staff writer @ The Takeout, joke writer elsewhere. Wrangling dogs and pork shoulder in Chicago.



December? My bet is this is much less nefarious: christmas gifts for the employees. At my employ, we got Ghirardelli stuff this year, and chocolate is a nominally safe option.

Then with the audit, just some typical left hand not knowing what the right hand approved bureaucracy (or publishing the number before even looking for the paperwork, or the card holder thinking it was approved but the 27B/6 wasn’t stamped...)

Long story short, find an ICO grunt and ask what their holiday gift was. Probably clear the whole thing up.