Santa Claus has been arrested in Hong Kong, China following an international sting operation investigating the jolly elf for involvement in a sweatshop cartel. A high-ranking Interpol official speaking to Off on a Tangent under conditions of anonymity stated that Claus, known worldwide for his annual distribution of Christmas gifts, enlisted the network of sweatshops several years ago to augment the production capacity of his North Pole toy-making factory and meet increasing demand from the world’s children.

Santa’s team of elves have been faced with difficulty keeping pace with the world’s consumerism over the last two decades. Cost-cutting measures have led to periodic elf strikes and other labor difficulties, including a 2004 investigation of unexplained elf illness by the North Poll Occupational Safety & Health Agency (NPOSHA) that remains unresolved.

“When we got into this business, it was wooden horses, fireman helmets, and plastic swords,” said Claus in a 2006 interview with BBC World News following a two-month-long elf strike. “If we are to remain competitive in this world of iPods and X-Boxes, we are going to need to work longer and harder. We may also need to outsource some of our toy production to non-elf factories around the world.”

According to officials in Hong Kong, Santa outsourced as much as 50 percent of his 2007 and 2008 toy production to a network of sweatshops in the Chinese countryside. These sweatshops, known for dangerous working conditions and the illicit employment of child labor, have recently become the subject of various crackdowns from Chinese and international law enforcement agencies.

Claus was unavailable for comment.