Andrew Tate formally charged in Romania with human trafficking, rape
PHOTO CAPTION: Andrew Tate arrives at Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT), in Bucharest, Romania, April 10, 2023. Inquam Photos/Sabin Cirstoveanu via REUTERS/File Photo
By Luiza Ilie
BUCHAREST (Reuters) -Romanian prosecutors sent social media influencer Andrew Tate, his brother Tristan and two other suspects to trial on Tuesday on charges of human trafficking, rape and forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women.
The Tate brothers and two Romanian female suspects are under house arrest pending a criminal investigation into abuses committed against seven women - accusations they have denied.
The brothers, former kickboxers who have U.S. and British nationality, are the highest profile suspects to be sent to trial for human trafficking in Romania.
Tate has millions of online fans, mostly young men, who follow his promotion of an ultra-masculine, luxurious lifestyle. Critics accuse him of misogyny.
The four suspects were held in police custody from Dec. 29 until March 31 before a Bucharest court put them under house arrest, which prosecutors on Tuesday sought to extend.
A judge must decide within three days whether to prolong the detention for 30 days or replace it with a lighter measure.
Andrew Tate has also been charged with raping one of the victims, while his brother Tristan has been charged with instigating others to violence, according to prosecutors.
"We embrace the opportunity (a trial) presents to demonstrate their innocence and vindicate their reputation," a spokesperson for the Tate's legal team said.
The trial will not start immediately. Under Romanian law, the case gets sent to the court's preliminary chamber, where a judge has 60 days to inspect the case files to ensure legality.
Prosecutors also said they are investigating the four suspects in a separate ongoing case on allegations of money laundering, witness tampering, and child and adult trafficking.
The indictment also sought the confiscation of property, luxury watches, along with cash and cryptocurrency seized by prosecutors during the investigation.
"Im sure this case has absolutely nothing to do with stealing my wealth," Andrew Tate said on his Twitter account.
Prosecutors have said the Tate brothers recruited their victims by seducing them and falsely claiming to want a relationship or marriage.
The victims were then taken to properties outside the capital Bucharest, and through physical violence and mental intimidation were sexually exploited by being forced to produce pornographic content for social media sites that generated large financial gain, prosecutors said.
The case will be a test for Romania's anti-organized crime prosecuting unit DIICOT, which last year investigated 458 new trafficking cases and convicted 138 sex and labour traffickers, according to an annual trafficking report from the U.S. State Department.
The report noted a slowdown in the pace of prosecution and persistent, low-level official complicity in trafficking crimes.
(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Jason Hovet, Alexandra Hudson and Angus MacSwan)