Influencer Andrew Tate, a self-described misogynist with a large online presence, was indicted in Romania on human trafficking and rape charges, officials said Tuesday.
Tate’s brother Tristan and two Romanian women were also charged in the case, which has drawn intense international attention.
The defendants have been referred for trial but the timing of the next steps in the case was not immediately clear.
Romania’s anti-organized crime prosecution unit (DIICOT) alleged that the defendants set up a criminal organization and sexually exploited several victims.
The brothers deny all the accusations, but if found guilty they would face years in prison.
– ‘Vindicate their reputation’ –
Police detained the suspects late last year and they were placed under house arrest at the end of March.
“While this news is undoubtedly predictable, we embrace the opportunity it presents to demonstrate their innocence and vindicate their reputation,” 36-year-old Tate’s media team said in response to the indictment.
They added the case “allows us to present a comprehensive body of evidence, diligently collected and prepared over time, which will undoubtedly substantiate the brothers’ claims of innocence”.
Romanian authorities have asked for the defendants to stay under house arrest.
The four are accused of forming an organized criminal group in early 2021 “with a view to committing the crime of trafficking in persons on the territory of Romania, but also in other countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom,” DIICOT prosecutors.
They said the organized criminal group sexually exploited seven victims “through acts of physical violence and psychological coercion”.
The victims were forced “to engage in pornographic acts with a view to producing and disseminating such material via social media platforms,” DIICOT prosecutors said.
They added that one of the defendants — through physical violence and psychological pressure — coerced one victim in March 2022 to “repeatedly engage in sexual relations”.
A source close to the investigation told AFP that the defendant was Andrew Tate.
A spokeswoman for Tate when asked to confirm declined to comment, saying they would “give more details” later.
– ‘Loverboy method’ –
The seven victims, who were allegedly brought to and kept in the outskirts of Bucharest, were recruited through the “loverboy method” with the brothers misleading them with fake feelings of love and plans for lasting partnerships, prosecutors said.
As part of the probe, Romanian police raided several properties connected to the Tate brothers and seized assets, including a collection of luxury cars.
A dual citizen of the United States and Britain, former kickboxer Andrew Tate moved to Romania years ago, after first starting a webcam business in the UK.
In 2016, Tate appeared on the “Big Brother” reality television show in Britain but was removed after a video emerged showing him attacking a woman.
He then turned to social media platforms to promote his divisive views. He currently has 6.9 million followers on Twitter.
Giving tips on how to be successful, along with misogynistic and sometimes violent maxims, his videos have made him one of the world’s best-known influencers.
“I am absolutely sexist, and I’m absolutely a misogynist,” Tate said in a 2021 interview.
Last week, a British law firm served Andrew Tate with legal papers with four women threatening him with a lawsuit in the English courts over allegations of sexual assault.
A statement from the law firm described the women’s allegations “including violent rapes, serious physical assault, and controlling and coercive behavior.”
©️ Agence France-Presse