BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Andrew Tate, a social media personality known for expressing misogynistic views online, appeared Wednesday at a court in Romania, where prosecutors have charged him with rape, human trafficking and forming a criminal gang to exploit women.
Tate and his brother, Tristan, who is also charged with the offenses, arrived Wednesday at a court in the capital Bucharest, flanked by six bodyguards.
Prosecutors have also filed charges against two Romanian women in the case. Romania’s anti-organized crime agency alleged that the four defendants formed a criminal group in 2021 “in order to commit the crime of human trafficking” in Romania as well as the United States and Britain.
The agency alleged that seven female victims were misled and transported to Romania, where they were sexually exploited and subjected to physical violence by the gang. One defendant is accused of raping a woman twice in March 2022, according to the statement.
Tate, 36, has resided in Romania since 2017. The former professional kickboxer has repeatedly claimed Romanian prosecutors have no evidence and alleged the case is a political conspiracy to silence him.
Asked by reporters “how much money have you made from trafficking women?” outside court ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, Tate snapped: “Zero.”
Tate’s spokesperson, Mateea Petrescu, said Tuesday that the brothers were prepared to “demonstrate their innocence and vindicate their reputation.”
“Tate’s legal team are prepared to cooperate fully with the appropriate authorities, presenting all necessary evidence to exonerate the brothers and expose any misinterpretations or false accusations,” Petrescu said.
The Tate brothers, who are dual British-U.S. citizens, and the two Romanian suspects were detained in late December in Bucharest. The brothers won an appeal on March 31 to be moved from police custody to house arrest.
Tate is a successful social media figure with more than 6 million Twitter followers, many of them young men and schoolchildren. He previously was banned from TikTok, YouTube and Facebook for hate speech and his misogynistic comments, including that women should bear responsibility for getting sexually assaulted.
He returned to Twitter last year after the platform’s new CEO, Elon Musk, reinstated Tate’s account. Hope Not Hate, a group campaigning against far-right extremism in the U.K., has warned that Tate continues to attract a huge following among young men and teenage boys who are drawn to his “misogynist, homophobic and racist content” by the luxurious lifestyle the influencer projects online.
Romania’s anti-organized crime agency, known as DIICOT, said the seven alleged victims were recruited with false declarations of love and taken to Romania’s Ilfov county, where they were forced to take part in pornography. The women were allegedly controlled by “intimidation, constant surveillance” and claims they were in debt, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors ordered the confiscation of the Tate brothers’ assets, including 15 luxury cars, luxury watches and about $3 million in cryptocurrency, the agency’s statement said.
Several women in Britain also are pursuing civil claims to obtain damages from Tate, alleging they were victims of sexual violence. In a recent interview with the BBC, Tate denied spreading a culture of misogyny and accusations that he manipulated women for financial gain.