INSIGHT-Sex, lies and video cams: Andrew Tate turned women into slaves, prosecutors say
(Updates OnlyFans comment)
By Luiza Ilie, Octav Ganea and Andrew R.C. Marshall
BUCHAREST, Feb 2 (Reuters) - The woman from Moldova thought it was love. Internet celebrity Andrew Tate had offered her a new life. They'd even discussed marriage. He asked for only one thing: absolute loyalty.
"You must understand that once you are mine, you will be mine forever," Tate told her on Feb. 4 last year in one of dozens of WhatsApp messages cited by Romanian prosecutors who allege he trafficked and sexually exploited several women.
Tate, an influencer with millions of online followers, urged the Moldovan woman to join him in Romania. "Nothing bad will happen," he reassured her on Feb. 9. "But you have to be on my side."
The following month, Romanian prosecutors say, Tate raped the woman twice in the country while seeking to enlist her in a human-trafficking operation focused on making pornography for the online platform OnlyFans, a site that allows people to sell explicit videos of themselves.
The allegations and messages are included in a previously unpublished court document, dated Dec. 30 and reviewed by Reuters, which paints the most detailed picture yet of the illicit business allegedly run by Tate, a former kickboxing world champion, and his brother Tristan.
They came to light following the arrest of the brothers on Dec. 29 on charges of forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women.
British-American Andrew Tate, 36, who's been based mainly in Romania since 2017, and his 34-year-old brother have denied all the allegations against them. Reuters was unable to reach them in police detention for comment.
In response to questions, their attorney Eugen Vidineac said he couldn't publicly confirm or deny information about the case while the investigation was ongoing. Romania's anti-organized crime unit also said its prosecutors couldn't comment on the probe.
Reuters translated the WhatsApp exchanges with the Moldovan women - which appear in Romanian in the court document - back into English, their original language. While accurate, the translation of the Romanian version provided by prosecutors may not be identical to the initial wording.
The brothers used deception and intimidation to bring six women under their control and "transform them into slaves", prosecutors said in the document. The 61-page file, produced by Bucharest court officials, comprises minutes of a hearing when a judge extended the Tates' detention plus evidence submitted by the prosecution.
Attorney Vidineac said the brothers' alleged victims weren't mistreated, but "lived off the backs of the famous Tates", according to the court document. "They were joyful and nobody was forcing them to do these things," he added.
Vidineac acknowledged in the document that Andrew Tate and the Moldovan woman had sex but he said it was consensual and accused her of fabricating the rape claims.
Reuters couldn't independently corroborate the version of events provided by prosecutors or the defence lawyer, and was unable to reach the six women named in the document for comment. The news organization does not typically identify alleged victims of sexual crimes unless they have chosen to release their names.
Two of the women told Romanian TV station Antena3 on Jan. 11 that they're not victims and the Tates are innocent. The station identified them only by first names, Beatrice and Iasmina.
"You cannot list me as a victim if I say I am not one," Beatrice told the station. The four other women, including the Moldovan woman, haven't publicly commented.
ONLYFANS: WE'VE MONITORED TATE
The allegations facing Tate have put intense focus on a self-described misogynist who has built an online fanbase, particularly among young men, by promoting a lavish, hyper-macho image of driving fast cars and dating beautiful women.
In 2022, he was the world's eighth-most Googled person, outranked only by figures such as Johnny Depp, Will Smith and Vladimir Putin, according to Google's analysis.
Prosecutors say the Tates controlled the victims' OnlyFans' accounts and earnings amounting to tens of thousands of euros, underlining concerns among some human rights groups about the potential for the exploitation of women on such platforms.
Reuters couldn't verify the existence of the alleged victims' OnlyFans accounts.
UK-based OnlyFans has 150 million users who pay "creators" monthly fees of varying amounts for their content, much of it erotic or pornographic, but also in areas such as fitness training and music.
The company, whose 1.5 million creators can earn anything from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands a month, says on its website it's "the safest digital media platform". It was founded in 2016 and grew rapidly during COVID-19 lockdowns.
An OnlyFans spokesperson told Reuters that Andrew Tate "has never had" a creator account or received payments. They said OnlyFans had been monitoring him since early 2022 and taken "proactive measures" to stop him posting or monetizing content, without elaborating on the reasons for the scrutiny or the steps taken.
The spokesperson added that creators as a whole underwent extensive identification checks and that all content was reviewed by the platform, which worked closely with law enforcement. Vidineac declined to comment about the measures taken by OnlyFans against Tate.
HOW I GET WOMEN TO LOVE ME
Andrew Tate's image has been stoked by a series of contentious comments. He's compared women to dogs and said they bear some responsibility for being raped. His remarks got him banned from Facebook, Instagram and other leading social media platforms last year.
A spokesperson for Meta said Tate was banned in August 2022 from its Facebook and Instagram platforms for violating its policies, which forbid "gender-based hate, any threats of sexual violence, or threats to share non-consensual intimate imagery".
Tate said on a podcast in 2021 that he had started a webcam business in Britain that had peaked with 75 women working for him earning $600,000 a month – a sum Reuters was unable to independently verify. He didn't elaborate in the podcast on what the women did.
Up until last month, his website offered a course costing more than $400 that promised to teach "every step to building a girl who is submissive, loyal and in love with you".
"THAT IS MY SKILL. To extremely efficiently get women in love with me," he said on the website. The pages about the course, reviewed by Reuters, were removed in January.
In a separate YouTube video aimed at men who want to make money by putting women on OnlyFans, Tate called the platform "the greatest hustle in the world". The original date of the video, which was uploaded multiple times, is unclear.
In the court document, lawyer Vidineac said Tate's online persona was a "virtual character" constructed to gain followers and make money, and had "nothing to do with the real man".
Tate's Twitter account, reinstated in November, one month after billionaire Elon Musk bought the platform, protests his innocence to his 4.8 million followers. "They have arrested me to 'look' for evidence ... which they will not find because it doesn't exist," said a Jan. 15 post.
AMERICAN WOMAN 'VERY AFRAID'
Tate first met the Moldovan woman virtually on Instagram in January 2022 before they met in person in London the following month, and by March she was in Romania, prosecutors said in the court document, which includes WhatsApp exchanges between Feb. 4 and Apr. 8.
Authorities moved on the brothers on Apr. 11, when police raided one of their properties in Bucharest on suspicion that an American woman was being held there against her will.
According to prosecutors, the American woman - another of the alleged six victims - met Tristan Tate online in November 2021, then in person in Miami the following month. They said he lured her to Romania by expressing "false feelings" for her and promising a serious relationship, paid for her plane ticket and said he could help her earn "100K a month" on OnlyFans.
Tristan Tate picked her up at Bucharest airport in a Rolls-Royce on April 5 2022, and took her back to his house, which had two armed guards, the court document said.
He told her she wasn't a prisoner but said the guards wouldn't let her outside without his permission, it added. He said it was dangerous for her to leave "because he had enemies".
There were cameras all over the house, which Tristan Tate monitored remotely, prosecutors said in the document. He once messaged the American to say he could see where she was and what she was doing, they said.
When she moved to another house with four of Andrew Tate's "girlfriends" she was allowed outside but only if accompanied by other women, said the prosecutors, adding that she was "very afraid" of the brothers.
In the document, Tate's lawyer said the American woman had a mobile phone, internet access and the freedom to leave the house as she pleased.
The woman has not spoken publicly about the Tates or the prosecutors' allegations.
Romanian prosecutors said on Jan. 15 that as part of their probe into the suspects they had seized assets worth almost $4 million, including a fleet of luxury cars from Andrew Tate's compound on the outskirts of Bucharest.
'SEXUALLY EXPLOITATIVE CONTENT'
The detention of the Tates, along with two Romanian women accused of working for them, has been extended to Feb. 27. Their appeal against that detention was rejected by a court on Wednesday. A judge can order their detention for up to 180 days while the investigation is ongoing, which means it could stretch into late June.
The suspected accomplices, Georgiana Naghel and Luana Radu, controlled the six victims' OnlyFans and TikTok accounts on behalf of the Tates, skimming off half the revenue and fining women for being late or sniffling on camera, said prosecutors.
The pair threatened to beat the women up if they did not do their job, according to the court document.
Naghel and Radu have denied all the allegations against them. Vidineac, who also represents Naghel, and Radu's lawyer said they couldn't comment on the case.
The Tates' operation put women on TikTok to drive traffic to OnlyFans because of its lucrative subscriptions, prosecutors said. Reuters couldn't independently verify the existence of the TikTok accounts in question.
TikTok said in a statement that Andrew Tate was banned from its platform, and that it had been taking action against videos and accounts related to him that violated its prohibition against "sexually exploitative content".
The company declined to comment further, citing Romania’s ongoing investigation. (Reporting by Luiza Ilie, Octav Ganea and Andrew R.C. Marshall. Editing by Jason Szep and Pravin Char)