By ANDREEA ALEXANDRU and STEPHEN McGRATH
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Andrew Tate, the influential internet personality who is detained in Romania on suspicion of organized crime and human trafficking, appeared at prosecutors’ offices on Thursday for a second day as forensic examinations continue of digital devices that have been confiscated in the case, an official said.
Tate, 36, a dual British-U.S. citizen who has nearly 5 million followers on Twitter, was initially detained in late December in Romania’s capital, Bucharest. His brother, Tristan, and two Romanian women are also detained in the same case.
The Tates arrived Thursday morning handcuffed together as they were escorted by law enforcement officials into the Bucharest offices of DIICOT, Romania’s Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism, where devices such as mobile phones and laptops are being searched by specialists for further evidence.
Ramona Bolla, a DIICOT spokesperson, confirmed to The Associated Press that the forensic searches of the digital devices were continuing Thursday because there are “multiple devices” seized in the case and it will take time to go through them all.
As the brothers arrived at the DIICOT offices, Tristan Tate told reporters: “What evidence is there? … There is none, that should be the story, please cover that story. The police have fabricated the evidence. There is no evidence. There is no victim.”
Andrew Tate had told reporters as he left Wednesday, that “there is no evidence in my file, because I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Both brothers will remain in detention until late February after a judge on Friday granted prosecutors’ request to extend for a second time their detention by 30 days.
An online petition launched on Jan. 22 to “free Andrew and Tristan Tate from unjust imprisonment” alleges that “the Judiciary, Prosecutor and DIICOT have acted unfairly in their detention of the Tate brothers.” It has so far garnered 52,000 signatures. Andrew Tate’s Twitter following has increased by at least several hundred thousand since he was arrested in December.
Andrew Tate, a former professional kickboxer who has reportedly lived in Romania since 2017, was previously banned from various prominent social media platforms for expressing misogynistic views and hate speech.
After the Tates and the two women were arrested, DIICOT said in a statement that it had identified six victims in the human trafficking case who were subjected to “acts of physical violence and mental coercion” and were sexually exploited by the members of the alleged crime group.
The agency said victims were lured with pretenses of love, and later intimidated, kept under surveillance and subjected to other control tactics while being coerced into engaging in pornographic acts for substantial financial gains.
Earlier in January, Romanian authorities descended on a compound near Bucharest where they towed away a fleet of luxury cars that included a blue Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari and a Porsche. They reported seizing assets worth an estimated $3.9 million.
Prosecutors have said that if they can prove the owners gained money through illicit activities such as human trafficking, the assets would be used to cover the expenses of the investigation and to compensate victims. Tate also unsuccessfully appealed the asset seizure.
McGrath reported from Sighisoara, Romania.
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