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BUCHAREST – The punitive online influencer and self-described “king of toxic masculinity” Andrew Tate has never made it a secret why he chose Romania as his home and business base.

“I like to live in a society where my money, my influence, my power don’t make me less or benefit from any law,” Tate told fans.

But like much of what the former kickboxer said to his millions of mostly young male followers on social media, there are also claims that Tate is a millionaire and has 19 passports. declared its trust in Romania as a risk-free haven for anti-social forces. Behavior reflected fantasy more than reality.

Romanian authorities arrest TateBoth US and British citizens, he and his brother Tristan were indicted in December on charges of human trafficking, rape and forming an organized crime group. Both men, who were held in prison in the capital Bucharest for three months, have denied any wrongdoing and are now under house arrest awaiting trial.

Their house sits on a sprawling lot on a dingy dead end street in Voluntari, a neighboring town of Bucharest. The town is dotted with shiny new office towers and abandoned vacant lots. It looks more like a factory warehouse than a hideout for a man of enormous wealth who posted videos of himself hanging out with beautiful women in private jets and driving fast cars.

Luxury cars such as Rolls-Royces, Porsches, Aston Martins and BMWs that once flocked to the courtyard have all disappeared after being confiscated by the Romanian authorities. The only vehicle left is the clunky Russian Lada. It wasn’t worth seizing.

Romania still sits well below most European Union member states in the clean government rankings. Only Bulgaria and Hungary were lower in last year’s Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International. And according to the State Department’s 2022 Report on Trafficking in Persons, Romania remains “the leading source of sex trafficking” in Europe.

But in recent years, Romania has taken seriously the endemic transplants and general illicit practices that have ravaged the country for years, and that seems to have attracted Tate. Before his arrest, he said he liked living in a “country where corruption is accessible to everyone” and where anyone can pay a bribe of US$50 (S$67) to get a speeding ticket.

Tate’s Romanian lawyer, Eugen Vidinac, said his client “said a lot of stupid things” but after his arrest he “stopped thinking that Romania was this corrupt”. .

Since Tate’s Romania-based launch around 2016, the country’s anti-trafficking agency has ramped up its staff and launched a barrage of messages on billboards, television and online, using seduction as a recruiting technique for human trafficking. It warns women against traders, “lover boys.” Tate is accused of using this tactic to lure vulnerable women onto his property to appear in online sex videos.

A State Department report said Romania “does not fully meet minimum anti-trafficking standards” but “makes significant efforts to achieve them.”

The report noted changes in legislation, a surge in trafficking prosecutions, increased cooperation with other European countries, and the establishment of a specialized unit to combat sex trafficking by the Romanian Organized Crime and Terrorism Investigation Directorate, which is leading the investigation. 2021 establishment. to Tate. Influencer Andrew Tate thought he was above the law, but Romania proved him wrong

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