Andrew Tate seeks to recruit right-wing politicians to his cause, wiretaps show
By Luiza Ilie, Octav Ganea and Andrew R.C. Marshall
BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Andrew Tate has sought to fight rape and trafficking allegations while in police custody, directing associates to recruit two right-wing lawmakers to his cause, according to wiretaps of his phone calls submitted to a court by Romanian prosecutors.
The internet celebrity instructed two associates to tell the Romanian politicians, George Simion and Diana Iovanovici-Sosoaca, that he was being framed and supporting him would be "very good for their careers", according to one of the exchanges.
"So make it clear to them: You will get a lot of votes when Tate says you took their side," the former kickboxer said in the Jan. 28 call to two of his associates.
Transcriptions of the wiretapped calls are included in a previously unpublished court document, dated Feb. 21, compiled by Bucharest court officials and reviewed by Reuters.
Simion, a politician in Romania's lower house, told Reuters he had never been contacted by Tate or his associates, and wouldn't publicly support Tate if he was asked to.
Asked if he thought Tate had been framed, he replied: "The justice system will decide, not politicians."
A spokesperson for Iovanovici-Sosoaca, a senator, said the wiretapped conversations were "lies" designed to attack her.
The wiretapped calls were made between Jan. 28 and Jan. 31, according to prosecutors, about a month after Tate, 36, was detained with his 34-year-old brother Tristan on suspicion of rape, human trafficking and forming an organized crime group.
The brothers have denied all the charges. Reuters was unable to reach them in police detention for comment.
Contacted about the wiretap calls, the Tates' lawyer Eugen Vidineac and a spokesperson for the prosecutors both declined to comment on an ongoing investigation.
Reuters couldn't independently verify the identity of the people in the wiretapped calls, or determine if any lobbying of politicians took place. The news organization translated the exchanges - which appear in Romanian in the court document - back into English, the language used by Tate, which means that, while accurate, they might not match his original wording.
British-American Tate, who has been based mainly in Romania since 2017, is an online influencer and self-described misogynist who has built up a following of millions of fans, particularly among young men drawn to his hyper-macho image.
The wiretapped calls offer a window into his multi-pronged attempts to defend himself while in detention, efforts that stretch beyond the courtroom into the realms of politics and social media.
Also in the Jan. 28 call, detailed in the court document, Tate directs his associate Luke to release "party clips" on social media that he said shows at least one of his alleged trafficking victims dancing in Bucharest.
"Yes, put them everywhere and say, 'This girl says she is kidnapped when she is not kidnapped'," Tate says.
"You're saying you want me to discredit them, have social media pull hard, yes?" asks Luke.
"Yes, screw them," Tate replies.
The court document records the minutes of a Bucharest court hearing on Feb. 21, when a judge extended the Tates' detention until late March, as well as evidence submitted by the prosecutors, who allege the brothers ran a human-trafficking operation focused on creating online pornography.
Alexandru Risnita, another lawyer for the Tates, dismissed suggestions that the brothers were a flight risk if released from custody while the investigation progressed, the minutes show. He said it would be very hard for his clients to travel unnoticed because they were "the most famous people on the planet at the moment".
(Reporting by Luiza Ilie, Octav Ganea and Andrew R.C. Marshall; Editing by Jason Szep and Pravin Char)