Andrew Tate human trafficking trial can start, Romania court says

Andrew Tate delivers a press statement outside his house

BUCHAREST (Reuters) -The trial of internet personality Andrew Tate on human trafficking charges can go ahead, a Romanian court ruled on Friday, 10 months after he was first indicted, although his representative said he would challenge that decision.

Tate was indicted in June along with his brother Tristan and two Romanian female suspects for human trafficking, rape and forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women, allegations they have denied.

Under Romanian law, the case then sat with the Bucharest court's preliminary chamber, which needed to inspect the case files and evidence to ensure legality. That process was now completed and the criminal trial can start.

"The court notes the legality of evidence management by ... prosecutors, and rules that the case can go to trial," the Bucharest court said, adding the ruling can be challenged on appeal. No date has been set for the trial.

Eugen Vidineac, the brothers' lead defence lawyer, said he had submitted an appeal against the decision.

"The ruling issued by the preliminary chamber judge lacks legal basis and reasoning," he said in a statement. "We have filed a strong appeal as we believe the ruling to be unlawful."

The Tates' representatives said no date had been set for the trial, adding "the decision is going to be appealed."

In March, a Romanian court approved a request from Britain to extradite the Tate brothers on allegations of sexual aggression dating back to 2012-15, but only after the completion of Romanian trial proceedings.

The Tate brothers, both former kickboxers with dual U.S. and British citizenship, are the highest profile suspects facing trial for human trafficking in Romania and their case will be a test for Romania's anti-organized crime prosecuting unit DIICOT.

Trafficking of adults carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years, as does rape.

The Tate brothers were held in police custody during the criminal investigation from late December 2022 until April 2023, to prevent them from fleeing the country or tampering with evidence.

They were then under house arrest until August, when courts placed them under judicial control, a lighter preventative measure that enables them to move around freely but not leave the country.

Romanian prosecutors have said the Tate brothers recruited their victims by seducing them and falsely claiming to want a relationship or marriage.

The victims were then taken to properties outside the capital Bucharest, and through physical violence and mental intimidation were sexually exploited by being forced to produce pornographic content for social media sites that generated large financial gain, prosecutors said.

Tate, a self-described misogynist, has gained millions of fans by promoting an ultra-masculine lifestyle that critics say denigrates women.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie, additional reporting by Alan Charlish; editing by William Maclean)