- Controversial social media personality Andrew Tate was arrested and charged in Romania on Thursday
- There is speculation online that Tate’s Twitter exchange with climate activist Greta Thunberg led police to him.
- Authorities deny the link and say the arrests are the result of a months-long investigation.
This article contains references to rape and sexual abuse.
A Twitter exchange preceded a high-profile house search and arrest of a right-wing provocateur and influencer, but authorities deny the arrest was the result of social media.
On Thursday, former kickboxing champion and controversial social media personality Andrew Tate was arrested along with his brother Tristan and charged with human trafficking and forming an organized crime group.
The brothers were detained in Romania along with two Romanian suspects, and if convicted, they could face years in jail.
One of the four suspects was also charged with rape but was not named.
The brothers were initially detained for 24 hours, after which prosecutors asked the court to extend their detention.
On Friday, a Romanian court confirmed an extension of the detention by 30 days.
The arrests came after a Twitter war between Mr Tate and climate activist Greta Thunberg, with many speculating that the social media exchange led to the arrest.
Ramona Bolla, a spokeswoman for the Directorate of Organized Crime and Terrorism Investigation, told the Washington Post that a months-long investigation led to the arrest of the Tate brothers.
Prosecutors said the Tate brothers had been under criminal investigation since April, Reuters reported.
“The four suspects … appear to have formed an organized crime group with the aim of recruiting, harboring and exploiting women by forcing them to create pornographic content to be viewed on specialized websites for a fee,” prosecutors said in a statement late Thursday.
“You would have won significant sums of money.”
What happened between Andrew Tate and Greta Thunberg?
On Tuesday, Mr Tate, 37, tweeted that the 19-year-old wanted to show off his cars.
“They have 33 cars,” Mr Tate tweeted. “Please enter your email address so I can send you a complete list of my car collection and their respective enormous emissions.”
Ms Thunberg quipped on Twitter saying Mr Tate could enlighten her by sending his list to “smalld–email@example.com”.
As of Friday morning, Ms. Thunberg’s reply contains the No. 6 most popular tweet of all time with 3.4 million likes.
Mr Tate responded again on Wednesday with a video showing him in a red robe, smoking a cigar and holding two boxes of pizza.
The next day, his luxury mansion was searched and photos and video footage showed Mr Tate being escorted in handcuffs by law enforcement.
Although authorities deny a link between the Twitter feud and Mr Tate’s arrest, internet investigators speculated that Mr Tate’s video reply to Ms Thunberg – which revealed the branding of a local pizza chain – served as a clue to his whereabouts, and joked continue on the timing of how things unfolded.
Mr Tate’s talent agent told the Washington Post that the allegations of human trafficking were “an orchestrated hoax of the Matrix”.
A spokesman for the brothers declined to comment on the situation.
“Andrew and Tristan Tate have the utmost respect for the Romanian authorities and will always help and assist in any way they can,” the spokesman said.
Ms Thunberg responded to the arrest on Friday morning.
“This is what happens when you don’t recycle your pizza boxes,” she wrote on Twitter.
Who is Andrew Tate?
Mr Tate returned to Twitter in November after being banned for violating his term of service in 2017 when he tweeted that rape victims “have a certain responsibility”.
The British-American kickboxer-turned-influencer promotes an opulent, violent “playboy” lifestyle in which he portrays himself as a man who “gets what he wants” and begs other young men to follow his teachings to connect.
In August this year, he was banned from YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok after violating the platforms’ hate speech policies.
Before the ban, domestic violence advocates expressed concern about the “misogynist” and “violent” messages shared in his videos.
Women are property, can’t drive and only deserve to be resuscitated when they’re “hot” were some of the messages shared in now-deleted videos of Mr Tate.
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