She continued, “Andrew is a controversial public character.” In an apparent attempt to show that Tate is prone to hyperbole, she added, “He said he has laser vision, that he doesn’t sleep, that tigers don’t attack him because they have an agreement.”
Petrescu also said that in one of Tate’s online videos, he says rape in Romania “is a very serious crime” and that he “wanted to live in a country with strong rules against abuse of women.” (BuzzFeed News was unable to locate the video, and Petrescu did not provide a link when asked.)
But the reality on the ground in Romania is much different. In addition to the material poverty and lack of education many women live with, factors such as the country’s geographical location (close to the Middle East and Western Europe), coupled with its membership in the EU, facilitate travel and enable international and domestic trafficking.
The US State Department has regularly criticized Romania’s response to pervasive human trafficking in its yearly reports on the issue. The latest, published in July 2022, notes authorities’ continuing efforts to improve, but concludes that “Romania remains a primary source country for sex trafficking and labor trafficking victims in Europe.” More than a third of identified sex-trafficking victims, according to the report, are children. Romanian officials have been investigated for suspected involvement in trafficking, the report said.
Exacerbating the situation is the fact that investigative institutions are under-resourced and overwhelmed. A prosecutor from the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism, the same department investigating Tate, said one obstacle prosecutors have in combating the growing phenomenon of human trafficking was a lack of specialist judiciary police, akin to senior detectives, in the Romanian system.
“Human trafficking and modern slavery have become a national sport in Romania,” said the prosecutor, who spoke with BuzzFeed News on the condition of anonymity because he was not cleared for media interactions by his superiors. “We have prosecutors but not enough assigned police officers in our offices to deal with the cases.”
Meanwhile, gangs, which are often composed of dozens of members each performing specific functions, make millions of dollars per year and have access to resources such as international safe houses, firearms, false travel documents, and expensive lawyers.
Iulian Lorincz, a member of the Romanian parliament who recently tabled a law aiming to boost the resources available to authorities against human traffickers, told BuzzFeed News that the Tate case is far from isolated.
“Tate saw a vulnerable state and a multitude of vulnerable women and chose to come here,” Lorincz said, adding that he thought “misogyny plays a role” in Romania’s social and institutional attitude toward the trafficking of women. “Romania has not been investing enough in protecting victims,” he added.
The arrests of the Tates and their alleged accomplices were the exception rather than the rule, according to local experts BuzzFeed News spoke to, and international politics may have been at play.
“The US Embassy is very powerful in Romania,” said Alexandru Gică, a criminal lawyer in Bucharest, commenting on the fact that the Tate investigation reportedly was sparked by a tip sent to the embassy in Bucharest regarding a young American woman who alleged being held against her will and assaulted by Tate.
“Tate probably thought that he’d be isolated from legal consequences” in Romania, the unnamed prosecutor said, adding that he believed the fact that an American woman had come forward with accusations against Tate embarrassed the local authorities and prompted them to take quicker action.
“If she had been Romanian, I think they would have moved slower,” he added.