A pizza box did not tip Romanian law enforcement agencies to the whereabouts of misogynist influencer Andrew Tate before his arrest on human trafficking charges, according to officials.
Memes and a widely shared image of Mr Tate eating from a pizza box in a social media video response to climate activist Greta Thunberg drew speculation that the local pizza place gave away his location.
But the arrest of the 36-year-old misogynist social media personality and his brother on Thursday followed a months-long investigation and the “hard job” of “gathering all the evidence,” Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIIOCT) spokesperson Ramona Bolla told The Washington Post.
The detail of a pizza box ultimately revealing his location is inaccurate, according to Ms Bolla.
“Funny, but no,” the spokesperson told the Associated Press.
Mr Tate and his brother Tristan Tate, both US-British citizens, were arrested along with two other people allegedly in connection with an “organised crime group with the purpose of recruiting, housing and exploiting women by forcing them to create pornographic content meant to be seen on specialised websites for a cost,” according to Romanian officials.
DIIOCT said in a statement the men recruited women who were subjected to “acts of physical violence and mental coercion,” sexually exploited by group members and forced to perform pornographic acts intended to reap “important financial benefits.”
“Victims were recruited by British citizens by misrepresenting their intention to enter into a marriage/cohabitation relationship and the existence of genuine feelings of love,” according to DIIOCT, which claimed that the victims were recruited through a so-called “loverboy” trafficking scheme.
They were subjected to “acts of physical violence and mental coercion (through intimidation, constant surveillance, control and invoking alleged debts)” and “sexually exploited by group members by forcing them to perform demonstrations pornographic for the purpose of producing and disseminating through social media platforms,” according to DIIOCT.
The agency has idenfied six victims.
Mr Tate and the others charged in the alleged scheme remain in custody.
The 36-year-old former kickboxer and admitted misogynist had been removed from several social media platforms, but his Twitter account was restored on the platform under the new ownership of Elon Musk, who had reinstated formerly suspended accounts.
On Tuesday, Mr Tate tweeted at the 19-year-old Swedish activist to gloat about his car collection and asked for her email address “so I can send a complete list of my car collection and their respective enormous emissions.”
She replied: “yes, please do enlighten me. email me at email@example.com.”
Her response on 28 December has been viewed nearly 275 million times and shared more than 670,000 times on the platform as of 31 December.
In a response video, Mr Tate smoked a cigar in a robe while a person off-camera gave him a stack of pizza boxes from the Romanian pizza chain Jerry’s Pizza.
Mr Tate was arrested on 29 December.
“[T]his is what happens when you don’t recycle your pizza boxes,” Ms Thunberg responded.