The government maintained modest anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Anti-Smuggling and Trafficking Act of 2005 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties for these offenses ranging from 10 to 50 years imprisonment and fines of up to $50,000, or $500,000 for cases with aggravating circumstances; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Trafficking victims could file claims with a government-designated NGO, which registered cases with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). The OAG had dedicated anti-trafficking prosecutors to investigate trafficking allegations and prosecute cases, and provided training to police academy recruits on trafficking statutes and indicators.
The OAG received one new report of trafficking for the second year in a row, though it is unclear if the case—involving a woman from the Philippines—triggered any law enforcement action. The government obtained two convictions compared to three in 2015. However, the courts imposed penalties on convicted traffickers that reflected a failure to treat trafficking in persons as a serious crime. In one case, the government obtained a conviction of a Nepali individual initially prosecuted in 2015 for labor trafficking along with an accomplice. Courts sentenced him to six months in prison and fined him $1,600. However—as was the case for this individual’s accomplice in 2015—they ultimately stayed both penalties contingent on his voluntary permanent exile within 10 days of the verdict, and on the conditions that he divulge the identities of any Palauans involved in his crime and not engage in any further recruitment activities. He departed Palau per the conditions of the stay. In a separate case, the government obtained the conviction of a labor official who accepted bribes to secure a labor permit for an undocumented Bangladeshi national. Authorities sentenced the official to one year in prison with five years probation, ordered him to pay a $2,000 fine, plus $400 in restitution to the victim, and barred him from holding public office in the future; however, the courts ultimately allowed him to pay the $400 restitution amount in lieu of a prison sentence.