The government maintained prosecution efforts. The Comprehensive Anti-Trafficking Law 4788 of 2012 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to eight years imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, law 4788/12 establishes the use of force, fraud, and coercion as aggravating factors rather than essential elements of the crime. Articles 129b and 129c of law 3440/08 criminalize international trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor, respectively. Law 3440/08 also criminalizes pandering, profiting from prostitution, and child pornography, and prescribes penalties of up to eight years imprisonment.
The Anti-Trafficking Unit (ATU) is the lead agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting traffickers. In 2016, the ATU initiated 77 investigations under law 4788/12, compared with 68 in 2015 and 80 in 2014. Authorities reported 71 prosecutions for trafficking crimes—15 for forced labor and 56 for sex trafficking under Law 4788/12, an increase from 17 prosecutions in 2015 and 10 in 2014. In 2016, authorities reported 25 convictions for trafficking in persons, (18 for sex trafficking and seven for labor trafficking) and five for pimping, compared with nine convictions for trafficking in persons and five for pimping in 2015. Sentences ranged from seven months suspended to 10 years, with an average criminal sentence of two years. In 2016, the ATU cooperated with Argentina, Chile, France, Germany, EUROPOL, and Interpol in approximately 50 international investigations. In November 2016, the ATU and representatives of indigenous organizations raided a ranch in the Chaco region after receiving reports of the forced labor of indigenous adults and children in a rudimentary charcoal factory; one person was detained during the operation; the case was pending at the end of the reporting period. The ATU conducted 10 anti-trafficking trainings reaching 400 government officials, including judges, prosecutors, and police officers. Although the government did not report investigating any cases of official complicity, several observers reported some local police chiefs received bribes from massage parlors and brothels under their jurisdiction to allow the exploitation of trafficking victims.