The government increased law enforcement efforts. The Anti-Smuggling and Trafficking Act of 2005 and 2014 amendments to the criminal code criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of 10 to 50 years imprisonment and fines of up to $50,000; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government investigated 14 potential cases of trafficking with 24 defendants, a large increase compared with none reported in 2016. The government prosecuted three trafficking cases, compared with two cases last year. The government reported three convictions, one by the special prosecutor’s office, compared with two convictions last year. The court-imposed penalties, however, reflected a failure to treat trafficking as a serious crime. A court convicted two labor traffickers and sentenced them to five years imprisonment; however, the court suspended the sentences and required the traffickers to self-deport within 30 days. A court convicted a labor recruiter on trafficking and smuggling charges with a sentence of 10 years probation; she served one year before she was deported. The government also convicted four defendants for promoting prostitution with minors with sentences ranging from six months to 13 years imprisonment; one was registered as a sex offender.
Observers noted official complicity played a significant role in facilitating trafficking. The Attorney General’s Office investigated allegations of official complicity during the reporting period but did not report the number of officials or the allegations made or initiate prosecutions or secure convictions of complicit officials during the year. The government did not report progress on two pending sex trafficking prosecutions involving complicit officials from 2012. The government launched a new trafficking task force, which led investigations of trafficking, including those that may implicate officials. The Attorney General’s Office had a prosecutor dedicated to working on trafficking cases. The government sent one immigration officer to attend a regional conference on immigration enforcement, which included human trafficking cases as a secondary topic, but observers reported that training was lacking for law enforcement.