The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Sections 2106-2108 of the criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, or both if the victim was an adult and up to 50 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $500,000, or both if the victim was under age 18. These penalties were sufficiently stringent, but by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking crimes, these penalties were not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Ministry of Justice’s anti-human trafficking office (AHTO) investigated 11 potential cases of labor trafficking and exploiting a trafficked person, one of which was investigated for soliciting sex acts from a sex trafficking victim, compared with 14 potential trafficking case investigations in 2017 and none in 2016. The AHTO referred five of the cases to the attorney general’s office (AGO), which all remained under review at the end of the reporting period. The AGO initiated the prosecution of one alleged trafficker during the reporting period, compared with three prosecutions in 2017 and two in 2016. In the prosecution initiated during the reporting period, the court found the alleged offender not guilty of labor trafficking and people trafficking but found her guilty of prostitution and promoting prostitution; sentencing had not taken place by the end of the reporting period. Separately, the courts convicted one Bangladeshi national of labor trafficking and sentenced him to 25 years’ imprisonment; the defendant began to serve his sentence while awaiting the outcome of his appeal. This is compared with three traffickers convicted in 2017, two of whom received suspended sentences and were deported within 30 days and one who received probation and was deported one year after sentencing.
Observers noted official complicity played a significant role in facilitating trafficking. The AGO continued to investigate allegations of official complicity but did not report the details of the allegations or the number of officials involved. The AGO did not initiate prosecutions or secure convictions of complicit officials during the year. The government provided in-kind support for five trainings on trafficking hosted by foreign governments or international organizations. The AHTO trained 24 police cadets for one week on trafficking and victim identification. Despite these trainings, observers stated officials generally continued to lack an understanding of trafficking.