The government increased law enforcement efforts. Sections 154-1 and 154-2 of Latvia’s criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to eight years’ imprisonment for offenses involving adult victims and between three and 12 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving child victims. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Judges and prosecutors had the power to reclassify cases from Section 154-1 to lesser crimes. Prosecutors could charge trafficking crimes under Section 164, which criminalized exploiting vulnerability or using deceit to involve individuals in commercial sex with prescribed penalties as lenient as community service or a fine. Additionally, law enforcement officials reportedly were more likely to investigate and charge suspected traffickers for crimes other than trafficking, such as pimping and transfer for sexual exploitation. Authorities used Section 165-1, which prohibited the transfer of individuals for the purpose of sexual exploitation, to prevent potential cases of trafficking by charging perpetrators who attempted to recruit individuals for sexual exploitation schemes abroad.
The State Police’s anti-trafficking unit, comprising 18 officers and specializing in investigating trafficking, brokered marriages, and related crimes, investigated three new cases (one sex trafficking and two labor trafficking) under Section 154-1 in 2019, the same number as in 2018. Authorities indicted three traffickers under Section 154-1, compared with one in 2018. Courts convicted three traffickers (two sex trafficking and one labor trafficking), compared with one in 2018. The convicted traffickers received prison sentences of five years and two months each, whereas in 2018 the convicted trafficker received a conditional sentence, resulting in no prison time. Under Section 165-1, authorities investigated one new case, indicted four defendants, and convicted two traffickers, who received prison sentences of six years and six months. By comparison, in 2018, authorities investigated two cases, indicted one defendant, and convicted one trafficker, who did not receive a prison sentence. In 2019, the anti-trafficking police unit seized approximately €463,000 ($520,230) in assets from suspected traffickers. The prosecutor general’s office completed two judicial assistance requests in trafficking cases from the United Kingdom and Ukraine. Furthermore, in January 2020, a reorganization established a specialized prosecution office that reviewed, monitored, and managed all trafficking-related cases of the Riga District Court pertaining to Section 154-1.
Perennial issues within the judicial system, such as lengthy trials, continued to limit Latvia’s prosecution efforts. For instance, a 2014 case involving two Riga police officers charged with facilitating pimping remained in court at the end of the reporting period. Prosecutors and judges possessed a limited understanding of trafficking. Experts reported the need for more training for authorities, particularly on applying anti-trafficking laws, working with victims, evidence collection, and understanding psychological coercion. The government addressed some knowledge gaps during the reporting period by training police on the different types of trafficking and preventive measures and border guards on victim identification.