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 five trafficking cases, which included three potential cases of labor trafficking and exploiting a trafficked person and two potential cases of sex trafficking, compared with 11 potential trafficking case investigations in 2018 and 14 in 2017. These investigations resulted in the arrests of two alleged traffickers; all other investigations remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The government also reported that four forced labor investigations and one sex trafficking investigation remained ongoing from the previous reporting period. The attorney general’s office (AGO) initiated the prosecution of two alleged traffickers during the reporting period, compared with one prosecution in 2018 and three in 2017. The government did not convict any traffickers in 2019, compared with one conviction in 2018 and three convictions in 2017. In one case, the court dismissed all trafficking charges as part of a plea agreement; in the other case, the court found the alleged offender not guilty of labor trafficking, “people trafficking,” or exploiting a trafficked person. In 2018, the courts convicted one Bangladeshi national of labor trafficking and sentenced him to 25 years’ imprisonment; however, upon appeal, courts acquitted the alleged trafficker of all charges in June 2019.
Observers noted official complicity continued to play a significant role in facilitating trafficking, hindering law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking. As reported last year, 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 10 law enforcement trainings hosted by a foreign government to approximately 200 officials during the reporting period; while these trainings were not specific to trafficking, they included anti-trafficking components related to investigation and victim identification. Despite these trainings, observers stated officials generally continued to lack an understanding of trafficking.