The government maintained inadequate law enforcement efforts. The 2019 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Order criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of four to 30 years’ imprisonment and fines of between 10,000 and 1 million Brunei dollars (BND) ($7,560 and $756,430), which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. While the passage of the 2019 law did not substantively change the trafficking in persons criminal provisions under the pre-existing 2004 law, it successfully separated trafficking crimes from migrant smuggling crimes, which are now addressed under a separate law and had been frequently conflated. The penal code also criminalized travel outside the country for commercial sex with children, prescribing a punishment of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both. The government may have also utilized Chapter 120 Section 5 of the Women and Girls Prosecution Act, which addresses “living on or trading in prostitution,” to prosecute potential sex trafficking crimes. The act prescribed penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $20,000, which were significantly lower than those available under the trafficking law.
Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF), labor, and immigration officers referred cases of suspected trafficking to the human trafficking unit (HTU) for further investigation. The HTU also reviewed case reports from other RBPF units to look for trafficking indicators, particularly in cases involving commercial sex, unpaid wages, workers fleeing their place of employment, or physical abuse of workers. The HTU reported it screened 147 such cases in 2020 for trafficking indicators, an increase compared with 90 cases in 2019. However, of these, the government investigated only three as potential trafficking cases, two of which resulted in non-trafficking charges, and the third, involving Department of Labor (DOL) officials, was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. Authorities did not refer any cases to the attorney general’s chambers (AGC) for prosecution; the most recent cases that authorities identified and referred to the AGC were two cases in 2017. For the fourth consecutive year, the AGC did not initiate any new trafficking prosecutions, and the courts did not convict any traffickers under its trafficking statute. The government’s most recent trafficking convictions were of three traffickers in 2016. The government reported high evidentiary standards precluded authorities from prosecuting cases under the anti-trafficking legislation.
The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses but did investigate and prosecute officials for crimes that increased migrant workers’ vulnerability to trafficking. The government continued to prosecute a Department of Immigration officer and two Bruneian labor recruiters under the Prevention of Corruption Act involved in a case stemming from the previous reporting period. The government charged the individuals with committing visa application fraud in an illegal operation to bring Bangladeshi workers to Brunei on false visa applications without existing jobs. In addition, authorities reported four government officials, including a senior DOL official, were under investigation for corruption related to visa fraud for migrant workers at the end of the reporting period. Law enforcement officials cooperated with a foreign government on an ongoing international trafficking case. The HTU continued to train RBPF, immigration, labor, and anti-vice officers on trafficking and victim identification. In March 2021, 29 law enforcement, labor, and immigration officials participated in a trafficking identification and investigation techniques training course facilitated by the prime minister’s office.