The government maintained 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 seven new cases (one sex trafficking and six labor trafficking) under Section 154-1, an increase from three in 2019. Authorities prosecuted two traffickers (one sex trafficking and one labor trafficking) under Section 154-1 (three in 2019), and courts convicted one trafficker (three in 2019). The convicted trafficker received a suspended sentence with no jail time, whereas in 2019 the convicted traffickers received prison sentences of five years and two months each. Under Section 165-1, authorities investigated one new case, prosecuted one defendant, and convicted zero traffickers. By comparison, in 2019, authorities investigated one case, prosecuted four defendants, and convicted two traffickers, who received prison sentences of six years and six months. In 2020, the anti-trafficking police unit seized approximately €1.7 million ($2.1 million) in assets from suspected traffickers, a significant increase from €463,000 ($568,000) in 2019. The majority of the assets seized pertained to a labor trafficking case in a cookie factory involving Indian and Uzbek workers. The prosecutor general’s office reviewed one judicial assistance request in a trafficking case from Germany and submitted one to Morocco. A specialized prosecution office reviewed, monitored, and managed all Riga District Court trafficking-related cases pertaining to Section 154-1. The government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
Perennial issues within the judicial system, such as lengthy trials and lenient sentences, which often resulted in no jail time for convicted traffickers, remained the government’s greatest deficiency—providing limited deterrence, contributing to the underreporting of trafficking crimes, and undermining defendants’ rights to a fair trial within a reasonable time. For instance, a 2014 case involving two Riga police officers charged with facilitating pimping remained in court at the end of the reporting period. Reports persisted that police, prosecutors, and judges lacked an understanding of trafficking. Experts noted 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 knowledge gaps during the reporting period by training prosecutors and consular employees on aspects of labor trafficking; judges on prevention measures; border guards on victim identification; and police on the different types of trafficking and recruitment methods. Experts noted, though, that a lack of interest in training among law enforcement officials often led to poor attendance at international and local seminars. To improve law enforcement’s response to trafficking, the government committed to a project with an Estonian university and international organizations to enhance law enforcement cooperation and training on trafficking.