The government increased law enforcement efforts. Articles 165 and 206 of the criminal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The law prescribed penalties of six to 12 years’ imprisonment for trafficking crimes involving an adult victim and 10 to 12 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 168 of the criminal code also criminalized forced labor and imposed penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment. In 2022, the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) held public consultations on new legislation to extensively amend the criminal code, including prescriptive sentences for trafficking-related crimes and reviewing appropriate penalties, including new provisions for aggravating circumstances; the legislation was being finalized at the end of the reporting period. Law enforcement’s and the judicial sector’s capacity was significantly strained by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and its effects on Moldova, including a refugee crisis. Due to the overwhelming number of refugee arrivals during the initial crisis, police were unable to fully investigate some cases, and courts delayed some proceedings, including trafficking trials. Shortly after the beginning of the reporting period, full investigations and court proceedings resumed. In 2022, authorities investigated 73 trafficking cases (33 sex trafficking, 39 labor trafficking, one unspecified form of trafficking), an increase from 57 in 2021; notably 20 of the cases involved 33 potential child sex trafficking victims. The government prosecuted 109 suspected traffickers (53 sex trafficking, 54 labor trafficking, two unspecified forms of trafficking), a significant increase from 37 in 2021. Courts convicted six traffickers (five sex trafficking, one labor trafficking), a significant decrease from 44 in 2021 and 32 in 2020. Sentences for convicted traffickers ranged from seven to 20 years’ imprisonment. Moldovan authorities cooperated with their European counterparts on several trafficking-related investigations, judicial assistance requests, and extraditions. In one investigation, authorities from Moldova and Greece cooperated on a sex trafficking case resulting in the identification of two victims and arrest of nine suspects. In 2022, Moldova participated in an EUROPOL project analyzing the rising number of trafficking cases, and focused on forced criminality and begging, forced marriages, child trafficking, and other forms of exploitation in Europe.
Perennial problems, including staff shortages within the police and prosecutor’s office, corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary, lack of adequate sentences for complicit officials, and lengthy trials, undermined government efforts. To address staffing needs, in 2022, the General Police Inspectorate developed SARTs to serve rural regions of Moldova where police typically did not have proper resources to respond to reported trafficking cases. The Center for Combating Trafficking in Persons (CCTIP), the lead anti-trafficking investigative and police agency, and the Organized Crime Prosecution Office (PCCOCS) continued to suffer from staff shortages, limiting the agencies’ ability to investigate complex cases, including transnational criminal organizations or complicit government employees. Despite improvements, such as removing legislative obstacles to confiscate unjustified assets acquired through illicit means, increasing transparency, and pre-vetting candidates for judicial and prosecutorial bodies, corruption remained a serious problem. The judicial system remained an impediment to bringing traffickers to justice with law enforcement, prosecutors, and members of the judiciary implicated in corrupt practices. While authorities investigated reports of corruption committed by officials, they did not always prosecute and punish them. In 2022, authorities investigated an employee of a district police inspectorate for labor trafficking involving two children. Authorities also investigated a member of CCTIP for “suspicion of influence peddling” concerning a trafficking case under CCTIP’s management; both the alleged “influence peddling” and the trafficking case remained ongoing. The government reported the prosecution of complicit officials in six cases of official facilitation or obstruction of justice from previous years remained ongoing. Judges sometimes re-qualified cases from trafficking crimes to crimes with lesser penalties, such as “pimping,” or postponed hearings – a practice common among judges suspected of corruption. In an attempt to increase transparency and efficiency in the assignment of judges to cases, all courts in the country utilized an electronic case management system. Nonetheless, selective justice swayed by corruption continued to be a problem, and lawyers complained of violations of defendants’ rights to a fair trial. Moreover, lengthy trials impeded justice and often led to the acquittal of traffickers.
Prosecutors at every level, from the PGO to regional territorial prosecution offices, were responsible for prosecuting trafficking crimes. The PGO maintained a unit with specialized prosecutors, who coordinated anti-trafficking prosecution policies and supervised the work of regional territorial prosecutors when working on trafficking cases. The PGO also investigated child sex trafficking and online sexual exploitation cases, involving information and communication technologies and provided guidelines for identifying, investigating, and prosecuting such cases. PCCOCS had a specialized unit for prosecuting trafficking cases initiated by CCTIP as well as cases involving criminal organizations. The coordinating council within the PGO consolidated the efforts of law enforcement agencies and set coordinated objectives and measures to prevent and combat trafficking. The Chisinau Prosecutor’s Office maintained an Anti-Trafficking Bureau and conducted the prosecution of trafficking cases from Chisinau municipality; at the district level, specialized prosecutors conducted the prosecution of trafficking cases. Within the judiciary, there were specialized judges trained specifically to handle trafficking cases. These judges maintained five-year mandates, which increased their experience and understanding of trafficking and created a judicial environment more sensitive to victims’ needs. In 2022, the government provided a range of trafficking-related training for judges, prosecutors, and investigators, including managing trafficking cases and focusing the criminal process on the victim. Overall, the government’s ability to fund key law enforcement and social protection institutes remained limited. As a result, the government relied on donor funding and international organizations to train police, border guards, labor inspectors, prosecutors, and judges.
from 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report – U.S. Department of State
2023 Trafficking in Persons Report – United States Department of State