MOLDOVA: Tier 2
Moldova is primarily a source country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Moldovan victims are subjected to sex and labor trafficking within Moldova and in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Greece, Cyprus, and other countries. Women and minors are subjected to sex trafficking in Moldova in brothels, saunas, and massage parlors. Moldovan men are subjected to forced labor in agriculture and construction in Ukraine and Russia; Moldovan women are also subjected to forced labor in agriculture in Ukraine. Foreign tourists, including those from Europe, Thailand, Australia, Israel, and the United States, subject Moldovan children to commercial sexual exploitation. The breakaway region of Transnistria remains a source for victims of both sex and labor trafficking. Corruption in the judicial system poses an acute challenge for bringing traffickers to justice. Official complicity in trafficking is a significant problem in Moldova.
The Government of Moldova does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government convicted more traffickers, but judicial corruption impeded prosecutions and influenced outcomes of cases. The government did not open any new criminal cases against officials involved in trafficking-related crimes and convicted only one complicit official. The government maintained victim identification efforts and increased funding for victim assistance. Victims and witnesses were reluctant to participate in trials due to insufficient protection afforded by the government.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MOLDOVA:
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers with appropriately dissuasive sentences; increase efforts to convict and sentence government officials complicit in human trafficking; implement measures to address corruption in the judicial sector to improve outcomes of trafficking cases; improve protection of victims and witnesses during court proceedings; reform the criminal procedure code to allow for wiretapping of suspected traffickers without prior notification and investigation of suspected traffickers’ finances to avoid an overreliance on victim testimony as evidence; continue prosecutions for witness tampering and intimidation; train police, judges, and prosecutors on a victim-centered approach to investigations; facilitate compensation for damages suffered by victims in accordance with Moldova’s criminal code; provide victims access to medical insurance per Moldovan law; and do not punish victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
The government increased law enforcement efforts, but judicial corruption hindered the successful conviction and sentencing of traffickers. Moldovan law prohibits all forms of trafficking through Articles 165 and 206 of the criminal code. Proscribed penalties under these articles are five to 20 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government investigated 175 trafficking cases in 2014, an increase from 155 cases in 2013. The government prosecuted 49 trafficking cases in 2014, a slight decrease from 51 cases in 2013. The government convicted 43 traffickers in 2014, a significant increase from 25 traffickers convicted in 2013. However, six sentences were suspended, and only 37 offenders were sentenced to prison. Of the 37 offenders sentenced to prison, 26 were convicted of sex trafficking, two of labor trafficking, six of sexual exploitation of minors, and three for forcing children to beg. Sentences ranged from five to 13 years’ imprisonment.
The Moldovan judiciary often applied sentences that did not correspond with the severity of the crime, imposing only fines or commuted prison terms on convicted traffickers. Convictions have been frequently reversed on appeal for reasons poorly explained by judges. Prosecutors relied almost exclusively on victim testimony, which meant that cases in which the victim was intimidated resulted in acquittals. Prosecutors were not permitted to request detailed information about accused traffickers’ finances due to the exemption of human trafficking crimes from the criminal code section on crimes warranting financial investigation. In 2014, prosecutors began charging traffickers and defense attorneys with obstruction of justice when victims were threatened or intimidated. Prosecutors initiated seven criminal cases for witness intimidation during the reporting period, five of which were related to human trafficking; three of the cases went to trial and four remained under investigation.
In mid-2014, the interior affairs ministry’s center for investigating and prosecuting trafficking crimes divided into three sections focusing on sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and exceptional cases involving children and organ removal. NGOs reported excellent cooperation with the center, but experts cited lack of resources and corruption as limiting its effectiveness. The government successfully cooperated with Russian, Greek, and Italian authorities and INTERPOL on cases that led to the identification of multiple victims and the initiation of prosecutions against traffickers. The government trained 40 border police officers on identifying labor trafficking and 160 officials and psychologists on interviewing child victims of abuse and sexual exploitation. Candidates for judges and prosecutors were required to complete a 40-hour course on trafficking.
Official complicity remained a significant problem. The government did not initiate any prosecutions of officials for trafficking-related crimes in 2014. Courts convicted only one complicit official, a police investigator sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for compelling a person into prostitution, though two of those years were suspended. The government prosecuted the head of a human rights agency for forcing children to beg in Russia and a bailiff for compelling two persons into prostitution; both trials were ongoing as of April 2015. In January 2015, police placed under house arrest the director of Fashion TV-Moldova while investigating his involvement in human trafficking and related crimes; the suspect previously headed the interior affairs ministry’s division to combat organized crime and worked in the anti-trafficking center. Courts acquitted the former head of the Biathlon Federation of Moldova of child trafficking charges and applied a 3,000 leu ($164) fine for organizing illegal migration; prosecutors appealed the sentence. Courts still had not issued a verdict in a 2013 case against a police officer who allegedly accepted a bribe to convince his colleagues to close the investigation of a trafficking case. The government’s appeal of a June 2013 Supreme Court decision that overturned the conviction of the head of a child trafficking ring was rejected as inadmissible. Observers suspected corruption in the anti-trafficking center’s investigative section and expressed concern over inaction by local and regional law enforcement officials on trafficking cases.
The government maintained victim identification efforts and increased funding for victim assistance. The government identified 264 trafficking victims in 2014, compared with 262 in 2013, and assisted 85 victims, compared with 105 in 2013. Of the total identified victims, 116 were subjected to sex trafficking, 91 to labor trafficking, 53 to forced begging, and four to forced criminal activities. There were 238 adult victims and 26 minors; the majority of victims, 231, were subjected to trafficking abroad. The government provided 7,256,300 leu ($467,000) to seven domestic violence shelters that assisted trafficking victims, an increase from the 6,011,900 leu ($387,000) provided in 2013. The government fully funded the Chisinau Assistance and Protection Center, which received victims repatriated from abroad, providing 2,899,100 leu ($186,000) in 2014, more than twice the 1,312,100 leu ($84,400) provided in 2013. The government spent 600,000 leu ($38,600) for the repatriation of victims in 2014, a large increase from the 120,000 leu ($7,720) spent in 2013. Teams of local officials and NGOs were present in all regions of Moldova to coordinate victim identification and assistance. The government provided trafficking victims with shelter and medical, legal, and psychological assistance, regardless of their cooperation with law enforcement. Authorities recognized legal aid and long-term reintegration support were insufficient, however, and victims were unable to get free medical insurance. Male victims had access to specialized medical and psychological care. Child trafficking victims were placed with relatives, in foster care, or in rehabilitation clinics that provided specialized medical and psychological care. Child victims 14 years old or younger were interviewed in specialized hearing rooms with recording equipment with the assistance of a psychologist. Reportedly, the government did not adequately protect victims participating in investigations and prosecutions. Shelters had little security and corruption undermined police protection. Prosecutors did not maintain regular contact with the victims nor adequately prepare them for trial. Some victims experienced intimidation in the courtroom and were pressured by traffickers to change their testimony.
Victims had the right to sue traffickers for damages, but most did not due to threats from perpetrators, inability to present proof required by courts, and perceived corruption in the judiciary. A court ordered a trafficker to pay 14 Moldovan labor trafficking victims 32,160 leu ($2,070) each in 2014. Moldovan law provides temporary residence permits to foreign victims willing to cooperate with law enforcement, though none were granted during the reporting period. Moldova’s criminal code exempts trafficking victims of criminal liability for committing offenses related to their exploitation. However, the government continued to prosecute a labor trafficking victim for theft because the case was investigated under a statute on forced labor, which does not exempt victims from criminal liability. Moldovan law affords trafficking victims a reflection period—time in which to recover before deciding whether to cooperate with law enforcement—but authorities rarely provided one due to criminal procedure rules that require prosecutors to press charges within strict time limits. Transnistrian victims received support from Moldovan shelters.
The government maintained considerable efforts to prevent human trafficking. The government adopted its sixth national action plan for 2014-2016. The national anti-trafficking committee secretariat coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking response but institutions lacked sufficient resources. The secretariat organized an independent assessment of the implementation of previous national action plans. The government included the labor inspectorate in the national committee to combat labor trafficking. The education ministry trained over 2,600 teachers and school administrators on child abuse, neglect, and trafficking. Secondary education and university students attended classes on trafficking. The government carried out a week-long campaign on traffickers’ online recruitment methods and trafficking victim services. The national labor force agency set up a division in 2014 to inform Moldovans about legal employment opportunities abroad. In April 2014, the government adopted guidelines on protecting child victims of trafficking, violence, neglect, and exploitation and launched an information hotline. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel on identifying trafficking victims.