Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday that this was an increase from seven convictions in 2015.
The convictions, he said, were secured through operations carried out by the Council for the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants with various agencies.
Out of these cases, 79 were for the trafficking of persons and nine were for migrants smuggling, said Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is also the Home Minister.
“Twelve cases were brought under the Immigration Act, the Penal Code and other Acts involving prison sentences of between three and 10 years as well as other penalties,” he said in a statement here.
Eighteen employers, said Dr Ahmad Zahid, had also been convicted for illegally holding their workers’ passports under the Passport Act, which carries a penalty of not more than five years in prison or a RM10,000 fine or both.
The number of investigation papers opened, he added, also more than doubled from 158 in 2015 to 326 last year.
He said that for last year, authorities investigated 403 cases and arrested 679 people for crimes related to sexual exploitation, forced servitude, organ trafficking, other offences under the Immigration Act and those connected to the sale of babies.
Forty-two civil servants from enforcement agencies were also detained, investigated and had action taken against them, he said.
“The increase is a mark of the strong commitment and co-operation shown by the council, whose members are made up by the police, the Immigration, the Labour Department, Customs, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, the courts as well as the Attorney-General’s Chambers,” he said.
“As at December last year, 1,130 victims, mostly women, have been given protection under court order at various shelters across the country,” he said.
Between January and December, 16 victims, he said, were allowed to travel freely in the country while 10 were permitted to work in Malaysia before returning to their own countries.
Council of Churches Malaysia secretary-general Rev Dr Herman Shastri called on the authorities to enhance surveillance of street children to prevent them from being exploited.
Dr Shastri said churches were sad to learn that children had been exploited to engage in “immoral activities”.
“The churches in our country have constantly raised concerns about the exploitation of children and will continue to organise and administer programmes to provide children a safe environment and opportunities for a proper moral upbringing,” he said.
On Sunday, Kuala Lumpur police arrested an Indian national and a Myanmar woman for exploiting children to sell flowers and begging, and rescued 21 victims, comprising eight adults, 13 children and a two-month-old baby.