Marking the beginning of December, Europol has created a special online advent calendar featuring some of the continent’s most wanted criminals.
Over each of the next 23 days, the EU’s law enforcement agency will open a new door on its novelty creation, appealing to members of the public for information on the whereabouts of individuals wanted for a range of serious crimes including drug trafficking, kidnap, murder and terror offences.
A picture of one fugitive will be published each day on the organisation’s social media accounts, along with a video that will also feature on Europol’s most wanted website.
“All these criminals are on the run, fleeing from responsibility and punishment,” commented Europol spokesperson Gerald Hesztera.
Kicking the campaign off this morning, Europol appealed for information on Austrian Tibor Foco. Wanted for murder and grievous bodily harm, the 60-year-old escaped from an Austrian prison where he was serving a life sentence for the fatal shooting of a prostitute in 1982.
He escaped jail in 1995 while on leave from custody to attend university, and is thought to have been assisted by women he entered into correspondence with while locked up. Foco is considered to be armed and dangerous. Police are offering a reward of €2,900 for information that leads to his capture.
“Since the launch of the list at the end of January 2016, 24 of the criminals on Europe’s Most Wanted have been arrested,” Europol said in a statement.
“Many more are hiding all over Europe and European law enforcement agencies are working closely together to catch them. But you can help as well, and your help has proven decisive in the past.
“Nine out of the current 24 arrests were directly linked to the media attention around Europe’s Most Wanted fugitives and the tip-offs from the public.”
At Launch, Europol’s list featured 45 of the 28-nation bloc’s most wanted criminals, including an Islamist militant suspected of taking part in the Paris attacks, a mafia boss and a Finnish woman wanted in connection with the “aggravated fraud of a significant amount of money”.
The website is available in 17 languages, and proved to be so popular in the hours after its launch that it crashed. The initiative is the first of its kind in Europe, taking its leads from similar efforts by law enforcement agencies including Interpol and the FBI.
Managed and published by national European Network of Fugitive Active Search Teams in EU member states, the list and the website on which it is published are intended to help people who have information on the criminals it features contact law enforcement agencies – anonymously if needs be.