Europol and the 24 Christmas criminals

"On the first day of Christmas, the EU gave to me... an Austrian criminal." Europol has launched a festive-themed social media campaign aimed at catching some of the continent's most wanted. [Europol]

The EU’s law enforcement agency, Europol, has started getting into the festive spirit by launching an advent calendar that will reveal one of Europe’s most wanted criminals every day in the lead-up to Christmas.

Advent calendars, those delightful special almanacs that signal the unstoppable advance of Christmas, come in many shapes and forms, from pictures of presents to tiny chocolates and miniature bottles of booze.

This year, Europol is bringing out their own, somewhat grimmer, rendition: an online version featuring Europe’s most wanted criminals.

“As from 1 December, we will for 23 days in a row publish one fugitive from one member state per day,” Europol spokesman Gerald Hesztera told AFP.

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The wanted person will be highlighted on social media including Europol’s Facebook page and on Twitter for that day, Hesztera said, speaking from Europol’s Hague-based headquarters.

The criminals have all been convicted of serious crimes such as murder, kidnapping, terrorism and drug trafficking and are currently fleeing the law, he added.

“All these criminals are on the run, fleeing from responsibility and punishment,” he said.

The calendar of criminals kicks off with Austrian fugitive Tibor Foco, 60, who is wanted for murdering a prostitute in March 1986.

Sentenced to life behind bars, Foco escaped from prison while on leave to study in 1995, according to Europol’s website, featuring the continent’s most wanted offenders.

A reward of €2,900 is offered for any information leading to his successful recapture.

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Since the website’s launch in January, some 24 most wanted criminals have been arrested, with nine of those arrests directly linked to media attention and tip-offs from the public, Europol said.

“Hopefully we can give people a nice present on 24 December, having arrested some of these fugitives,” Hesztera said.

As the Christmas song goes: “you’d better be good, you’d better be nice”, or you might end up on Europol’s 2017 list.

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