France might be facing Croatia in the FIFA World Cup final on Sunday, but Europe’s anti-crime agency is footing its own squad of a somewhat different kind in the run-up to the big match.
The EU Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, commonly known as Europol, yesterday began offering up their its “team” of 25 most-wanted criminals in an online game not unlike a collectible card game.
The Hague-based policing organization has launched a Web site displaying cards that need to be “flipped over” to reveal the name and photograph of a wanted criminal, plus background to their alleged crimes.
The criminals are decked out in blue-and-yellow jerseys — Europol’s colors — and wear the wolf’s-head logo of the European Network of Fugitive Active Search Teams (ENFAST) network.
ENFAST consists of police officers across the continent tasked with hunting fugitives from justice.
The e-cards read “WANTED” on the front, feature an outline of the fugitive and display which European country is looking for them on the backdrop of a soccer pitch.
“At the start of the game, the field will be empty. Starting from today [yesterday] at 8am, national law enforcement authorities and Europol will share different codes through their social media channels,” Europol said in a statement.
“You need these codes to unlock the cards of the criminals/players on the field,” it added.
The ninth and last code is to be revealed tomorrow, the day before the World Cup final.
The first code, #RedCardUROut, reveals three fugitives wanted by France, Cyprus and Finland.
One of the men on the run is David Gras, 48, wanted by French police for his alleged involvement in a series of robberies against armored trucks or banks in 2011 “using stolen vehicles, explosives and heavy weapons.”
“The main one was committed by a commando who attacked a cash strongroom in Orly. The criminals used an explosive device, which killed a security guard and wounded two other employees,” Europol said.
“We present the wanted list in a playful way, but behind it is a very serious purpose: To catch Europe’s most-wanted criminals,” Europol spokeswoman Tine Hollevoet said.
The “cards” can be seen at https://eumostwanted.eu/crimeleague.
It is not the first time Europol has used an innovative approach to boost public awareness of fugitives on the run.
Europol launched an “advent calendar” of most-wanted criminals during the Christmas season leading to three arrests, while a summer “postcard” campaign led to the arrest of three more.
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