In the less than three years since it was created, Belgium’s list of the most wanted serious criminals has led to 11 arrests, the federal police announced. “This shows the effectiveness of the list.”
The latest arrest came this week, when fugitive Grzegorz Janowicz was arrested while walking his dog in a Brussels park. He had been sentenced to 18 years in 2015 for manslaughter.
The list was launched in November 2016, with the names of 20 dangerous criminals. The initial reaction was critical. It was alleged that the tip-line, which was set up to collect information from the public, was insecure, failing to provide the necessary anonymity for witnesses. Some also criticised the “Americanisation” of the Belgian justice system, following the lead of the well-established Most Wanted list of the FBI.
Quickly following the launch, tips began to arrive on the whereabouts of Mark De Block, a convicted drugs dealer on the run, who was now living in a house in Dilbeek. Police were poised to catch De Block at his residence, when they saw that he recognised himself from a TV news report on the list. He fled out of the door with a suitcase, into the arms of waiting police officers.
Since then another ten criminals have been arrested on information gathered thanks to the list. A new arrival on the list was Lei Beaumont, facing life for the “extremely brutal and cowardly execution” of his wife, as the court described it. He fled to Spain, but thanks to the list was recognised by tourists, and brought to justice with the help of the Spanish authorities.
The purpose of the list has been demonstrated, the police say. Meanwhile, social media also plays its part, commented criminologist Wim Hardyns of the University of Ghent, speaking to De Morgen.
“People can now easily share photos of those on the most wanted list via social media,” he said. “That makes the power of such a list much greater now than it would have been before.”
There are currently 19 wanted criminals on the list, including two women, one of whom, Fehriye Erdal, wanted for a triple terrorist killing in Turkey. She has been on the run since 2006, when she escaped in broad daylight in Brussels from a state security surveillance team trailing her.