Most wanted list

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A most wanted list, maintained by a law enforcement agency, is a list of criminals and alleged criminals who are believed to be at large and are identified as the agency's highest priority for capture. The list can alert the public to be watchful, and generates publicity for the agency.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was the first agency to create a most wanted list.[1] The FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list was inaugurated on March 14, 1950, at the direction of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. The idea for the list came from a question asked by a reporter for the International News Service. The reporter asked the FBI to provide names and descriptions of the "toughest guys" that the agency wanted to capture. After observing the high level of public interest generated by the resulting news story, Hoover decided to publish a formal list.[2]

In following years, other law enforcement agencies around the world, representing all jurisdictional levels, have issued their own lists of most wanted fugitives.[3]

List members generally are not ranked by priority.[1] Historically, a higher proportion of suspected persons on such lists were often listed in accordance with deeds pertaining to betrayal, such as double agents, or purveyors of treason.[4]

There is no official worldwide list of most wanted fugitives.[1] Interpol publishes a list of "red notices" identifying and describing fugitive persons who are wanted by a national jurisdiction and are being sought internationally for capture and extradition. This is, however, an inclusive list rather than a "most wanted" list.[5][6] In 2008, Forbes magazine published an informal list of the World's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives, assembled after consulting with law enforcement agencies around the world. Candidates for the Forbes list were fugitives thought to be dangerous who had "a long history of committing serious crimes", who had been indicted or charged with a crime in a national jurisdiction or by an international tribunal, and who were involved with a type of criminal activity "with which legal institutions in diverse jurisdictions are grappling".[1][7] The Forbes list has been updated and republished in subsequent years.[1]

Most wanted lists[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Who is now on the World's Most Wanted list?". The Guardian. May 4, 2011.
  2. ^ "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" Program Frequently Asked Questions, Federal Bureau of Investigation, retrieved January 14, 2012
  3. ^ Nathan Vardi (May 13, 2010). "The World's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives". Forbes.
  4. ^ Smith, James M., and William C. Thomas. The terrorism threat and US government response: Operational and organizational factors. INST FOR NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES US AIR FORCE ACADEMY CO, 2001.
  5. ^ Notices, Interpol, retrieved January 14, 2012 and Wanted Persons, Interpol, retrieved January 14, 2012
  6. ^ Interpol puts Assange on most-wanted list, CNN, November 30, 2010, archived from the original on July 7, 2012
  7. ^ Nathan Vardi (April 25, 2008). "The World's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives". Forbes.