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Wednesday, Nov 30, 2022

Sarah Panitzke: UK's most wanted woman jailed over fraud

Sarah Panitzke: UK's most wanted woman jailed over fraud

A fraudster who became the UK's most wanted woman after fleeing to Spain while on trial for money laundering has been jailed for eight years.

Sarah Panitzke, 48, from York, went missing in 2013 while on trial for her part in a £1bn mobile phone tax scam.

She spent nine years on the run before being arrested while dog walking in Santa Barbara, Tarragona, in February.

Panitzke appeared at Kingston Crown Court in London after being extradited back to the UK.

She had initially been charged with conspiracy to acquire criminal property in relation to her role in a multimillion-pound VAT fraud in 2010, and was found guilty in her absence in 2013.

Panitzke was sentenced to eight years in her absence, which Friday's judge, Sarah Plaschkes QC, said should start immediately after her appearance in court.

She was arrested while walking her dogs in Santa Barbara, Tarragona

The judge recapped to the court the sentence handed down in 2013, before adding: "That sentence will start today now that you have been extradited to this country."

Panitzke, who was part of a scheme which laundered cash through offshore accounts, was told she would spend at least four years behind bars before she was eligible for parole.

A £2.4m confiscation order was also made against her in 2016.

She was given three months to pay the full amount or face an additional nine years in prison.

No money has ever been paid against this, leaving the amount including interest, standing at £3.4m in May 2022.

Interest continues to accrue at a rate of £538 a day.

National Crime Agency international deputy director Tom Dowdall said Pantizke had been on their most wanted list for a decade and her jailing was the result of "years of hard work".

Simon York, director of the HMRC fraud investigation service, said: "Panitzke thought she had put herself outside of the reach of HMRC, but through our work with UK law enforcement and international partners we have tracked down another tax fugitive.

"No tax criminal is beyond our reach."

The 48-year-old was extradited and appeared in court on Friday

A HMRC spokesman said Panitzke played a "pivotal role" in the fraud and laundered "extraordinary volumes" of stolen money through offshore bank accounts.

They said Panitzke and her 17 co-conspirators were given sentences totalling 135 years for the fraud.

The moment Sarah Panitzke was detained in Spain


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