One of Britain’s most wanted fugitives arrested over £1bn tax fraud case

Sarah Panitzke, 47, was convicted in absence in a money laundering case

Sarah Panitzke, 47, was arrested while walking her dogs in Spain. PA

A woman who was one of Britain's most wanted fugitives has been arrested in Spain over a £1 billion ($1.33bn) tax fraud.

Sarah Panitzke, 47, who was convicted in absence, was arrested while walking her dogs in Catalonia.

She was found to have laundered money through companies in Spain, Andorra and Dubai for a group that bought mobile phones abroad without VAT and resold them in the UK.

Having been on the run for nine years, Panitzke was tracked down last month to the small town of Santa Barbara, in Tarragona, and placed under surveillance until her arrest.

Simon York, director of the Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Sarah Panitzke was one of Britain's most wanted tax fugitives.

“She played a pivotal role in a multimillion-pound VAT fraud and moved millions through offshore bank accounts.”

Spain's Guardia Civil police arrested Sarah Panitzke in Tarragona. PA

Spanish authorities say Panitzke, who has been held in Catalonia since Sunday, was the only member of the criminal operation who remained free, with 16 people already sentenced to jail.

Panitzke, originally from Fulford near York, has appeared in a Spanish court and is in custody while extradition proceedings begin, the National Crime Agency said.

“Sarah Panitzke has been on the run for almost nine years. Given the length of time, she might have thought we had stopped searching but she remained on our radar.” said Tom Dowdall, NCA international deputy director.

“Joint working between UK law enforcement and our partners in Spain led to her being apprehended and we will now seek her extradition back to the UK to serve her prison sentence.

“This should serve as a warning to others on our most wanted list — we will not rest until you are captured, no matter how long it takes.”

Panitzke vanished in May 2013 while facing trial for money laundering and was convicted and sentenced in her absence to eight years in prison.

Another of Britain's most wanted criminals was arrested by Spanish police in January, 24 hours after authorities launched a campaign to track down UK fugitives thought to be in the country.

Joshua Hendry, 30, has an international arrest warrant against him for his extradition to Britain on charges of drugs trafficking and belonging to a criminal organisation in Liverpool.

Panitzke was not among the 12 fugitives highlighted in that campaign.

Updated: March 02, 2022, 6:11 AM
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