‘Britain’s most wanted tax cheat’ behind bars after 9 years on the run

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A woman labeled as one of ‘Britain’s most wanted tax fugitives’ has been jailed for eight years. Sarah Panitzke appeared at Kingston Crown Court today (Friday) after nine years on the run.

The 48-year-old, from York, was extradited to the UK on Thursday. She appeared in court for her role in a multi-million pound VAT fraud.

Panitzke fled in May 2013 while on trial for money laundering offenses and later featured in the National Crime Agency’s (NCA) most wanted calls. She was convicted and sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison, PA reports.

Panitzke and his 17 co-conspirators received sentences totaling 135 years for multi-million pound VAT fraud, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said after the arrest. Police arrested Panitzke as she walked her two dogs in the small town of Santa Barbara near the Catalan coast on February 27.

The operation was carried out by the Spanish Guardia Civil, alongside HMRC. Panitzke appealed against the extradition process, which failed, and she was returned to the UK on Thursday, HMRC said after the case.

On Friday, Judge Sarah Plaschkes QC said: ‘Please rise, as you have heard that you have been sentenced in your absence by His Honor Judge Campbell in this court on August 22, 2013 to eight years in prison. imprisonment, this sentence will begin today now that you have been extradited to this country. This means that you will serve at least half of this sentence in custody before you can be released on license.

“When you are released on licence, if you commit another offense you can serve the rest of your sentence in custody. Under these circumstances, there are no further orders I need give and nothing more I need say.

Panitzke, who was not visible from where the press was seated, rose only to confirm his name.

Following his arrest in February, Simon York, director of the Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said “Panitzke was one of Britain’s most wanted tax fugitives”.

On Friday, Mr York added: “Sarah Panitzke helped launder millions of pounds of stolen money and thought she might run away from her crimes. She spent nine years in hiding – but we never stopped to find.

“We have worked tirelessly alongside the Spanish authorities to find her and bring her to justice.”

A forfeiture order of £2,455,913 was made against Panitzke in her absence on March 22, 2016, and she was given three months to pay the full amount or face a further nine years in prison. No money was ever paid for the confiscation order, HMRC said.

The total amount outstanding, including interest, continues to accrue at a rate of £538 per day and had reached £3,470,575 by May 2022, HMRC added.

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