31 Mar, 2023 @ 18:30
2 mins read

Britain’s most wanted female fugitive who spent nine years hiding out in Spain has her jail sentence doubled

Sarah Panitzke

BRITAIN’S former most wanted female fugitive, finally tracked down and arrested in a sleepy Catalan town last year, has had her jail sentence almost doubled after she failed to repay a seven-figure sum. 

Former private school girl Sarah Panitzke will now spend 17 years in jail when previously being sentenced to nine.

The penalty was imposed after she failed to repay £2.4 million she stole as part of a massive VAT fraud scheme.

Panitzke had spent nine years on the run in Spain, living as a local thanks to her excellent Spanish, before being captured and returned to the UK while out walking her dogs.

She had been living in the town of Santa Barbara near Tarragona under the alias ‘Maria’ where she had an apartment above an English academy.

Sarah Panitzke
Former fugitive and tax fraudster Sarah Panitzke has had her jail sentence almost doubled from nine to 17 years after she failed to repay a £2.4 million

She was initially sentenced to 8 years in prison, while being ordered to repay the sum, which was a tiny fraction of the £1 billion she is thought to have laundered on behalf of a scheme to sell mobile phones. 

Her part involved laundering millions of pounds of stolen money through offshore bank accounts set up by the criminal gang she was part of, which claimed to be importing and selling the phones legitimately. 

Despite going to great lengths to hide the profits, HM Revenue and Customs investigators uncovered the complex web of transactions used to launder the stolen money through international bank accounts. 

Sarah Panitzke
Panitzke was arrested while out walking her dog by the Guardia Civil during an operation in which they watched her for days before determining that she was the wanted fugitive

These included accounts in the UK, Andorra, Dubai, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Portugal and the US.

Panitzke’s failure to repay the stolen money means she still owes the full amount plus interest, which continues to accrue at a rate of £538 per day, and has now reached a total of £3,782,779 as of February this year.

Nicol Sheppard, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said Panitzke’s actions had deprived the UK of vital public money.

“Panitzke was part of a criminal gang that stole millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money and deprived our public services of vital funding,” Sheppard said.

“She failed to repay the money she stole and now faces even more time behind bars, and still owes the money.”

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Walter Finch

Walter - or Walt to most people - is a former and sometimes still photographer and filmmaker who likes to dig under the surface.
A NCTJ-trained journalist, he came to the Costa del Sol - Gibraltar hotspot from the Daily Mail in 2022 to report on organised crime, corruption, financial fraud and a little bit of whatever is going on.
Got a story? [email protected]
@waltfinc

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