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British fugitive wanted over £1,000,000,000 fraud arrested

A woman branded one of the UK’s ‘most wanted tax fugitives’ has been captured after nine years on the run.

Sarah Panitzke vanished in May 2013 while she faced trial over an elaborate money laundering scam. 

She was convicted and sentenced in her absence to eight years in prison.

Panitzke, originally from Fulford near York, had been traced to a town near Barcelona back in 2015.

But she managed to flee in disguise after she caught wind of the looming police operation.

Authorities again caught up with the fugitive in February – this time in the small Spanish town of Santa Barbara in Tarragona.

After weeks of surveillance, the 47-year-old was arrested by an elite police team while out walking her dogs.

She remains in custody while extradition proceedings begin.

Brit fugitive wanted over ?1,000,000,000 fraud arrested while walking dogs in Spain
The Spanish Guardia Civil have released images of the moment Panitzke was arrested while out walking her dogs (Picture: SWNS)
Sarah Panitzke's arrest in Santa Barbara, Tarragona, on Sunday morning [27 February] by the Spanish Guardia Civil. See SWNS story SWLEwanted. Britain's most wanted woman who was involved in a ?1billion VAT fraud gang has been caught by cops in Spain - as she was walking her dog. UK holidaymakers were asked to help catch fraudster Sarah Panitzke, 47, from Fulford near York in a recent appeal for information on the whereabouts of fugitive killers, sex attackers and drug traffickers. A money launderer involved in a ?1 billion mobile phone tax scam who was one of the National Crime Agency?s most wanted fugitives has been arrested in Spain. Sarah Panitzke, aged 47 and originally from Fulford near York, was detained as she walked her dogs in Santa Barbara, Tarragona, on Sunday morning [27 February] by the Spanish Guardia Civil as part of an operation supported by HM Revenue & Customs.
Authorities had even appealed to UK holidaymakers in a bid to capture the fraudster (Picture: SWNS)

Panitzke is accused of laundering money through companies in Spain, Andorra and Dubai for a group that bought mobile phones abroad without VAT and resold them in the UK.

NCA international deputy director Tom Dowdall 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.

‘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.’

Spanish authorities claim she was the only member of a wider criminal gang who remained free, with 16 people already jailed.

Sarah Panitzke's arrest in Santa Barbara, Tarragona, on Sunday morning [27 February] by the Spanish Guardia Civil. See SWNS story SWLEwanted. Britain's most wanted woman who was involved in a ?1billion VAT fraud gang has been caught by cops in Spain - as she was walking her dog. UK holidaymakers were asked to help catch fraudster Sarah Panitzke, 47, from Fulford near York in a recent appeal for information on the whereabouts of fugitive killers, sex attackers and drug traffickers. A money launderer involved in a ?1 billion mobile phone tax scam who was one of the National Crime Agency?s most wanted fugitives has been arrested in Spain. Sarah Panitzke, aged 47 and originally from Fulford near York, was detained as she walked her dogs in Santa Barbara, Tarragona, on Sunday morning [27 February] by the Spanish Guardia Civil as part of an operation supported by HM Revenue & Customs.
Sarah Panitzke was arrested in Santa Barbara, Tarragona, on Sunday morning (Picture: SWNS)

Panitzke went to York College for Girls before moving on to fee-paying St Peter’s School, MailOnline reports.

She studied Spanish at Manchester Metropolitan University before going on to a master’s degree in Barcelona in Business Management. 

Simon York, director of the fraud investigation service at HMRC, says her capture serves as a stark warning that ‘no tax criminal is beyond reach’.

He 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.

‘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.’

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