One of “Britain’s most-wanted tax fugitives” has appeared in court for her role in a multimillion-pound VAT fraud after she was extradited following nine years on the run.
Sarah Panitzke, 48, originally from York, finally faced justice when she appeared at Kingston Crown Court in south-west London on Friday.
Panitzke absconded in May 2013 while standing trial for money laundering offences and subsequently featured in National Crime Agency (NCA) most-wanted appeals.
She was convicted and sentenced in her absence to eight years in prison.
Panitzke and her 16 co-conspirators were given sentences totalling 135 years for a multimillion-pound VAT fraud, HM Revenue and Customs said after he arrest.
Police officers arrested Panitzke while she walked her two dogs in the small town of Santa Barbara near the Catalan coast on February 27.
The operation was led by the Spanish Guardia Civil, working alongside HMRC.
On Friday, Judge Sarah Plaschkes QC said: “Stand up please, as you have heard you were sentenced in your absence by his honour Judge Campbell at this court on the 22nd August 2013 to eight years imprisonment, that sentence will start today now that you have been extradited to this country.
“That means that you will serve at least half of that sentence in custody before you may be released on licence.
“When you are released on licence, if you commit any further offence you may serve the rest of your sentence in custody. In the circumstances, there are no further orders that I need to make and nothing further that I need to say.”
Following her arrest in February, 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.
“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.
“We have helped secure the return of more than 60 fugitives since 2016, including some of the UK’s most-harmful tax cheats.”