One of UK’s most wanted tax fugitives has sentence doubled after failing to pay back stolen millions
One of the UK’s most wanted tax fugitives who was jailed for eight years has had her sentence more than doubled after failing to pay back the millions she stole.
Former private school girl Sarah Panitzke, 48, now faces 17 years in prison and will still owe £2.4 million plus interest for her part in the massive VAT fraud.
She previously spent nine years on the run abroad before she was captured and returned to the UK by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in June 2022, where she was then jailed for eight years.
During this time, Panitzke is believed to have lived a life of luxury in Spain before her arrest in February by local authorities last year.
Speaking about the court ruling on Friday, Nicol Sheppard, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said Panitzke’s actions had deprived the UK of vital public money.
They said: “Panitzke was part of a criminal gang that stole millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money and deprived our public services of vital funding.
“She failed to repay the money she stole and now faces even more time behind bars, and still owes the money.”
Panitzke played a pivotal role in a sophisticated multi-million-pound fraud and laundered extraordinary volumes of stolen money through offshore bank accounts.
The gang she was part of set up numerous businesses claiming to be legitimately importing and selling mobile phones.
But the businesses were a front for an elaborate scheme to steal more than £20 million in VAT repayments.
Despite going to great lengths to hide the criminal profits, HMRC investigators uncovered a complex web of transactions they used to launder stolen money.
These took place through bank accounts in the UK, Andorra, Dubai, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Portugal and the US.
After hiding out under an assumed identity for nine years, Panitzke was captured after the Spanish Guardia Civil identified her in a village in the region of Tarragona. She was arrested while walking her dogs in Spain.
Panitzke was sentenced to another nine years in prison at City of London Magistrates’ Court on 24 March for failing to pay the £2,455,913 confiscation order. She still owes the full amount plus interest.
The total amount outstanding, including interest, which continues to accrue at a rate of £538 a day, and has reached £3,782,779 as of February this year.