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Britain’s most wanted woman is finally jailed

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Considered one of ‘Britain’s most-wanted tax fugitives’ has appeared in court docket for her function in a multimillion-pound VAT fraud after she was extradited following 9 years on the run.

Sarah Panitzke, 48, initially from York, lastly confronted justice when she appeared at Kingston Crown Court docket in south-west London.

Panitzke absconded in Might 2013 whereas standing trial for cash laundering offences and subsequently featured in Nationwide Crime Company (NCA) most-wanted appeals.

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

Panitzke and her 16 co-conspirators got sentences totalling 135 years for a multimillion-pound VAT fraud, HM Income and Customs mentioned after he arrest.

Cops arrested Panitzke whereas she walked her two canines within the small city of Santa Barbara close to the Catalan coast on February 27.

Sarah Panitzkke, pictured, was in the present day sentenced to eight years in jail following her failure to return to cork 

Panitzke was extradited to the UK following her arrest in Spain in February. She today learned she will have to spend at least four years in prison before being released on licence. She was warned this licence over

Panitzke was extradited to the UK following her arrest in Spain in February. She in the present day discovered she must spend a minimum of 4 years in jail earlier than being launched on licence. She was warned this licence over

The operation was led by the Spanish Guardia Civil, working alongside HMRC.

Right now, Choose Sarah Plaschkes QC mentioned: ‘Arise please, as you may have heard you have been sentenced in your absence by his honour Choose Campbell at this court docket on the 22nd August 2013 to eight years imprisonment, that sentence will begin in the present day now that you’ve been extradited to this nation.

‘That implies that you’ll serve a minimum of half of that sentence in custody earlier than chances are you’ll be launched on licence.

‘When you’re launched on licence, if you happen to commit any additional offence chances are you’ll serve the remainder of your sentence in custody.

‘Within the circumstances, there aren’t any additional orders that I must make and nothing additional that I must say.’

Following her arrest in February, Simon York, director of the Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, mentioned ‘Sarah Panitzke was one among Britain’s most-wanted tax fugitives.

‘She performed a pivotal function in a multimillion-pound VAT fraud and moved hundreds of thousands via offshore financial institution accounts.

‘Panitzke thought she had put herself outdoors of the attain of HMRC, however via our work with UK legislation enforcement and worldwide companions we now have tracked down one other tax fugitive. No tax legal is past our attain.

‘Now we have helped safe the return of greater than 60 fugitives since 2016, together with a few of the UK’s most-harmful tax cheats.’

The con artist is believed to have led a lifetime of luxurious in a gated neighborhood within the hills of Vilanova i la Geltrú, an hour from the centre of Barcelona, earlier than justice lastly caught up together with her.

The fraudster advised Spanish judges she needed to be sentenced in Spain due to her hyperlinks to the nation.

She additionally claimed her husband, who lives in Spain, has simply 10 years to dwell and wouldn’t be capable to go to her in Britain if she was extradited.

She was recognized as a part of an organised crime group answerable for laundering roughly £1 billion from a cell phone VAT fraud.

In the course of the rip-off, she was a part of a gaggle of corporations that purchased low-cost cellphones overseas with out VAT earlier than promoting them into Britain for a giant earnings.

Panitzke and her 17 co-conspirators got jail phrases totalling 135 years.

The others had all been caught, convicted and sentenced, however she remained at giant for nearly a decade having absconded earlier than the trial had concluded.

The NCA’s Worldwide Deputy Director Tom Dowdall mentioned after her arrest: ‘Sarah Panitzke has been on the run for nearly 9 years.

‘Given the size of time she may need thought we had stopped looking out, however she remained on our radar.

‘Joint working between UK legislation enforcement and our companions in Spain led to her being apprehended, and we are going to now search her extradition again to the UK to serve her jail sentence.

‘This could function a warning to others on our most needed record – we is not going to relaxation till you might be captured, irrespective of how lengthy it takes.’

Panitzke is claimed to have grown up in a rich household within the village of Escrick, close to Selby, North Yorks.

She went to York Faculty for Women earlier than transferring on to fee-paying St Peter’s Faculty which is the third oldest on the earth.

Her father Leo, a residential property developer and insurance coverage dealer, was jailed for 4 years for getting council homes and promoting them on early for a big revenue.

Simon York, director of HMRC’s fraud investigation service, mentioned after her arrest: ‘Sarah Panitzke was one among Britain’s most needed tax fugitives.

‘She performed a pivotal function in a multi-million pound VAT fraud and moved hundreds of thousands via offshore financial institution accounts.

‘Panitzke thought she had put herself outdoors of the attain of HMRC, however via our work with UK legislation enforcement and worldwide companions we now have tracked down one other tax fugitive. No tax legal is past our attain.

‘Now we have helped safe the return greater than 60 fugitives since 2016, together with a few of the UK’s most dangerous tax cheats.’

Lord Ashcroft, founder and chairman of the unbiased charity Crimestoppers, mentioned after her arrest: ‘It is massively encouraging information to listen to of Sarah Panitske’s arrest in Spain after being on our Most Needed record for some years.

‘It reveals how our charity, working with the NCA to search out probably the most needed fugitives, advantages us all. Our communities, right here within the UK and overseas, are safer in consequence.’

Nonetheless Sarah Panitzke, 48, is not going to face any costs for absconding as she wasn’t extradited for skipping bail.

Sentencing her, the decide mentioned her palms have been tied and she or he could not enhance Panitzke’s sentence for her being on the run.

She was convicted of conspiracy to amass legal property in 2013 and fled to Spain earlier than her trial ended.

She is believed to have lived a lifetime of luxurious within the Mediterranean nation for 9 years earlier than her arrest in February – however she is not going to be charged for any Bail Act offences.

She was jailed for eight years in her absence in 2013 and she or he started serving that sentence after it was re-imposed in the present day.

Showing within the dock of Kingston Crown Court docket, she solely spoke to answer ‘sure’ when requested her identify in the course of the listening to, which lasted round 10 minutes.

The gang funnelled cash via financial institution accounts within the UK, Andorra, Dubai, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Portugal and the US, HMRC mentioned.

She and her 17 co-conspirators got sentences totalling 135 years for the multi-million-pound VAT fraud.

Prosecutor Stephen Apted mentioned: ‘In the course of the course of that trial on 22 Might 2013 the defendant was allowed in a foreign country and had an obligation to return to this nation on 28 Might.

‘She failed to take action and on that date a warrant was issued.

‘The defendant was not extradited in relation to an offence underneath the Bail Act and our place is that that cost can’t be put to you.’

He added that she has didn’t pay £2,455,913.57 which she owes the court docket and she or he may very well be jailed one other 9 years for non-repayment.

She is anticipated to face proceedings starting within the magistrates court docket sooner or later however the allegation was not put to her throughout in the present day’s listening to.

Her lawyer Anna Leathem spoke solely to say: ‘There’s not rather more I can help with.’

Choose Sarah Plaschkes QC mentioned a Court docket of Attraction ruling from 2009 meant her palms have been tied and the fugitive couldn’t be charged for Bail Act offences.

She advised her: ‘As you may have heard you have been sentenced in your absence on 22 August 2013 to eight years in jail.

‘That sentence will begin in the present day.

‘Within the circumstances there aren’t any additional orders that I must make.’

In 2016 and while nonetheless on the run, a court docket additionally ordered that she repay greater than £2.four million inside three months or serve an additional 9 years in jail.

HMRC imagine that she had been hiding in Andorra and Spain for the final 9 years and dwelling underneath an assumed id.

She was captured after the Spanish Guardia Civil recognized her in a village within the area of Tarragona.

Simon York, Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, mentioned after the listening to: ‘Sarah Panitzke helped launder hundreds of thousands of kilos of stolen cash and thought she might run from her crimes.

‘She spent 9 years hiding – however we by no means stopped trying.

‘We labored tirelessly alongside the Spanish authorities to trace her down and guarantee she was introduced again to face justice.

‘That is testomony to the dedication of our officers who work exhausting day by day to make sure probably the most critical frauds do not go unpunished, and we proceed to relentlessly pursue the small minority who suppose it is acceptable to steal taxpayers’ cash.

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