She was on the run from police for nine years before the law finally caught up with her last year.
And now Sarah Panitzke, from York, has had her prison sentence doubled after she failed to return the money she stole.
Dubbed ‘Britain’s most wanted’ for her part in a £1 billion tax fraud, Panitzke, originally from Fulford, fled to Spain during her trial in 2013.
She was eventually arrested while walking her dogs in Catalonia in March 2022.
The fugitive, 48, was returned to the UK by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in June and jailed for eight years a month later.
Today (Friday), she was sentenced to another nine years in prison for failing to repay a £2.4 million confiscation order.
She now faces 17 years in prison and will still owe the money plus interest.
Nicol Sheppard, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“Our work doesn’t stop at conviction – we always look to recover the proceeds of crime.
“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.
“We encourage anyone who has information about a tax crime to report it to HMRC online. Search ‘Report Fraud HMRC’ on GOV.UK and complete our online form.”
Sarah 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 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 through bank accounts in the UK, Andorra, Dubai, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Portugal and the US.
Sarah Panitzke fled to Spain during her trial in 2013 and was convicted and sentenced in her absence to eight years in prison. She and her 17 co-conspirators were given sentences totalling 135 years for the multi-million-pound VAT fraud.
In 2016 and whilst still on the run, a court also ordered that she repay more than £2.4 million within three months or serve an extra nine years in jail.
HMRC believe that she had been hiding in Andorra and Spain for the last nine years and living under an assumed identity. She was captured after the Spanish Guardia Civil identified her in a village in the region of Tarragona.
In February 2022, the 48-year-old was arrested while walking her dogs in Spain in an operation led by the Spanish Guardia Civil, working alongside HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Sarah Panitzke was returned to the UK by HMRC. On 10 June 2022, she appeared at Kingston Crown Court and was jailed for eight years.
She was sentenced to another nine years in prison at City of London Magistrates’ Court today 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 at February 2023.