York woman dubbed 'Britain's most wanted' arrested in Spain over £1billion fraud

Sarah Panitzke arrested in Spain
Sarah Panitzke was arrested while walking her dogs in Spain Credit: NCA

A money launderer from York described as "Britain's most wanted woman" has been arrested in Spain over her role in a £1billion mobile phone tax scam.

Sarah Panitzke, 47, who had been on the run for nine years, was detained as she walked her dogs in Santa Barbara, Tarragona.

She is in custody pending extradition proceedings.

Panitzke, from Fulford, disappeared in May 2013 as she stood trial for money laundering.

She was part of an organised crime group responsible for laundering around £1billion from a mobile phone VAT fraud.

Sarah Panitzke's arrest Credit: NCA

Panitzke was convicted and sentenced in her absence to eight years in prison, as she and her co-conspirators were given jail terms totalling 135 years.

Tom Dowdall, international deputy director of the National Crime Agency, said: "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."

Simon York, director of the HMRC's fraud investigation service, added: "Sarah Panitzke was one of Britain’s most wanted tax fugitives.

"She played a pivotal role in a multi-million 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."