After nearly a decade on the run, 47-year old Sarah Panitzke was finally arrested by Spanish authorities. She is known as "Britain's Most Wanted Woman" due to her involvement in a massive mobile phone tax scam.
She was walking her dog on Sunday morning when the police arrested her, as seen in the video below.
Sarah Panitzke became one of Britain's most wanted fugitives in May 2013. She failed to show up to her trial at Kingston Crown Court for money laundering offenses. She was accused of being involved in laundering over £1 billion.
She was sentenced in her absence to eight years in jail. A sentence she successfully managed to avoid for many years.
Panitzke is originally from Fulford near York. Over ten years ago, a gang of notorious tax criminals recruited her. The network consisted of 18 scammers led by convicted criminal Geoffrey Johnson.
The scammers bought cheap mobile phones overseas without paying VAT Value Added Tax. They then sold the phones on the UK market and made significant profits.
Panitzke's function in the network was to launder the cash. She traveled to Spain, Dubai, and Andorra to "clean" the money generated from the phone sales.
She was considered one of the critical members of the criminal network and has therefore been on the National Crime Agency's Most Wanted List for a long time.
In 2017, the leader Geoffrey Johnson got arrested in Dubai. He was the last of the 18 scammers to be hunted down, the exception being Sarah Panitzke. She was then the only one left on the run.
Back in 2015, the police almost managed to catch her. The Spanish Guardia Civil had tracked her to a town near Barcelona, but Panitzke became aware of the operation and disguised herself to leave the town unnoticed.
At the time of her trial in the UK, she was said to have been living in Vilanova I la Geltru, a coastal town in the province of Barcelona. She did "front jobs" as a hotel worker and property investor, living with a long-term partner and two dogs.
Spanish authorities finally traced her to the small town of Santa Barbara and kept her under surveillance until her arrest last month. The operation was supported by HM Revenue & Customs, UK's tax payments, and customs authority.
Tom Dowdall, international deputy director of the NCA, said:
"Sarah Panitzke has been on the run for almost nine years. Given the length of time, she might have thought we had stopped searching, but she remained on our radar."
He then added:
"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."