A woman who has laundered £1billion is the UK’s most wanted woman and she has spent the last eight years on the run from authorities.
Sarah Panitzke, 47, originally from Barcelona but brought up in Yorkshire, is the only woman on the National Crime Agency’s most wanted list and she has been there for six years.
She was part of an 18-strong gang that made vast amounts of money through high-value frauds.
The group bought mobile phones from abroad without paying VAT and then sold them in the UK for massive profits.
Their astonishing reach saw them sell more mobile phones in the UK than all legitimate shops put together, lawyer Abbas Lakha told Vice.
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Mr Lakha who represented a defendant during the trial said: "At one stage there were more mobile phones being purchased and exported by a single crime syndicate in the space of a month than actually bought or sold in the country as a whole."
The NCA believes that she is hiding in Spain and she is described as 170cm tall, slim, with blonde hair and blue eyes while she speaks with a Yorkshire accent.
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A man who knew her decades ago in Yorkshire, James Brooks, told Vice that she always had a competitive edge.
"In netball and hockey, she was an attacker. A good team player, but competitive – she wanted to win," he said.
"We were adrenaline junkies. We’d go high diving off rock areas along the coast. She’d be encouraging me to do dives and I’d say, 'I don’t think it’s the right move,' but she had no fear at all."
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The National Crime Agency said: "She controlled the company accounts of many companies remotely via different IP addresses. Panitzke travelled extensively to further the fraud to places including Dubai, Spain, and Andorra. She was responsible for laundering approximately £1billion."
After an investigation by the tax authorities, she was ordered in 2013 to pay more than £2.4million for her role in the conspiracy or face jail.
But she went on the run before her trial began in May 2013, and was sentenced to eight years in her absence. In total, the gang was given 135 years in prison and ordered to repay £111million made from VAT fraud.
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