UK’s ‘Most Wanted’ woman loses extradition battle to stay in Spain

AFTER a decade on the run Sarah Panitzke will be flown home to Britain to face justice after losing a bid to serve her sentence in Spain.

The 48-year-old fraudster who was the only woman on the National Crime Agency’s Most Wanted List was arrested in the Catalan town of Santa Barbara in the province of Tarragona in February where she had been living incognito for years.

Panitzke was sentenced in her absence to eight years in jail in August 2013 for laundering £1 billion in a massive mobile phone VAT fraud after vanishing during her trial at Kingston Crown Court.

Since February when she was arrested while walking her dog, she has been behind bars in a prison outside Madrid.

She was fighting extradition with the request to serve her sentence in Spain given her strong links to her ‘adopted homeland’ where she had been living since the mid-nineties.

Her lawyers also argued that her husband has health problems and would struggle to visit her regularly at a UK prison but the appeal was rejected.

Details of her arrest and what she told Guardia Civil officers from the team that tracked her down have now emerged.

The head of the Fugitive Task Force, said that in the car following her arresy Panitzke had confided that she had been ‘hurt’ to see her photo included on the fugitive list ‘alongside all the men linked to violent and despicable crimes on the NCA’s Wanted List’.

Sarah
Arrest and mugshot publised on most wanted list by NCA:

She also claimed that she had thought about handing herself in to police ‘but never found the right time’.

As well as protesting her innocence and insisting she was not responsible for the massive tax fraud which she blamed on the group’s ringleader, notorious fraudster  Geoffrey Johnson, and she told police her life on the run had been like a jail sentence.

“She felt she had already done her time because she had been living in almost total isolation for several years cut off from family and friends,” the officer said.

She reportedly told officers: “I used to have a great life and now the life I lead is pitiful.”

Panitzke had been living a very quiet life in Santa Barbara, a small town south of Barcelona, careful not to arouse the curiosity of neighbours. She had been posing as an Italian and living under the pseudonym Antonietta Argiulo in a modest three-bed maisonette on the outskirts of town.

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