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Mobile phone VAT fraudster has prison sentence doubled to more than 16 years

Staff Reporter
March 24, 2023

Sarah Panitzke to spend more years in prison for failing to repay £2.45 million VAT revenue stolen in massive mobile phone carousel fraud.

A major mobile phone VAT fraudster has had her prison sentence doubled to more than 16 years for not repaying the money stolen. 

Sarah Panitzke (main picture above) was charged in 2010 with conspiracy to acquire criminal property for her role in a multi-million-pound VAT fraud. She was convicted and sentenced in her absence to eight years in August 2013 after absconding to Spain during her trial.

She was a lynchpin in a sophisticated multi-million-pound carousel fraud and laundered huge amounts of stolen VAT through offshore bank accounts.

HMRC said Panitzke (48) had been hiding in Andorra and Spain for the last nine years under an assumed identity.  She was re-captured in a joint HMRC Spanish Guardia Civil operation after she was identified in a village in the region of Tarragona and arrested while she walking her dogs i

The gang set up numerous businesses claiming to be legitimately importing and selling mobile phones. But the businesses were a front for a carousel fraud scheme to keep more than £20 million in VAT repayments. HMRC investigators uncovered a complex web of transactions used to launder stolen VAT money through bank accounts in the UK, Andorra, Dubai, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Portugal and the USA.

She and her 17 co-conspirators were given sentences totalling 135 years for the multi-million-pound VAT fraud.

At the City of London Magistrate’s Court today (Friday, March 23) she was sentenced to another nine years in prison after failing to repay a £2.45 million confiscation order made seven years. At that time she was given three months to pay the full amount or face an additional nine years in prison.

No money was ever been paid towards the confiscation order. The total amount due is now £3.78 million including interest which accrues £538 each day.

HMRC Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service Nicol Sheppard 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.”

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