Sarah Banitzky, 47, the UK’s most wanted man, was arrested in the Spanish village of Santa Barbara while walking her dogs. Banitzky is suspected of cell phone tax fraud, which is said to have fetched more than 1.2 billion euros for the gang of which she was a member.
Sarah Panitzky has been a fugitive from the police since 2013. Nine years later, she can now be arrested. It happened on Sunday in the Catalan town of Santa Barbara in the province of Tarragona by the Spanish Civil Guard.
The 47-year-old woman is suspected of being a member of a criminal gang who bought mobile phones overseas for resale in the UK without paying VAT. Police said this tax fraud resulted in more than 1 billion pounds (1.2 billion euros) for the 16-member gang.
According to British investigators, Panitzky was responsible for laundering all that money through various companies of the gang in Spain, Andorra and Dubai. At one time, this organization sold more mobile phones in the UK than all legal stores combined. Of the sixteen gang members, only Banitzky was still at large.
The woman disappeared in May 2013 and was sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison in August of that year. Banitzky fled to Spain, the country with which she has family ties. I changed the address several times.
In 2015 police discovered that Banitzky was hiding in Olivella, near Barcelona. Her husband brought only her essential products under tight security on the weekends. She hardly came out on her own so as not to doubt herself. Her arrest failed, as the police caught her and she was able to completely change her appearance and escape. Since then, it has been a priority target for investigators.
She cut off all contact with her family in Spain to stay under the radar. Last month, police finally found her hideout in Santa Barbara, which has a population of just over 4,000. On Sunday, the Civil Guard arrested her in a large-scale operation.
Procedures for the suspect’s extradition to the UK have begun.
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