BBC OnePanorama


Page last updated at 10:44 GMT, Monday, 17 July 2006 11:44 UK

Do you want to be a millionaire: Where's Woolley?

VAT fraudster Ray Woolley
I actually lived on the Spanish Riviera ... and my name is Ray.
What an open prison means is it is open! There's a perimeter fence around the outside you can jump over anytime you like.
I didn't realise there was a fraud.
I've now got security for my family for the rest of their life, that's my way of thinking, security for my family.

In just eighteen months pipe welder Ray Woolley moved from a council house in Stoke-on-Trent to an expensive Spanish villa with a fleet of luxury cars.

He became known as 'Riviera Ray' - the kingpin of a gang that raked in 38 million pounds from the VAT man.

Convicted for his part in the fraud, he received a record sentence of nine years. It was one of Customs' biggest victories in the fight against VAT fraud. The only problem was that Ray Woolley was put in an open prison.

And when the court ordered Woolley to pay back almost 10 million to the British taxpayer, or face more time in prison, he decided he was not going to pay up.

Woolley called a taxi and walked out of the prison gate.

When we contacted Woolley he would not tell us how he got out of the UK but he did agree to meet us in Switzerland where 2 million of his profits had ended up.

When we met he told us how he'd been arrested by the Swiss authorities when he entered the country on a false passport but he was released before British Customs could get their hands on him because VAT fraud is not an extraditable offence in Switzerland.

Where's Woolley now? Where we left him in Switzerland or back in Spain?

An international arrest warrant for Riviera Ray still stands and Interpol remains on the lookout for him.

David Varney is the chairman of HM Revenue and Customs and told Panorama: "I do hope that if the viewers of your programme have any knowledge about his whereabouts we'd like to return him to Her Majesty's hospitality suite."

If you have any information you can call Customs Confidential on a free number 0800 59 5000. Or you can email


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