By Lobsang DS Subirana
Bangkok, Jul 24 (EFE).- Thailand’s police Friday dropped charges against the heir to the multi-billion dollar Red Bull energy drink franchise after he was accused of killing an officer in a hit-and-run incident last decade.
Col. Kritsana Pattanacharoen, deputy spokesman of the Royal Thai Police, said charges against Vorayuth Yoovidhya would be dropped after receiving an order from the Attorney General in June stating prosecutors decided not to proceed based on evidence from 2012.
“The case is over, and we must proceed with some protocols to complete [it],” Kritsana said. “We regret the loss of every police officer. If we could go back in time, we would [conclude the case] better than this.”
Vorayuth, grandson of Red Bull co-founder Chaleo Yoovidhya, was accused of running over Sgt. Maj. Wichian Klanprasert and his motorbike, dragging his body for several meters with his Ferrari in 2012 following a night out in Bangkok’s upscale neighborhood of Thonglor.
Investigators followed the trail of blood and brake fluid from the scene through the streets of Thailand’s capital before they disappeared into the gates of the Yoovidhya family estate. A search of the premises found a black Ferrari with a damaged front and airbags deployed. Vorayuth was subsequently charged with reckless driving leading to death, drink driving and speeding among others, but was released on a 500,000-baht (about $16,000) bond.
The matter became synonymous with the impunity the wealthy enjoy in Thailand after he was found living a jet-set life, entering and exiting the country at will and attending public events such as Formula One races more than four years after the incident, with the case at a standstill. Vorayuth had not attended any of the eight legal summonses since the incident, citing through his lawyer that he was either ill or away on business.
Public outcry followed an investigation by the Associated Press that revealed the extent of his lavish lifestyle, prompting police to act by issuing an arrest warrant in 2017.
But the Red Bull heir was allowed to leave Thailand three days prior to this, with immigration officers powerless to stop the scion without a prosecutor’s request. He traveled to Singapore and Taiwan before his Thai passports were revoked, with his whereabouts unknown since. Interpol issued a Red Notice – the highest level – for Vorayuth’s arrest, but he has not been found to date.
All of the charges against him had expired under the statute of limitations, except for that for death from reckless driving, which was due to expire in 2027.
His grandfather Chaleo – who in the ‘70s partnered with Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz to found Red Bull – died the same year of the incident and was the third-richest man in Thailand at the time, with an estimated wealth of about $5 billion. His son Chalerm is currently listed second, with an estimated net worth of $20 billion. The Yoovidhya family has not commented on Vorayuth’s acquittal. EFE