New arrest warrant issued for Red Bull heir after review

BANGKOK • A Thai court yesterday issued a new arrest warrant for the heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune over his alleged involvement in a fatal hit-and-run accident in 2012, police said.

Vorayuth Yoovidhya was accused of crashing his Ferrari into a policeman, officer Wichien Klanprasert, and dragging his body for dozens of metres before fleeing.

The authorities last month unexpectedly dropped the case, sparking public criticism that prompted a government review. The criminal court in Bangkok yesterday approved a new arrest warrant for Vorayuth on a previous charge of reckless driving causing death and a new charge of drug use, assistant national police chief Jaruwat Waisaya told Reuters.

Vorayuth missed eight court summonses before the authorities issued an arrest warrant five years after the incident. He later disappeared, apparently abroad, according to social media posts. Vorayuth's lawyer, Mr Samack Chouvaparnante, told Reuters he had no knowledge of the new warrant and had not been in touch with his client.

TCP Group, which owns the Thai Red Bull brand, has previously said it has no direct links with Vorayuth.

His late grandfather, Mr Chaleo Yoovidhya, created the energy drink and his father has part ownership of the Red Bull brand.

A panel this month revisited evidence previously not included in police reports suggesting Vorayuth's car was travelling faster than previously thought, and reviewed a blood test taken after the accident that pointed to traces of cocaine in his system.

"We will submit a new report within two weeks so the public prosecutor can issue a prosecution order," Lieutenant-General Jaruwat said.

For Thais laid low by the coronavirus pandemic and facing dim job prospects, Vorayuth's case has become a stunning symbol of inequality. Public fury forced the police and the office of the Attorney-General to set up panels to examine their own conduct.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2020, with the headline 'New arrest warrant issued for Red Bull heir after review'. Print Edition | Subscribe