Thailand drops charges against Red Bull heir in fatal hit-and-run case

BANGKOK • Thailand has dropped criminal charges against the heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune, who was accused in a 2012 hit-and-run killing of a police officer in a case that raised questions about crime and punishment for the well-connected.

Warrants, including an Interpol red notice, for the arrest of Mr Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, whose whereabouts are not known, will be withdrawn, police said.

Mr Vorayuth, grandson of the late Chaleo Yoovidhya, creator of the Krating Daeng, or Red Bull, energy drink, had faced charges of speeding, hit-and-run and reckless driving causing death, which had a statue of limitations until 2027.

"This case is over," deputy police spokesman Kissana Phathanacha-roen said at a news briefing.

"In June, we received a final order from the attorney-general to not prosecute Vorayuth on charges of reckless driving and causing death," he said yesterday.

Mr Vorayuth was accused of crashing his black Ferrari into policeman Wichien Klanprasert, who was on a motorcycle in Bangkok, and dragging his body for dozens of metres before fleeing the scene.

He missed eight summonses to appear in court in connection with the case before the authorities issued a warrant for his arrest, five years after the accident.

He later fled to Singapore on his private jet in 2017, days before an arrest warrant was issued over the incident.

Mr Vorayuth's grandfather, Chaleo, was listed as the third richest person in Thailand at the time of his death in 2012, at the age of 88, with an estimated net worth of US$5 billion (S$6.9 billion), according to Forbes magazine.

Many Thais saw Mr Vorayuth's treatment as lenient because of his family's wealth, stirring debate over how the rich are treated.

But Mr Kissana dismissed any such suggestion yesterday.

"This is not a (case of) double standards," he said, adding that the case could be reopened if there was new evidence.

"We are saddened by the loss of a fellow police officer," he said.

It is not immediately clear where Mr Vorayuth is now.

However, in the years since the incident, he has been photographed living a glamorous life in London, among other places, as well as being spotted partying in Bangkok.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2020, with the headline Thailand drops charges against Red Bull heir in fatal hit-and-run case. Subscribe