The family of the billionaire creator of the Red Bull energy drink has paid a “funeral fee” of £60,000 to relatives of a police officer allegedly killed in a hit-and-run accident involving the tycoon's heir.
While the payment will shield 27-year-old Vorayuth Yoovidhya from a potentially huge civil action, it will likely add to public angst over the incident. Mr Yoovidhya has been charged by the authorities after an incident earlier this month when his Ferrari sports car struck and officer and dragged his body down a Bangkok street for 100 metres. The young man is accused of failing to stop, and other officers followed an oil trail that led to his father's house.
The heir to the Red Bull fortune has already been charged with causing death by reckless driving and fleeing the scene of a crime to avoid arrest. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in jail. But the 3 million baht payment made last week to the siblings of the dead officer will apparently protect Mr Yoovidhya from civil action.
"We sometimes call this a funeral fee. If the victim's party is satisfied with the amount of money, then they will not seek compensation through a court," a senior police officer, Lt Col Viradon Thubthimdee, told the Associated Press.
Mr Yoovidhya is the grandson of Chaleo Yoovidhya who in 1987 helped create Red Bull, with Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz. Mr Mateschitz took the Thai entrepreneur's existing energy drink, already sold in Thailand, tweaked it for Western tastes and turned it into the world's biggest energy drink brand. The creator died earlier this year at the age of 88.
His family was ranked the fourth richest in Thailand this year by Forbes magazine and said to have a net worth of estimated £3.6 billion. It owns a range of businesses, including shares in the energydrink brand, hospitals, real estate and is the sole authorised importer of Ferrari cars in Thailand. The car driven by Mr Yoovidhya and involved in the accident was valued at about 30m baht, ten times the sum paid in compensation to the family of the dead police officer.
The incident has created considerable anger in Thailand, where the rich and powerful are often seen to escape justice. The police initially arrested another suspect in what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to shield Mr Yoovidhya and his family.
Investigators are waiting for the results of forensic tests that have been conducted before deciding to charge the young man with further offences related to the incident. No date has yet been set for a trial.