Thai police chief faces charges for allegedly helping heir to Red Bull fortune avoid justice

Vorayuth was believed to be at the wheel of a Ferrari that struck the back of a policeman’s motorcycle in Bangkok

Jintamas Saksornchai
Tuesday 27 February 2024 12:15 GMT
Thailand Red Bull Heir
Thailand Red Bull Heir (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Prosecutors in Thailand will indict a former national police chief on charges of impeding legal action against an heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune who was accused of killing a Bangkok police officer in a 2012 hit-and-run.

Several government officials and police officers have been accused of a conspiracy to help Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya escape justice by fleeing abroad in a case widely held up as an example of how the rich and well-connected enjoy impunity in Thailand.

Vorayuth is the grandson of Chaleo Yoovidhya, one of the creators of the globally famous Red Bull brand. Forbes magazine puts the family’s net worth at $20 billion.

Somyot Poompanmoung, the police chief in 2014-15, and other suspects were charged with abuse of power in order to aid an individual to avoid prosecution. Somyot was accused by the National Anti-Corruption Commission last year of involvement in tampering with evidence by altering the record of the speed of the car that Vorayuth was allegedly driving at the time of the accident.

The Office of the Attorney General said it also will indict seven other people including police officers, a lawyer, an engineering specialist and a former deputy attorney general in relation to the case.

Vorayuth was believed to be at the wheel of a Ferrari that struck the back of a traffic policeman’s motorcycle on a main Bangkok road. The officer, Wichean Klunprasert, was flung from his motorbike and died at the scene. The car sped off but police followed a trail of oil and brake fluid to the Yoovidhya family’s luxury compound on a nearby side road.

Wichean's family have told Thai media that they received compensation of 3 million baht ($83,000) from the Yoovidhya family in exchange for them not pursuing further legal action.

Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

For years Vorayuth avoided court by not turning up to meet prosecutors. A warrant against him was finally issued in 2017, a few days after he had left Thailand. His Thai passport was later revoked. Meanwhile, almost all charges against him have expired due to the statute of limitations. The last remaining charge — causing death by reckless driving — will expire in 2027.

Despite the legal threats hanging over him, including a Red Notice issued by Interpol, Vorayuth has managed to lead a busy globetrotting life, flying in private Red Bull jets to attend Formula One races, snowboarding in Japan and cruising in Venice, among other activities.

His current whereabouts remain unknown.

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