Charges Dropped Against Thai Heir To Red Bull In Fatal Crash

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BANGKOK – Thai prosecutors have dropped all charges against a Thai heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune accused of killing a Bangkok policeman in a car crash in 2012, officials said on Friday. Police Lieutenant Colonel Thanawuth Sanguansuk has confirmed that all charges against Vorayuth Yoovidhya have been dropped. The statute of limitations had expired several years ago, but the charge of causing death by reckless driving would not have expired for 15 years from the date of the accident.

The case gained wide attention because of the perception it showed that the rich and the well-connected enjoy impunity in the Thai justice system, which in recent years has also been criticized for alleged political biases, such as other state institutions have done so.

Thanawuth said prosecutors who handled the case informed police last month of their decision to withdraw the last remaining charge.

“Yes, they had informed us of their opinion to drop all charges. They cite the fact that the family members (of the policeman) were compensated “by Vorayuth’s family,” Thanawuth said.

Vorayuth’s family own about half of the Red Bull Empire, which was co-founded by his grandfather. Forbes magazine’s list of the richest families in Thailand places them in second place, with an estimated wealth of $ 20.2 billion.

Vorayuth, better known by his nickname “Boss”, was wanted in connection with the September 3, 2012 accident when he was allegedly hurtling down one of Bangkok’s main streets at speeds of up to 177 kilometers (110 miles) per hour. when his Ferrari struck and killed motorcycle policeman Sgt. Shift. Wichean Klunprasert.

Wichean and his mutilated motorcycle were dragged by the Ferrari for several tens of meters before his body fell on the road. Police followed a trail of brake fluid to the nearby Yoovidhya family property. The car, which they found there, had a shattered windshield and its bumper was hanging down. At first, a driver was blamed for the accident, but Vorayuth later admitted to being the driver. He surrendered and was released on bail equivalent to approximately $ 16,000 the same day.

His lawyers managed to repeatedly postpone any court appearance until April 2017, when an arrest warrant was issued against his arrest days after leaving the country. His Thai passports were subsequently revoked.

Despite legal threats, Vorayuth managed after the accident to lead a busy globetrotting life, flying in private Red Bull jets to attend Formula 1 races, snowboarding in Japan and sailing. in Venice, among other activities. His continued jet-set lifestyle sparked widespread public anger when it was revealed by an Associated Press investigation.

Porn-anant Klunprasert, brother of the deceased police officer, said in a phone call with the Associated Press that he signed a contract with the Yoovidhya family in 2012 in which the officer’s survivors agreed not to lay criminal and civil charges for death in exchange for 3 million baht ($ 94,400) in compensation.

However, he expressed dismay at the decision of prosecutors to drop the charges.

“Many of my friends called me to tell me that state prosecutors had dropped the case,” he said. “It hurts me a lot. It shows no justice for the poor. Thailand has a very big gap between rich and poor in all aspects, and this case is a clear example. ”

During a press conference on Friday, police spokesman Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen said the dropping of charges was done according to standard procedure and did not involve favoritism or double weight.

He said the police had informed the prosecutors of the evidence they had gathered and the results of their investigation, and the prosecutors had made the decision to drop the charges, which the police agreed to.

Krissana said the Thai and Interpol arrest warrants were canceled and news of the decision had already been passed on to the Yoovidhya family.

Sira Jenjaka, a lawmaker from the ruling Palang Pracharath party who heads the House of Representatives Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice and Human Rights, told reporters that representatives of the police and prosecution will be summoned to explain the decision to drop the charges.

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Associated Press reporter Busaba Sivasomboon contributed to this report

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