Hit-and-run charges dropped against fugitive Red Bull heir

Vorayuth Yoovidhya, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull, walks to get in a car as he leaves a house in London. Thai authorities who’ve issued an arrest warrant for the Red Bull heir accused of an alleged hit-and-run that killed a police officer almost five years ago, flew from Bangkok to Singapore two days before he was supposed to appear before prosecutors.
Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhya fled the law for eight years following a hit-and-run in 2012. Credit: AP

Charges have been dropped against an heir to the Red Bull fortune who was accused of being involved in a 2012 hit-and-run crash that left a police officer dead.

Vorayuth Yoovidhya, known as “Boss”, was wanted in connection with the September 2012 crash in Bangkok in which a police officer on a motorcycle patrol was struck and killed by a driver in a Ferrari.

Mr Yoovidhya avoided meeting police to face charges for eight years and became a fugitive from justice despite an Interpol arrest warrant, leading to criticism that Thai authorities were too lenient with wealthy suspects.

On Friday, Bangkok's Lt. Col. Thanawuth Sanguansuk from confirmed all charges against the Thai heir have been dropped.

The dead police officer's family say they signed a agreement not to pursue charges in exchange for money back in 2012.

Police spokesperson Porn-anant Klunprasert told The Associated Press he had signed a contract with the Yoovidhya family eight years ago in which the officer’s survivors agreed not to file criminal and civil charges over the death in exchange for three million baht ($94,400 ) compensation.

But he now says he regrets the charges have been dropped.

“Many of my friends called to tell me that the state prosecutors have dropped the case,” he said.

“It hurts me a lot. It shows no justice for the poor. Thailand has a very wide gap between the rich and the poor in every aspect, and this case is a clear example.”

The crash scene in 2012. Credit: AP

Local police deny Mr Yoovidhya's family's fortune has help him avoid justice.

A spokesperson said the charges were dropped according to standard procedure and did not involve favouritism or double standards.

Mr Vorayuth is the grandson of Red Bull founder Chaleo Yoovidhaya. The family owns about half of the Red Bull empire and is estimated to be worth $20.2 billion.

At a news conference on Friday Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen said police had made known to the prosecutors the evidence they had collected and the results of their investigation, and the prosecutors made the decision to drop the charge, which police agreed with.

Director-General of South Bangkok Prosecutor's Office Suthi Kittisupaporn. Credit: AP

Mr Vorayuth left Thailand in April 2017, days before authorities finally issued an arrest warrant. His Thai passports were later revoked.

He originally faced three charges, but as he spent so long avoiding authorities meant two of them expired.

A speeding count expired in 2013, and a hit-and-run charge expired in 2017.

The statute of limitations for the last charge, causing death by reckless driving, would have run out 15 years from the date of crash.