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Thai Authorities Drop Charges Against Red Bull Billionaire In 2012 Hit-And-Run Death

Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull, walks to get in a car as he leaves a house in London, in April 2017. Charges have been dropped against the Thai heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune who is accused in a 2012 car crash that killed a Bangkok police officer.
Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull, walks to get in a car as he leaves a house in London, in April 2017. Charges have been dropped against the Thai heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune who is accused in a 2012 car crash that killed a Bangkok police officer.

The heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune no longer faces criminal charges stemming from a hit-and-run nearly eight years ago that killed a Bangkok police officer.

Police Lt. Col. Thanawuth Sanguansuk announced Friday that all charges against Vorayuth Yoovidhya had been dropped, citing a cash payment to the family of the victim in exchange for not pressing charges.

In 2012, Vorayuth, the billionaire grandson of the creator of Red Bull, allegedly hit and killed a Thai policeman while driving his Ferrari in Bangkok, reportedly dragging 47-year-old Sgt. Maj. Wichean Glanprasert, and the officer's motorcycle, for more than 300 feet.

Police followed a trail of oil leaking from the car's engine to the family's gated estate, where they found the badly damaged grey Ferrari.

Vorayuth, 27 at the time of the crash, goes by the nickname "Boss." He initially claimed that his chauffeur was the driver, but later admitted to driving the car himself. He also tested with a high blood-alcohol level.

He was charged with hit-and-run, causing death by reckless driving and speeding. Vorayuth was briefly taken into custody and then released on bail.

For the last several years, Vorayuth dodged court appearances as he indulged his lavish lifestyle both inside the country and on frequent travel abroad on a Red Bull private jet.

Finally, in 2017, authorities issued an arrest warrant and revoked his Thai passport, but by then Vorayuth had been out of the country for months. His current whereabouts are unclear.

The authorities' bungling efforts to bring Vorayuth to justice for his alleged crimes came for many to symbolize the double-standard of Thai jurisprudence and the untouchability of the wealthy and privileged classes.

Ultimately, the statute of limitations on the speeding and hit-and-run charges ran out.

Police spokesman Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen talks to reporters during a news conference at police headquarter in Bangkok on Friday.
Sakchai Lalit / AP
Police spokesman Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen talks to reporters during a news conference at police headquarter in Bangkok on Friday.

At a news conference on Friday, police spokesman Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen insisted that dropping the charge of death by reckless driving was above board because of an agreement made in 2012 between the Yoovidhya family and the family of the victim.

The Associated Press reached Porn-anant Klunprasert, the brother of the officer killed in the hit-and-run, who acknowledged signing a contract for 3 million baht ($94,400) not to press charges. Such "blood money" arrangements are not uncommon in Thailand.

Even so, Porn-anant said he regretted the decision to drop charges.

"It shows no justice for the poor," he told the news agency. "Thailand has a very wide gap between the rich and the poor in every aspect, and this case is a clear example."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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