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Thai police open internal probe into dropped charges against Red Bull heir who killed cop

Thai police opened an internal investigation on Monday after charges were dropped against the billionaire Red Bull heir in a fatal hit-and-run case as outrage boiled over a perceived culture of impunity for the rich.

Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya, the grandson of the co-founder of energy drink giant Red Bull, was accused of killing a police officer when he crashed his Ferrari in Bangkok in 2012.

One of the heirs to the family’s multi-billion-dollar fortune, Vorayuth’s case received renewed public scrutiny after news on Friday that all charges against him had been dropped in June.

The public has latched onto ‘Boss’ as an example of the kingdom’s ultra-rich apparently enjoying different standards, and took to social media to vent their anger.

Following a weekend of vitriol on Twitter which led to trending hashtags like #BoycottRedBull and #BossRedBull, the police spokesman announced a change of heart.

‘Police General Jakthip Chaijinda has set up an investigation team,’ said spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen.

In April 2017, the international playboy was seen leaving a £6.5million home in Knightsbridge, West London, with his parents, before climbing into a vehicle with blacked-out windows. Thailand has now dropped criminal charges against him and his Interpol red notice will be withdrawn 

The Ferrari that was allegedly involved in a hit-and-run accident during their investigation at Thong Lor police station in Bangkok pictured on September 3, 2012

The Ferrari that was allegedly involved in a hit-and-run accident during their investigation at Thong Lor police station in Bangkok pictured on September 3, 2012 

The 15-day probe will ‘find the facts and show transparency and justice to everyone to see whether the case followed police procedures,’ he added.

Police initially defended the decision, saying the attorney-general’s office had sent them a letter in June informing them they were dropping the charges.

One of the charges of reckless driving causing death had several more years before the statute of limitations was set to expire in 2027.

But by Sunday afternoon, under pressure, the attorney-general’s office announced it would set up a committee to investigate its own decision.

Red Bull’s maker TCP Group distanced itself from Vorayuth in a rare public statement on Sunday, saying he has never assumed any role in the company’s daily operations.

Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat also announced that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha was ‘uneasy’ about the decision to drop the charges, and has ordered all agencies involved to reinvestigate.

She added that the premier ‘confirms he has never helped nor interfered in the justice process’.

Yoovidhya avoided the charges against him by claiming to be ill or working overseas whenever a hearing was scheduled. In what appears to be a nightclub, Vorayuth (second from right) was seen with friends in 2014

Yoovidhya avoided the charges against him by claiming to be ill or working overseas whenever a hearing was scheduled. In what appears to be a nightclub, Vorayuth (second from right) was seen with friends in 2014

Yoovidhya is alleged to have driven his Ferarri into the back of a motorcycle killing a police officer. Pictured: The scene of the crash, with the damaged Ferarri and motorcycle in 2012

Yoovidhya is alleged to have driven his Ferarri into the back of a motorcycle killing a police officer. Pictured: The scene of the crash, with the damaged Ferarri and motorcycle in 2012

The investigation comes as Thailand is undergoing a burgeoning pro-democracy movement, with young Thais taking to the streets daily to protest against a government they see stacked with former military generals and royalist establishment.

Prominent senator Wanchai Sornsiri – who is seen as a pro-military establishment stalwart – took to Facebook to comment on Thais’ growing anger over issues big and small.

He said Vorayuth’s case would ‘explode at the same time that student protests are escalating’ around the kingdom. ‘It is the last straw and the fire has been lit,’ he wrote.

Thailand’s decision to drop criminal charges against Yoovidhya sparked huge backlash in the country. 

Police spokesman Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen talks to reporters during a press conference at police headquarter in Bangkok, July 24, 2020, when it was announced that charges against the Red Bull heir were dropped

Police spokesman Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen talks to reporters during a press conference at police headquarter in Bangkok, July 24, 2020, when it was announced that charges against the Red Bull heir were dropped

Warrants for the arrest, including an Interpol red notice, of Yoovidhya, whose whereabouts are not known, were withdrawn, police said last week.

Porn-anant Klunprasert, brother of the dead police officer, expressed dismay over the decision of prosecutors to drop the charges.

‘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.’  

Vorayuth’s current whereabouts remains unknown after he fled Thailand at the end of April 2017. He was last pictured leaving a £6.5million home in Knightsbridge, West London the same month.

‘This case is over,’ deputy police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen told a news briefing.

‘In June, we received a final order from the attorney general to not prosecute Vorayuth on charges of reckless driving and causing death,’ he said.

Police Lt. Col. Thanawuth Sanguansuk confirmed that all charges against Vorayuth Yoovidhya have been dropped, but the charge of causing death by reckless driving would not have expired for 15 years after the date of the crash.

The case attracted widespread attention because of perceptions that it showed the rich and well-connected have impunity in Thailand’s judicial system, which in recent years has also been criticized for alleged political bias, as have other state institutions.

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 are citing the fact the family members (of the police officer) have been compensated’ by Vorayuth’s family, Thanawuth said.

Vorayuth was allegedly racing down Sukhumvit Road, one of Bangkok’s main drags, in his Ferrari on September 3, 2012. 

It’s believed he was at the wheel of the car that struck policeman Wichien Klanprasert on motorbike patrol on a main road in central Bangkok and dragged him under its wheels for dozens of metres. 

Vorayuth, grandson of the late Chaleo Yoovidhya, creator of the Krating Daeng, or Red Bull, energy drink, had faced charges of speeding, hit-and-run and reckless driving causing death. Above, Vorayuth is taken by a plain-clothes police officer for investigation following the hit-and-run on Monday, September  3, 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand

Vorayuth, grandson of the late Chaleo Yoovidhya, creator of the Krating Daeng, or Red Bull, energy drink, had faced charges of speeding, hit-and-run and reckless driving causing death. Above, Vorayuth is taken by a plain-clothes police officer for investigation following the hit-and-run on Monday, September  3, 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand

After senior officers arrived, Vorayuth turned himself in, his cap pulled low, his father holding his arm, on September 3, 2012. Charges against the heir to the Red Bull billions have now been inexplicably dropped

After senior officers arrived, Vorayuth turned himself in, his cap pulled low, his father holding his arm, on September 3, 2012. Charges against the heir to the Red Bull billions have now been inexplicably dropped

Vorayuth's father Chalerm Yoovidhya, the oldest of 11 siblings, is Thailand's fourth-richest man. . Vorayuth is pictured above in March 2012

Vorayuth’s father Chalerm Yoovidhya, the oldest of 11 siblings, is Thailand’s fourth-richest man. . Vorayuth is pictured above in March 2012

The car then sped off, leaving the officer to die at the scene. Police followed a trail of oil and brake fluid to the Yoovidhya’s luxury family compound on a nearby side road. 

Initially investigators said a chauffeur had been behind the wheel of the car, windshield now shattered, bumper dangling. 

But after senior officers arrived, Vorayuth turned himself in, his cap pulled low, his father holding his arm. 

Later that day, the Yoovidhyas put up $15,000 bail at the police station and went home. 

Vorayuth's mother leaves the £6.5million home in Knightsbridge, West London with her son in April 2017

Vorayuth’s mother leaves the £6.5million home in Knightsbridge, West London with her son in April 2017

The scion, whose billionaire father is Thailand’s fourth-richest man, never showed up for a formal indictment, allowing some of the charges against him to expire. 

He avoided the charges against him by claiming to be ill or working overseas whenever a hearing was scheduled. 

In total he missed eight summonses to appear in court in connection with the case before authorities issued a warrant for his arrest, five years after the accident. 

Yoovidhya fled Thailand at the end of April 2017, just before authorities issued the arrest warrant after he repeatedly failed to meet with prosecutors.  

Since the crash, an AP investigation showed he was continuing to enjoy a luxury lifestyle, globe-trotting in private jets, snow-boarding in Japan, going clubbing in London and partying on the Formula 1 grand prix circuit including posing for photos with the Red Bull team’s stable of drivers. 

In April 2017, the international playboy was seen leaving a £6.5million home in Knightsbridge, West London, accompanied by two female companions before climbing into a vehicle with blacked-out windows.

Later that day he, his parents and a cousin hurriedly left the address with a train of baggage.

An international request for the arrest of Vorayuth was made on August 28, 2017. The Red Notice went out to all 190 Interpol member countries. 

Vorayuth (third from left) appeared with a group of all ages in traditional Japanese clothing on a trip to Japan in August 2015

Vorayuth (third from left) appeared with a group of all ages in traditional Japanese clothing on a trip to Japan in August 2015

Among other measures, it alerts border officials, in theory making international travel more likely to result in arrest. In May 2017, the authorities in Bangkok cancelled Vorayuth’s Thai passport. 

The handling of the case has led to bitter criticism of the police and prosecutors, and accusations that the wealthy, well-connected family has in effect been exempted from justice. 

Previously, police spokesman Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen said his agency has done everything in its power to charge Vorayuth.

‘I am not saying it is a case where the rich guy will get away with it.’ Krissana said. 

In December 2014, Vorayuth (second from left) was photographed smiling with a group of friends in Thailand

In December 2014, Vorayuth (second from left) was photographed smiling with a group of friends in Thailand

England, and specifically London, is a favourite haunt of Yoovidhya who was pictured at the same address with friends in 2016

England, and specifically London, is a favourite haunt of Yoovidhya who was pictured at the same address with friends in 2016

‘I can’t answer that question. But what I can answer is, if you look at the timeline here, what we did, by far there is nothing wrong with the inquiry officers who are carrying out the case.’ 

Vorayuth’s grandfather, Chaleo, was listed as the third richest person in Thailand at the time of his death in 2012, at the age of 88, with an estimated net worth of $5 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Many Thais saw Vorayuth’s treatment as lenient because of his family’s wealth, stirring debate about impunity for the rich.

But Kissana dismissed any such suggestion on Friday.

‘This is not a double standards,’ he said, adding that the case could be reopened if there was new evidence.

‘We are saddened by the loss of a fellow police officer,’ he said. 

DETAILS OF THE ALLEGED FATAL HIT-AND-RUN BY VORAYUTH ‘BOSS’ YOOVIDHYA

Vorayuth was allegedly racing down Sukhumvit Road, one of Bangkok’s main drags, in his Ferrari on September 3, 2012. 

The super-car reportedly slammed into police Sgt. Maj. Wichean Glanprasert.

Over the next few hours after the crash, police traced their way to the Red Bull compound. 

Initially investigators said a chauffeur had been behind the wheel of the car, windshield now shattered, bumper dangling. 

Vorayuth is escorted by police in Bangkok, Thailand, on September 3, 2012

Vorayuth is escorted by police in Bangkok, Thailand, on September 3, 2012

But after senior officers arrived, Vorayuth turned himself in, his cap pulled low, his father holding his arm. 

Later that day, the Yoovidhyas put up $15,000 bail at the police station and went home. 

For Pornanan Glanprasert, Wichean’s brother, and his sisters they were faced with a tragedy beyond belief. 

In the days after the death, they attended funeral rites at the temple, where Buddhist monks chanted and incense burned.

One day Vorayuth and his mother made a surprise, private visit. Dressed in black, they pressed their palms together and bowed to Sgt. Maj. Wichean’s portrait.

The policeman’s family painfully grieved, but they figured at least there would be justice. Wichean was a police officer. Certainly the criminal justice system would hold his killer responsible.

Over days and months, the case unfolded. The Yoovidhya family attorney said Vorayuth left the scene not to flee, but because he was going home to tell his father. 

As for blood tests showing Vorayuth was well over the legal alcohol limit, his attorney said his client was rattled by the crash and so drank ‘to relieve his tenseness.’

Facing a flurry of public skepticism about whether affluence and influence would let Vorayuth off the hook, Bangkok’s Police Commissioner Comronwit Toopgrajank promised integrity.

‘We will not let this police officer die without justice. Believe me,’ Comronwit said. ‘The truth will prevail in this case. I can guarantee it.’

But when he retired in 2014, the case was still unresolved.

Vorayuth’s attorney met with Wichean’s family, who accepted a settlement of about $100,000. 

In turn, they were required to sign a document promising not to press criminal charges, eliminating Thailand’s legal option for victims to take suspects to court if police and prosecutors don’t take action.

Since then, Vorayuth has missed several prosecutor orders to report to court on charges of speeding, hit-and-run, and reckless driving that caused death.

Police said Vorayuth admitted he was driving, but not recklessly – the officer swerved in front of him, he said. The speeding charge expired after a year.  

Police spokesman Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen said his agency has done everything in its power to charge Vorayuth.

‘I am not saying it is a case where the rich guy will get away with it.’ Krissana said. 

‘I can’t answer that question. But what I can answer is, if you look at the timeline here, what we did, by far there is nothing wrong with the inquiry officers who are carrying out the case.’

On Friday, July 24 it was announced Thailand had inexplicably dropped criminal charges against the heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune. 

‘This case is over,’ deputy police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen told a news briefing.

Kissana dismissed any suggestions of leniency due to the family’s wealth. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk