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Saturday, 25 July 2020

Fury at Thailand's decision to drop charges against Red Bull heir who killed cop as victim's relatives say there is 'no justice for the poor'

  • Vorayuth Yoovidhya was accused in a 2012 hit-and-run killing of a police officer 
  • Thailand has now dropped all criminal charges against the Red Bull heir 
  • Warrants for the arrest, including an Interpol red notice, will be withdrawn 
  • Victim's brother dismayed by decision, saying there is 'no justice for the poor'  
  • The case has stirred debate about impunity for the rich and well-connected 
  • Vorayuth missed 8 summonses to appear in court in connection with the case  
Thailand's decision to drop criminal charges against the heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune has sparked backlash in the country. 
Vorayuth 'Boss' Yoovidhya was accused in a 2012 hit-and-run killing of a police officer in a case that raised questions about crime and punishment for the wealthy and well-connected in Thailand. 
Warrants for the arrest, including an Interpol red notice, of Yoovidhya, whose whereabouts are not known, will be withdrawn, police said. Porn-anant Klunprasert, brother of the dead police officer, has expressed dismay over the decision of prosecutors to drop 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, 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, which had a statue of limitations until 2027. 
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.
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 Thailand has now dropped criminal charges against him and his Interpol red notice will be withdrawn
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 
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'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. The statute of limitations had run out for several, 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 2015Among 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. 

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