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Charges dropped against Red Bull heir over Thai cop's death

Charges dropped against Red Bull heir over Thai cop's death

Vorayuth Yoovidhya, grandson of late Red Bull founder Chaleo Yoovidhaya, is seen in Bangkok during a police investigation into a hit-and-run accident. (File photos: AFP/STR)

BANGKOK: Charges against the heir to the Red Bull billions, accused of killing a Thai police officer when he crashed his Ferrari in a 2012 hit-and-run, have been dropped, officials said on Friday (Jul 24), without explanation.

Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya fled to Singapore on his private jet in 2017, days before an arrest warrant was issued over the incident, stirring outrage among the Thai public over the culture of impunity enjoyed by the kingdom's rich.

The warrant came five years after he allegedly knocked over and killed the policeman near his compound in Bangkok's most exclusive neighbourhood.

Several charges against Boss expired during the time between the incident and his arrest warrant being issued, a period that saw the heir continue to lead a lavish, jet-setting lifestyle with frequent stops in the kingdom.

On Friday, Thai police said the remaining charges - including one for reckless driving, which can carry up to a decade in jail - had been dropped, several years before the statute of limitations were set to expire.

Policemen examine damaged Ferrari at home of late Red Bull founder Yoovidhaya in Bangkok. (File photo: Reuters) FILE PHOTO: Policemen examine a damaged Ferrari at the home of the late Red Bull founder Chaleo Yoovidhaya in Bangkok, Thailand September 3, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

"In June this year we received a letter from the attorney-general's office saying it had decided to drop charges of reckless driving causing death," Krissana Pattanacharoen, police spokesman told reporters.

"Police agreed with the attorney-general," he said, adding the next steps would be to formally withdraw arrest warrants through the courts and an Interpol notice through the foreign ministry. 

"At this moment, we don't know where he (Boss) is," he said, without explaining why the case had been dropped.

Eight years after the incident, chief police spokesman Lieutenant-General Piya Uthayo said "the case could be re-opened if there is new evidence".

It was not immediately clear where Boss currently was. But in the years since the incident, he has been photographed living a glamorous life in London, among other places, as well as being spotted on Bangkok's party scene.

His case, which saw a family employee initially take the blame for driving the car before media scrutiny forced police to review their investigation, has become symbolic of Thailand's culture of impunity.

His side of the family has inherited the fortune built up by his grandfather Chaleo Yoovidhya, who co-founded the Red Bull brand with Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz in the 1980s.

Chaleo died in March 2012, leaving his family some US$22 billion and control of more than 50 per cent of the energy drink empire, according to Bloomberg News.


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