Red Bull heir a no-show in Ferrari hit-and-run hearing
In a case described as a test of whether the rich and influential in Thailand enjoy special leniency, a wealthy heir to the Red Bull energy-drink fortune failed to appear for his indictment in the hit-and-run death of a policeman.
The New York Times
BANGKOK — The Bangkok policeman was fatally struck by a gray Ferrari, his body dragged down a darkened Bangkok street. In contrast to his sudden and brutal death 12 months ago, the Thai judicial process that has followed has been slow and labored.
After repeated postponements, Thai prosecutors said Monday that the man who has admitted to the hit-and-run, Vorayuth Yoovidhya, the grandson of the inventor of the Red Bull energy drink and the heir to one of Thailand’s greatest fortunes, failed to show up at an indictment hearing.
Prosecutors said they had dropped charges of speeding against him because the one-year statute of limitations runs out Tuesday.
Vorayuth still faces two other charges, and prosecutors said they would issue a warrant for his arrest. But in a case that has been described as a test of whether the rich and influential in Thailand enjoy more leniency than others, critics say the system is so far coming up short.
Monday was the sixth time that Vorayuth failed to answer summonses at prosecutors’ offices.
Vorayuth’s lawyer, Thanit Buakaew, told reporters Monday that his client could not appear at the office that day because he was in Singapore on a business trip and was sick with the flu.
If he returns to Thailand, Vorayuth, who is in his late 20s, faces the more serious charges of causing death through reckless driving and failing to stop and assist the victim.
Vorayuth left the scene after hitting the police officer, Wichean Glanprasert, so investigating officers followed traces of leaking engine fluids to the family’s luxury compound in Bangkok, where they discovered the damaged Ferrari.
But instead of arresting Vorayuth, police officers from a station near the family’s compound arrested the family’s driver.
Bangkok’s police commissioner, Comronwit Toopgrajank, said that was an attempt at a cover-up. He took charge of the investigation and reprimanded a police officer he said had tried to force the driver to take the blame.
Vorayuth was taken into police custody and admitted that he had hit the police officer with his Ferrari. But he said that the officer, who was riding a motorcycle, had swerved in front of him. He was released on bail of about $15,600.
The family paid the police officer’s family nearly $100,000 in compensation.
When he took over the case, Comronwit said he would quit if justice is not served.
Pornanand Glanprasert, the older brother of the dead policeman, said in an interview Monday that he was not so sure. “If you are common people like us, I think the case is already finished,” Pornanand said.