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Red Bull Heir Enjoys Good Life Four Years After Hit And Run

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Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya at the British Formula 1 Grand Prix in Silverstone, England, in 2013. Photo / AP


The Ferrari driver who allegedly slammed into a motorcycle cop, dragged him along the road and then sped away from the mangled body took just hours to find.


Investigators followed a trail of brake fluid into the gated estate of one of Thailand's richest families.


But the prosecution of Red Bull heir Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya has been delayed almost five years. When Vorayuth, 31, has been called in to face authorities, he hasn't shown up, claiming through his lawyer that he's sick or out of the country on business.


And while statutes of limitations run out on key charges this year, it's widely assumed he's hiding, possibly abroad, or quietly living locally, only going out in disguise.


He isn't.


Within weeks of the accident, AP has found, Vorayuth was back to enjoying his family's jet-set life, largely associated with the Red Bull brand, an energy drink company co-founded by his grandfather.


He flies around the world on Red Bull jets, cheers their Formula One racing team from Red Bull's VIP seats and keeps a black Porsche Carrera in London with a custom plate: B055 RBR. Boss Red Bull Racing.


And he's not hard to find.


Last month, social media clues led AP reporters to Vorayuth in the sacred city of Luang Prabang, Laos, where he and his family enjoyed a US$1000-a-night resort, visited temples and lounged by the pool.


Critics say inaction in this case epitomises longstanding privilege for the wealthy class in Thailand, a politically tumultuous country that has struggled with rule of law for decades.


The Yoovidhya family lawyer did not respond to AP's request to interview Vorayuth. Police say Vorayuth is once again on notice to show up and hear the charges.


He's due at the prosecutors' office tomorrow.


Vorayuth and his siblings grew up in a private, extended family whose fortune expanded from millions to billions.


His brother is nicknamed Porsche, his sister Champagne. Vorayuth received a British education at a US$40,000-a-year boarding school.


In rural Thailand, police Sergeant Major Wichean Glanprasert didn't have such opportunities, but he was ambitious.


The youngest of five, he was the first to leave their coconut and palm farm for the city, the first to get a government job, to graduate from college. He paid for his parents' medical care and supported a sister through cancer. He had no children, but planned to put his brother's kids through college.


Their lives collided pre-dawn on September 3, 2012, when Vorayuth's Ferrari roared down Sukhumvit Road, one of Bangkok's main drags. The bloody accident scene made national headlines for days.


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


"At first I thought they'd follow a legal process," said his brother Pornanan.


Now he's not so sure.


"We will not let this police officer die without justice. Believe me," said Bangkok Police Commissioner Comronwit Toopgrajank in the days after the accident.


As the case unfolded, the Yoovidhya family lawyer said Vorayuth left the scene not to flee, but to tell his father. Vorayuth's blood alcohol levels were high because he drank once he got home to settle his nerves, said the lawyer.




This September 3, 2012, photo shows a Ferrari, that was driven by Vorayuth Yoovidhya and a motorcycle, both involved in an accident. Photo /AP


Wichean's family accepted a settlement, about US$100,000. In turn, they promised not to press criminal charges.


"Blood money," says Pornanan, whose share sits in the bank.


Vorayuth failed to show up when ordered to face criminal charges of speeding, hit-and-run, and deadly, reckless driving. Police say Vorayuth disputes the reckless-driving charge, claiming the officer swerved in front of him. The speeding charge expired after a year. The more serious charge of hit-and-run, which police say carries a penalty of up to six months in jail, expires in September.


Complicating matters, Yoovidhya's lawyer has repeatedly filed petitions claiming unfair treatment in the investigation.


Police say it's up to prosecutors to charge him. Prosecutors say extra investigation is needed, but wouldn't specify.


Thammasat University law professor Pokpong Srisanit said the situation is "not normal" but does appear legal.


The Thai media figures he's laying low.


Last year the Bangkok Post said that after paying the settlement in 2012, Vorayuth "has been out of the country or otherwise unable to answer the criminal case against him in the years since". A few weeks after the article appeared, a photo of Vorayuth was posted online. He was on the beach at a seaside resort south of Bangkok.


While Vorayuth's case has been on hold since 2012, his carefree lifestyle has not.


More than 120 social media posts show Vorayuth visiting at least nine countries since Wichean's death.


He's cruised Monaco's harbour, snowboarded Japan's powder, and celebrated his birthday at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London. At the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Osaka, he posed wearing robes from Hogwarts School's darkest dorm, Slytherin House. Friends and cousins posting about him have hundreds of thousands of online followers.




An image posted to an Instagram account and displayed on a computer shows Vorayuth Yoovidhya. Photo / AP


His lifestyle - soaking in an Abu Dhabi pool, dining in Nice, France, holding a US$10,000 bicycle in Bangkok - is supported by his family's billions.


Vorayuth's grandfather, Chaleo Yoovidhya, was known as a modest, private man who grew up in poverty, the son of a duck seller.


Before Vorayuth was born, Chaleo partnered his company T.C. Pharma with Austrian entrepreneur, Dietrich Mateschitz, investing US$500,000 each to carbonate and market a caffeine-powered syrupy energy drink popular in Thailand. In 1987, Red Bull Energy Drink went international.


Red Bull is now sold in 170 countries. It has its own media company, race cars and jets, and sponsors concerts and extreme athletes. Forbes estimates Vorayuth's father Chalerm Yoovidhya's net worth at US$9.7 billion.


Vorayuth's legal situation is far from unique.


In 2010, a 16-year-old unlicensed daughter of a former military officer crashed her sedan into a van, killing nine people. The teen, from an affluent family, was given a two-year suspended sentence and had misunderstandings that postponed her community service until last year.


Her case, and others involving what the local press calls "Bangkok's deadly rich kids," are handled markedly different than most deadly car crashes, in which Thais are typically arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to jail.


Today in his small apartment, Wichean's brother keeps a few photo albums of him.


Pornanan says Thailand runs on a "double standard".


Last month on Instagram, a friend posted a group shot, guys taking a snowboarding break at Japan's majestic Annapuri ski resort.


"ran into little bull @bossrbr lets catch up tonite dude" says a friend.

"Snow snow snow," chimes in another.

"Wof wof," says bossrbr.



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BANGKOK — When someone stepped up to explain why a scion of a billionaire family was justified in consistently refusing to meet with authorities over his deadly car crash in 2012, it was neither his lawyer nor his family.


It was the spokesman of the state agency tasked with bringing him to justice.


Responding to an Associated Press report that Vorayuth “Boss†Yoovidhya, an heir to the Red Bull energy drink empire, has been openly living a jet-setting life in Bangkok and abroad while defying prosecutors’ summonses, a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney-General said his five-year refusal to appear is acceptable because he filed a complaint of unfair treatment.


Spokesman Prayuth Petchkhun gave those reasons on the same day Vorayuth was supposed to turn himself in yet again. He didn’t. Prayuth said the defendant is in Britain on personal business and asked for a postponement.


“Has this case been going on too long? This is the point: The reasons that he cited, are they groundless, or do they have weight for investigation?†Prayuth said. “If we don’t investigate his complaints, we will be accused of negligence.â€


Prayuth said Vorayuth filed numerous petitions, including a complaint that prosecutors added an additional charge of speeding on top of what had been recommended by police.


In September 2012 Vorayuth slammed his Ferrari into a motorcycle ridden by a patrol policeman in Bangkok’s Thonglor area before fleeing the scene back to his mansion. For killing officer Wichian Klanprasert, the Red Bull scion was charged with fatal reckless driving, hit-and-run and speeding. The third charge already expired.


“If his reasons were groundless, we would have ordered the investigators to ask the court to issue an arrest warrant on him,†Prayuth said.


He was referring to a process called Unfair Treatment Petition. In theory, every suspect has the right to file one if they believe they have been treated unfairly by investigators, and all procedures must stop until state prosecutors review the complaint’s merits. A lawyer in high-profile cases called it a trick to buy time for influential defendants.


Among those attending today’s news conference was former politician Chuwit Kamolvisit, who reminded everyone that it’s been five years since the car crash with no apparent progress.


“The suspect has been dragging his feet. Now society is skeptical about the role of the state prosecutors,†Chuwit said.


The spokesman replied that the fact that Vorayuth was from one of the richest families was not a factor.


“Do we want to wrap up this case quickly? Of course, we do. It’s our policy that justice delayed is justice denied,†Prayuth said. “But all cases have different factors. It’s just a coincidence that this case is about a famous person.â€


Nevertheless, he said prosecutors recently finished reviewing the unfair treatment complaints filed by Vorayuth and ruled them groundless, so the defendant can no longer cite the complaint for not appearing at the next summons slated for April 27.


“If he claims the same reason, let me answer right here that he cannot [do that],†Prayuth said. “If he does, I will inform the investigators to issue an arrest warrant.â€


That’s when Chuwit quipped that Vorayuth could just find another reason to dodge the next summons.


“I don’t think that would be the case,†Prayuth replied. “Please, dear members of the press, don’t speculate like that.â€



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What they probably need to do is offer a huge reward to bring him to justice. That will get things moving :biggrin:

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The untouchable Red Bull heir in Thailand


By Jonathan Head




More than four years on, Vorayuth Yoovidhaya has not appeared in court


Among the many uncertainties hanging over Thailand as it is steered hesitantly through a delicate political transition, its people could be sure of one thing this week.


That Vorayuth Yoovidhaya, the grandson of the billionaire who invented the energy drink Red Bull, would once again fail to appear at a Bangkok prosecutor's office to face charges relating to the death of a police officer.


On 3 September 2012, that officer was struck by a Ferrari driven by Mr Vorayuth.


The sometimes farcical attempts by the Thai authorities to bring Mr Vorayuth to justice are now commonly cited as epitomising the untouchability of the super-rich in Thailand.


The facts of the incident early on the morning of 3 September are reasonably clear.


Police Sergeant-Major Wichian Klanprasert was riding his motorbike along Bangkok's Sukhumvit Road when he was hit by a grey Ferrari, which dragged his body more than 100m (109yds) down the road, before driving off.


Investigating officers followed a trail of brake fluid to a luxury home less than a kilometre away, owned by one of Thailand's wealthiest families.


The badly-dented Ferrari was there, but initially the police were persuaded to detain a driver employed by the family as their main suspect.


When they subsequently discovered the car had actually been driven by Mr Vorayuth, then 27 years old, he was tested and found to have excessive alcohol in his blood - but, he said, this was from drinking at home after the accident.



The badly-dented Ferrari was found in the compound of the family's home


The police believe from security camera videos, the distance the car travelled after the crash, and the injuries that instantly killed Sergeant-Major Wichian, that Mr Vorayuth must have been speeding, they estimate at around 170km/h (106mph) in an 80km/h zone. His lawyers have denied this.


It took the police six months to prepare criminal charges of speeding, reckless driving causing death, and fleeing the scene of an accident.


Throughout 2013, Mr Vorayuth failed to appear seven times to hear the charges, with his lawyers providing an array of justifications, from him being on business overseas to feeling unwell.


In September 2013 the limitation period for the speeding charge expired.


Global success


Mr Vorayuth's grandfather, Chaleo Yoovidhya, made his fortune when, in the mid-1980s, he teamed up with an Austrian marketing executive to turn his energy drink known as Kratindaeng, or Red Bull, into a global sales success.


Today the extended Yoovidhya family is believed to be worth more than $20bn (£16bn). The Red Bull logo is now seen all over the world, in particular sponsoring spectacular stunts and sporting events.



Red Bull sponsors a Formula One team, as well as teams in other motorsports


But the family has shunned the limelight; before his death in March 2012 Chaleo Yoovidhya never gave a single media interview. After the accident, his grandson, Mr Vorayuth, vanished from public view.


But social media posts by him and his jet-setting friends suggest he has often been inside Thailand, as well as travelling around the world to motor racing competitions or beach resorts.


Right after the accident the police chief of Bangkok at that time, Kamronwit Thoopkrajang, promised the public that the culprit in Sergeant-Major Wichian's death would be brought to justice, or he would resign.


In April 2013 the attorney-general promised to indict Mr Vorayuth, only to backtrack after he was petitioned by the suspect's lawyers, who contested the fairness of the speeding charge.


In September 2013 the prosecutor ordered police to arrest him after his seventh no-show. Nothing happened.


Then, against a backdrop of growing political turmoil in Thailand, the case appeared to be forgotten.


Public interest in it was revived only after a horrifying road accident last year, involving another wealthy young man who drove his luxury car at high speed into another vehicle, killing two graduate students.


People started asking what had happened to the Red Bull heir. And a military government, which had promised to address the abuses of previous governments, felt forced to act. Or, perhaps more accurately, to be seen to be acting.


In March last year the Attorney-General announced that he would once again press charges against Mr Vorayuth.


But throughout last year, his lawyers successfully postponed repeated requests for him to report to the prosecutor's office, claiming that their client had filed a complaint of unfair treatment to the National Legislative Assembly, the military-appointed parliament.


Lawyers spoken to by the BBC say there is no legal justification for using this device to delay proceedings against Mr Vorayuth, but that is what is happening.


'On business in the UK'


Today the police insist they can do nothing.


Asked why they have not issued an arrest warrant against the accused, as requested three and a half years ago, they told the BBC that it is up to the Attorney-General's office to act.

The Attorney-General's office says he cannot be indicted unless he appears in person.


And for the latest request for him to report to the prosecutor's office to hear those charges? Mr Vorayuth, we are now told by his lawyers, is on business in the UK. The Attorney-General has once again granted a postponement, to next month.


The extended Yoovidhya family is believed to be worth more than $20bn (£16bn) thanks to their Red Bull empire


The relatives of Sergeant-Major Wichian have said little about the case. As usually happens in these situations, the Yoovidhya family have paid them a large sum of money, around $100,000.


In return they have agreed not to press charges themselves.


And public interest in Thailand will probably wane, as people wearily conclude that, once again, the rich have shown that they are beyond the reach of the law, in a country ridden with corruption and abuses of power.


One lawyer, who was once closely connected to the case, told the BBC he had never seen another example of a suspect evading justice like this one.


Had it been someone else, without a powerful family behind him, he said, he would certainly have been arrested the first time he failed to report himself.


The most serious charge against Mr Vorayuth, of reckless driving causing death, expires in the year 2027.


Few people are betting that he will face any legal sanction, or indeed any meaningful restrictions on his lifestyle before that deadline frees him completely from any lingering repercussions of the events of that morning four and a half years ago.



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