The heir to a family fortune estimated in billions of dollars underpinned by the world-famous Red Bull drink, Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya, is somewhere out there beyond Thailand’s borders waiting for time to count down to September 2027 when prosecutors will be no longer able to bring legal action against him for the car accident in 2012 during which he mowed down a police officer on a motorbike in his high powered Ferrari supercar.
A spokesman for Thailand’s prosecutor’s office this week warned that time may be running out to bring Vorayuth Yoovidhya, the scion of the family at the centre of the Red Bull drinks empire, to justice. They have asked police to track him down so that extradition proceedings can be issued. Mr Vorayuth, now 35 years of age, is thought to be living in the United Kingdom from photographs of him which have appeared in international media. The Red Bull heir, also known as ‘Boss’, fled Thailand in a private plane just days before an arrest warrant was issued against him on April 27th 2017 on three charges relating to the death of a policeman in September 2012 who was hit by the young man’s Ferrari travelling at speed. Already, two of those charges have expired under statute of limitations provisions in Thailand and authorities now have just seven years to arrest him and bring him before a Thai court on the last charge.
Four senior Thai police officers have been placed on probation due to their roles in the investigation of the hit and run incident in September 2012 when a luxury car driven by Red Bull heir Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya hit an officer of the Royal Thai Police Force in the Khlong Toei area of Bangkok on Sukhumvit 49. The officer was riding a motorbike.
The young man is reported to have driven the car on at speed dragging the policeman from the scene of the collision.
Victim was 47-year-old Police Sergeant Major Wichian Klanprasert of Thonglor Police station
The suspect, then 27 years of age, was driving a grey bronze Ferrari and hit the rear of the motorbike in the control of 47-year-old Police Sergeant Major Wichian Klanprasert of Thonglor Police station at high speed. This is on the night of Wednesday, September 3rd, 2012.
The suspect is believed to have been high on drugs and sped away from the scene but was arrested the next day at his home and brought to Police General Hospital for testing.
A former head of Thonglor station among those reported disciplined last March by police authorities
Among the officers reported having been disciplined by the Royal Thai Police from March 31st last was Police Major General Chumphon Phumphuang, a former head of Thonglor Police station which became the focus of the National Anti Corruption Commission enquiry.
This week’s news comes after Friday’s conclusion by the anti-corruption commission that the failures in the course of the investigation, which it had established, were not serious violations of discipline.
For the officers involved, many of whom hold weighty responsibilities, this week’s announcement simply means that their performance, since March, is being scrutinised more closely by their superiors on the force.
Police spokesman says seven officers found guilty of dereliction of duty concerning the investigation
The disciplinary action was taken in March this year bt the leadership of the police force and was announced on Tuesday by Police Colonel Kissana Phathanacharoen, a deputy police spokesman.
He said that, in all, seven officers had been found guilty of dereliction of duty in the affair but only four had been placed on probation while two others, named as Police Colonel Traimet U-thai and Police Major General Krit Pia-kaeo, had already retired in October 2016 and 2013 respectively.
The seventh officer, Police Colonel Wiladon Thapthimdi, the deputy chief of investigation of the Bangkok Traffic Unit, had served three days detention for his role in the matter.
Four officers placed on probation, one held in detention for three days and two who have retired
The four officers placed on probation were Police Major General Chumphon Phumphuang, chief of the provincial police in Samut Prakan, Police Major General Sukhon Phrommayon, deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, Police Colonel Samrit Ketyaem, deputy chief of the planning and design division of the Royal Thai Police and Police Colonel Wibun Thinwatthana, the deputy investigation chief at Metropolitan Police Division 2.
National Anti Corruption Commission described the infractions as ‘light disciplinary’ violations
On Friday, June 26th, the National Anti Corruption Commission found officers involved guilty of what it termed ‘light’ disciplinary violations in relation to tardiness in pursuing the case.
One officer was found guilty of mild malfeasance or negligence delaying in seeking an arrest order against the suspect.
The NACC made it clear that any further disciplinary action in the case was one for police authorities.
Report suggested an intention to avoid charging the Red Bull heir with drug abuse or speeding
Before this week’s finding, the commission had earlier produced a report stating that there was an intention on behalf of certain officers involved in the case at Thonglor police station to avoid bringing charges against Mr Vorayuth for drug abuse and speeding.
He was subsequently charged on April 27th 2017 for speeding, failing to stop at the scene of an accident to render assistance and reckless driving causing the death of another.
Spokesman for the prosecutor’s office concerned at the delay fearing the statute of limitations
Over last weekend, a spokesman for prosecutors at the Office of the Attorney General expressed concern at the delay and called for expedition in efforts to secure the arrest of Mr Vorayuth.
He pointed out that, already under Thailand’s statute of limitations, the charge of speeding had expired in 2013 while the charge for failing to stop at the scene became impotent on September 3rd 2017.
Only one charge remaining against ‘Boss’ for which a lawsuit cannot be filed after September 2027
Mr Prayut Petchun, a deputy spokesman for the prosecutor’s office explained that the accused needs to be in custody before a lawsuit is filed with the court.
Mr Vorayuth, even though charges were filed against him on April 27th 2017 for reckless driving causing death, together with an arrest warrant, fled the jurisdiction two days before he was due in court to answer the charges.
The statute of limitation on this sole remaining and most serious charge started on the night of the incident and extends for 15 years and until September 2027.
Mr Prayut warned that there are only seven years left to bring the Red Bull scion to justice in Thailand.
Aware that Mr Vorayuth is living outside Thailand but awaiting information from the police
The prosecutor’s office indicated that they are aware that Mr Vorayuth is residing outside the kingdom.
It also appears that prosecutors have some idea of what country he may be laired in as they have revealed that they are in contact with prosecuting authorities in a foreign country to prepare for an extradition process which in itself will take time.
Boss has been photographed over the years.
These started with shots of him seen adjacent to a private plane at an airport believed to be in Hampshire with a range of photographs of him in the United Kingdom and particularly in London.
This includes photographs outside a London home, at a luxury box in a football stadium and a number of family parties in the UK celebrating his birthday.
However, in recent years, he has also been photographed in what is believed to be Japan.
Interpol arrest warrant issued in August 2017 but disappeared off Interpol website in March 2018
Mr Prayut says that prosecutors are still awaiting information from the police.
An arrest warrant for Mr Vorayuth has been issued in Thailand. At one point, an Interpol arrest warrant was issued for the young man in August 2017. This is known as a red notice.
In March 2018, it was reported that the Interpol arrest warrant had been removed from the site.
An enquiry at the time to Interpol by the Bangkok Post newspaper was met with the standard reply that the international police agency could not, understandably, discuss individual cases.
However, they did explain that several circumstances might apply in that situation.
One was the notice itself may have been switched to restricted view for security reasons, the notice may have been withdrawn by appropriate authorities, a criminal case may be subject to an appeal or future enquiry, the suspect may be dead or that the notice itself is the subject of a legal appeal or action.
The Thai passport of Vorayuth Yoovidhya was revoked within weeks of his flight from Thailand after charges and an arrest warrant was issued against him on April 27th 2017.
Case is raising hackles among the public in Thailand which is uniquely tolerant and forbearing
The case has become increasingly controversial and a focus point for critics of Thai society since Mr Vorayuth comes from one of the country’s richest families who are among a coterie of individuals with access to unbridled wealth. Thailand is a country with a laissez-faire attitude to economics and where respect for successful families is very high.
The strategic importance of these families, their business activities and economic weight is a key factor in Thailand’s economy.
However, this case involves the death of a police officer on duty. It continues to raise concern and unease among members of the public in Thailand who are otherwise, uniquely tolerant and forbearing in a country where respect for authority and hierarchy is ingrained in its traditional culture.
Boss’s grandfather founded the business, began as an antibiotics salesman and created an empire
The Red Bull empire was started by Mr Vorayuth’s grandfather Chaleo Yoovidhya who died less than six months before the infamous incident on the Sukhumvit road.
Some estimates put the family’s wealth at a massive $20 billion or ฿620 billion mostly derived from the success of the Red Bull energy drink which took off following a joint venture between the pharmaceutical company owned by Chaleo Yoovidhya and Austrian businessman Dietrich Mateschitz.
Mr Mateschitz, on a business trip to Thailand, had discovered that the Red Bull elixir, then on sale locally, was amazingly effective at curing his jet lag on a visit to Bangkok in 1984.
Mr Mateschitz put up $500,000 and took on the marketing role in return for 49% of a new international concern while Mr Chaleo’s firm TC Pharmaceuticals provided the formula for a revised mixture of the drink for world markets and a further $500,000.
That was in 1987 and the drink went on to conquer the world.
Red Bull empire created on a lucky hunch
It was not clear what age Mr Chaleo was when he died in 2012. Some reports said 80 while others said 87.
However, he had progressed from salesman to owning his own pharmaceutical business in the 1960s.
In 1976, he had the inspiration or lucky hunch for the Red Bull product which his future Austrian partner discovered in 1984.
He was born in the northern Thai province of Phichit to a Thai Chinese family who traded in ducks and fruit for a living. His father was an immigrant from China’s Hainan province.