Police panel report has identified severe failings in the police handling of the case. This eventually led, through omission, delay or confusion, to the evidence put before a prosecutor, Nate Naksuk, who is approaching retirement at the Office of Criminal Litigation in Southern Bangkok at the end of June. This resulted in the final and most serious charge against ‘Boss’ Yoravuth being dropped. The current investigations, despite public fatigue at the complexity of issues generated, are making progress towards uncovering the truth in what can now be easily termed a scandal.
The Chairman of the House Committee investigating the ‘Boss’ Yoravuth scandal on Friday expressed his concerns for the safety of a senior police officer who is central to the Red Bull affair which has resulted in a wealthy young man who fled Thailand from justice having all charges against him dropped through a series of machinations which have angered the Thai public and left observers stupefied at the extent of the failures already being revealed.
The number of simultaneous enquiries and an increasing array of issues to do with the controversy that has arisen over the dropping of all charges against Yoravuth Yoovidhya who fled Thailand on April 27th 2017 only to be told by a top police officer on July 24th this year that he is free to return to the kingdom, has resulted first in anger as the scale of the failure in the administration of justice could no longer be covered up but now increasingly, public fatigue.
Despite this, the ongoing investigations are uncovering useful information which if pursued, would go some way to at least partially restoring confidence.
The House Committee investigating the ‘Boss’ Yoravuth scandal, heard the Chairman express concern for the safety of a senior police officer, an expert witness, whose critical testimony led to a controversial decision by the senior official at the Office of the Attorney General, Nate Naksuk, to drop the sole remaining criminal charge from 2017.
Police forensics officer told committee chairman he would name the commanding officer who ordered him to change his evidence in relation to the case
The officer in question is Police Colonel Thanasit Taengchan, from the Office of Police Forensic Science, who the chairman claims, told him that he changed his original evidence in relation to the case and the crucial speed of the Ferrari supercar after being ordered to do so by a commanding officer.
At the hearing by the committee, the officer in question, however, would only go so far as to say that his commanding officer introduced him to an expert from the King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology in Northern Bangkok.
This person was identified as Saiprasit Kerdniyom who heads up the Automotive Safety and Assessment Engineering Centre there.
Mr Sira has promised to call this expert also as a witness.
House Committee led by MP Sira Jenjaka has not been afraid to aggressively delve into the matter
Despite growing public weariness at the endless stream of committees, panels and investigations into the ‘Boss’ Yoravuth or Red Bull case, the one committee that has so far been highly effective at getting to the bottom of the matter is the House Committee chaired by Palang Pracharat MP, Sira Jenjaka, who is well known in Thailand for his impatience with cover-ups and corruption within officialdom.
The Chairman, Mr Sira, also made a startling statement on Friday in which he wondered aloud as to the safety of the key police witness following the death of another key witness in the case, 40-year-old Mr Jaruchat Maadthong in a motorbike accident on July 30th in Chiang Mai.
‘We wonder if Police Colonel Thanasit could be in danger, like a witness in the case who was in Chiang Mai,’ said Mr Sira.
In the aftermath of Mr Jaruchat’s death, Mr Sira also called for police protection for the second eye witness in the case, Air Marshal Jakkrit Thanomkulabutr.
In recent days, police in Chiang Mai have ruled, however, that after a thorough investigation, that the death of the witness was simply an accident.
Key prosecutor appears before the committee and defends his decision with ease and on clear grounds
On Thursday, the key man at the centre of the storm following the dropping of the final charge against now 35-year-old Yoravuth Yoovidhya in relation to the death of Police Sergeant Wichian Klanprasert, a Sergeant Major at Thonglor police station on September 3rd 2012, gave evidence.
Mr Yoravuth is the son of Chalerm Yoovidhya who heads up the family at the centre of the Red Bull drink empire which is estimated to be worth over $20 billion.
Assistant Attorney General Nate Naksuk was appearing in front of the committee, his second appearance before an investigation panel within hours to explain his decision.
The experienced prosecutor, who is nearing retirement, told the committee that his decision was a proper one based on due process and again pointed to the evidence placed before him in the case file by police investigating the death of the policeman nearly eight years ago.
Prepare to have his financial record examined
Mr Nate, the key case official at the Office of Criminal Litigation in Southern Bangkok, told the committee that he was prepared to have his financial records checked and that there was no ulterior motive behind his decision except the application of due process based on the file put before him.
He said that the case hinged on the speed of the Ferrari supercar.
That it was within the speed limit, and the police officer, who died, had been observed driving dangerously causing him to cut across the sports car leading, unavoidably, to his own death.
Mr Nate did reveal to the committee that a committee of the now-defunct National Legislative Assembly, the parliamentary assembly during the reign of the military junta, had been involved in efforts by lawyers acting on behalf of the accused to have the case revisited in the interests of justice over an extended period.
This is an aspect of the case that has led to some senior officials within the Office of the Attorney General raising further questions as to the validity of Mr Nate’s review in the first place.
Police officer assiduously questioned by Committee Chairman on Friday about his evidence
On Friday, the Chairman of the Committee, Mr Sira also questioned, at length, Police Colonel Thanasit Taengchan who explained his decision to change his expert testimony from stating that the car was driving at 177 km per hour to 79 km per hour.
The Chairman insisted that the police officer had, before the hearing, told him that he would name a commanding officer who ordered him to do so prior to giving his evidence.
‘But when he was there, he only said that a commander brought Mr Saiprasit to him,’ referring to the expert from King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology.
Mr Nate appeared before another panel on Thursday to answer questions on the ‘Boss’ case
Mr Nate, the prosecutor, had earlier defended his decision to drop the outstanding charge against Yoravuth Yoovidhya or ‘Boss’ when he appeared before another investigating panel.
He told an internal committee of the Office of the Attorney General, set up to review the case and his actions, that the reason for the call he made was the evidence placed before him.
Central to this, in his opinion, was the question of the speed of the Ferrari supercar on the 3rd September 2012 as it travelled along the Sukhumvit Road in the early hours of that morning.
Two expert witnesses from the Royal Thai Police working within the Forensic Science Unit had provided new expert testimony that the speed of the luxury car was 79km per hour.
Speed evidence changed with the new eyewitnesses to the crash having been also brought forward
Police evidence was that an initial estimate of 177km per hour was an error based on flawed calculations.
One of the police officers involved, however, has already told the House of Representatives panel, in the last week, that he had now again changed his opinion and that the 177km per hour figure was correct.
However, the prosecutor says he was told by the two police experts that the car involved was driving within the speed limit.
He was also supplied with new witness statements from two people who were eyewitnesses on the morning of the 3rd September 2012 on the Sukhumvit Road when the fatal crash took place.
One of these was the now-deceased Mr Jaruchat.
Evidence presented on file was that Red Bull heir was driving within the speed limit and the policeman’s erratic driving made his death ‘inevitable’
In addition to Jaruchat Maadthong, there was Air Marshal Jakkrit Thanomkulabutr.
The evidence was that the Red Bull heir was driving his Ferrari at well below the speed limit and that the victim in the crash, Police Sergeant Wichian Klanprasert, had travelled erratically across the road, from the left to the right on to the oncoming smokey grey Ferrari.
On Thursday, Mr Nate told the panel that based on this evidence, the accident causing the death of the policeman was inevitable and could not have been caused by the then 27-year-old scion of one of Thailand’s wealthiest families.
This was the basis for dropping the charge.
Based on the file presented to him, the prosecutor decided not to proceed with the charge against the now 35 year old man living outside Thailand in exile after he fled the kingdom in April 2017, days ahead of charges being filed against him.
Decision on the case made in June only became public on international TV station CNN, the prosecutor has tendered his resignation from his post
On July 24th, following news of the assistant attorney general’s decision being revealed by the international TV station, CNN, a spokesman for the Royal Thai Police stated unequivocally that no charge currently existed against ‘Boss’ Yoravuth Yoovidhya and that he was free to return home without fear of arrest.
A subsequent statement by the Immigration Bureau has now contradicted this saying the Red Bull heir would be detained based on an old warrant that has not been cancelled.
Mr Nate is still due before a variety of panels and enquiries to further explain his decision.
He is reported over the weekend to have submitted his letter of resignation but this has not yet been accepted.
He is also known to be nearing retirement but there is an option, pending a review by an internal panel or committee, to extend his service for a further 5 years.
Prime Minister’s enquiry into the scandal
Mr Vicha Mahakun, who leads a panel established by the Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, to enquire into the affair, expressed on Thursday his determination to see Mr Nate also appear before his committee whether his resignation from the Attorney General’s Office is accepted or not.
‘The committee has been authorised by the prime minister to summon anybody,’ Mr Vicha, a former Chairman of the Anti Corruption Commission, said.
Death of one key witness on July 30th now ruled as a coincidental accident by Chiang Mai police
Meanwhile, police officers in Chiang Mai have said that, based on an investigation and autopsy following the death of one of the key witnesses in the case, Mr Jaruchat Maadthong, on July 30th, they have concluded that it was an accident.
This was decided on the basis that no toxic substance was found on the body and clear CCTV footage of the accident itself shows no foul play.
A friend of Mr Jaruchat, named only as ‘Lan’, an aide to a former Chiang Mai senator with whom Mr Jaruchat had worked, has been charged with stealing the dead witness’s smartphone from the hospital within 24 hours of his death and destroying the content of the device.
However, he told police that he feared being linked with the ongoing controversy over the case as he is running for an election locally.
This was why he stole the dead man’s phone, left the sim card outside Mr Jaruchat’s home and deleted its contents.
Police have indicated that they have conducted a review of the man’s background and financial records. They found nothing suspicious.
Police panel report ordered by National chief is highly critical of police involved in the case. It details their ill-judged and flawed response
A committee set up by the National Police Chief, General Chakthip Chaijinda has also filed its report.
While the investigation found a range of glaring and multiple flaws linked with the actions of police involved with the investigation following the accident on September 3rd 2012, it found no fault with the decision, at the end of June, by Police Lieutenant General Permpoon Chidchob not to object to the decision of the assistant attorney general, Mr Nate to drop the case.
However, it identified a large array of mistakes and inexplicable failures in the handling of the investigation from within hours of the accident by police officers who responded and initially tracked down the Red Bull heir at his home on the morning of September 3rd 2012 to the weeks, months and years after when the case was stalled, evidence mislaid or not taken at all, until finally, the ‘Boss’ fled in a private jet just two days before police were due to arrest and charge him.