Assistant Attorney General Nate Natsuk defended himself before a range of panels last month. He had already been cleared by a committee set up within the Office of the Attorney General. Mr Nate claims that his controversial decision was the appropriate one based on the case file presented to him at the end of June. The long-standing prosecutor has also been linked with another contentious decision in May not to appeal the acquittal of Phanthongthae or ‘Oak’ Shinawatra after he was found not guilty of money laundering in a decision handed down by the trial court in November last year.
The Assistant Attorney General who decided, based on the evidence before him in a case file at the end of June, to drop charges against 35-year-old Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhya has been newly appointed as a senior prosecutor at the Phra Khanong Criminal Office in central Bangkok. In August, the resignation of Assistant Attorney General, Mr Nate Natsuk, was announced. However, it appears that his resignation was not finalised. Mr Nate has consistently defended his actions in relation to the affair.
A deputy spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General has confirmed that the prosecutor at the centre of the Red Bull scandal, who dropped charges against 35-year-old Vorayuth Yoovidhya at the end of June, has been appointed to a new role.
The veteran assistant attorney general, who was reported last month as nearing retirement, is to be a senior prosecutor at the Phra Khanong Criminal Office in central Bangkok.
Resignation in August not finalised
In August, as the uproar over the scandal mounted and as he appeared before several official investigating panels, it was disclosed that Mr Nate had tendered his resignation from the Office of the Attorney General. However, it is now understood that this resignation has not been accepted.
Shocking report from Prime Minister’s investigating panel revealed on September 1st at Government House
At the beginning of the month, on Tuesday, September 1st, the explosive report of a top panel delving into the scandal was reviewed by the Thai cabinet.
This was followed at Government House, the same day, by a dramatic press conference given by the Chairman of that panel, the zealous anti-corruption campaigner Mr Vicha Mahakhun.
The report is believed to have focused on the flaws and mistakes made at the beginning of the criminal investigation when police failed to arrest and charge Mr Vorayuth, the suspect, as well as repeated attempts to have new evidence considered and changed.
Conspiracy confirmed by panel chairman
Mr Vicha revealed that his report had provided, in detailed terms, evidence of what he claimed to be a conspiracy from the outset of the hit and run traffic incident on September 3rd 2012 which caused the death of on-duty officer Police Sergeant Wichian Klanprasert.
The inquiry Chairman indicated his view that there was a concerted effort to thwart any efforts to prosecute the wealthy scion of Thailand’s second richest family.
He also indicated that murder charges should have been considered against the now 35-year-old man thought to be living in the United Kingdom.
At the same time, he conceded that because of the conspiracy to thwart justice in the case, it was quite likely that Mr Vorayuth would evade prosecution altogether.
Mr Nate has always defended his decision
At the onset of public outrage over the decision to drop the case taken by Mr Nate, a committee within the Office of the Attorney General cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Appearing before the various committees investigating the affair, the prosecutor, who worked at the Office of Criminal Litigation in Southern Bangkok, stoutly defended his actions.
It is being suggested that his resignation in August was tendered to allow for his handling of the case to be more easily investigated by the range of committees looking into the affair.
Mr Nate has stated repeatedly that he made his decision based on the case file presented to him by investigating police and other officials.
He said that no other decision or outcome was possible based on the facts presented to him which suggested that the accident, in which the police officer died, was inevitable and unfortunately, at least partly caused by the officer himself.
Mr Nate is a graduate of Chulalongkorn University and the Thai Bar Association’s Institute of Legal Studies.
Assistant Attorney General also decided in May not to appeal the court’s acquittal of former Premier Thaksin’s son ‘Oak’ Shinawatra
Mr Nate was also the prosecutor at the centre of another controversial decision not to appeal a court’s acquittal of the son of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, Phanthongthae Shinawatra or ‘Oak’ in May his year. ‘Oak’ Shinawatra was acquitted of money laundering and other charges after having become embroiled with the Krung Thai Bank loan scandal due to personal friendships.
Mr Phanthongthae had vigorously and tenaciously defended himself in that case before the court rendered its verdict in November 2019 clearing the 41-year-old man.
Despite the Department of Special Investigation subsequently urging the Office of the Attorney General to appeal the court’s decision, the assistant attorney general decided to ignore the request and let the decision of the trial court stand.
‘Boss’ case now moved for consideration by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI)
On September 1st, Mr Vicha, in his report, had suggested that the DSI investigate the Boss Vorayuth case and the events surrounding it. He even suggested that a murder charge could be examined.
It is understood that three new warrants and charges were issued in August against Mr Vorayuth including one for reckless driving causing death, failing to stop at the scene of an accident and cocaine abuse.
Police have already accepted that the statute of limitations has expired on the charge of failing to stop.
Nevertheless, immigration bureau police have entered the warrants on the agency’s database meaning Mr Yaravuth now faces arrest if he attempts to enter Thailand.
There has been no suggestion, as yet, of issuing an Interpol notice for his arrest after one was removed in March 2018.
The issue of the removed Interpol notice is believed to have been questioned closely by Mr Vicha in his report to the Prime Minister and the government which has not yet been fully released despite a decision being taken in principle to do so.
Not certain if DSI will take the case
It is still far from certain that the DSI will take on the ‘Boss’ Vorayuth case. It is understood that yet another committee, this time within the police agency, will review the facts of the case again based on Mr Vicha’s report and make a decision.
The remit of the DSI is to investigate ‘special’ criminal cases. However, the DSI is looking at whether it may investigate not only the case itself but also the wider context of the botched investigation and failed attempts to prosecute Mr Vorayuth.
It is understood that the National Anti Corruption Commission, which has already investigated the affair and found evidence of minor wrongdoing, may be called on to revisit the case in the light of Mr Vicha’s extensive and shocking report.