Former and present officials as well as civilians face serious charges in the Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya scandal. Allegations of cover-up and corruption resurface after 7 years. Justice delayed, but not denied?

The Office of the Attorney-General (OAG), on Tuesday, announced that it was bringing charges against existing and former top officials linked to the Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya scandal. The charges being brought are of a serious nature which could see those convicted facing jail terms. The decision comes seven years after the wealthy heir fled Thailand. Certainly, three and a half years after a damning report citing corruption and malfeasance at the highest level was lodged with the Prime Minister’s Office. Nevertheless, the man at the centre of the scandal remains at large and is thought to be either in France or Austria.

8-people-face-serious-criminal-charges-over-red-bull-boss vorayuth-scandal
Officials at the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) announced that eight named people are to face an array of criminal charges. This relates to a concerted attempt by a group of people to undermine the prosecution of Red Bull scion Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya (inset left). It followed the killing of 47-year-old Sergeant Major Wichian Klanprasert on 3rd September 2012 in a horrific accident in Bangkok.

On Tuesday, the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) made a significant announcement regarding the case involving Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya.

The notorious affair is linked with the heir to the Red Bull empire. 

The then 27-year-old allegedly mowed down a serving police officer, 47-year-old Sergeant Major Wichian Klanprasert, on 3rd September 2012.

Horrific early morning accident saw a serving police officer killed after he was hit by a Ferrari travelling at speed, driven by the wealthy young man

The accident occurred on the Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok in the early hours of the morning.

Prayut Phetkhun, the Attorney General’s Office spokesperson, told the press that his office will pursue charges against eight suspects. The cases will be brought before the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct.

Minister cited by the Corruption Commission for ‘minor’ role in Boss Vorayuth corruption scandal

The eight facing serious charges are Police General Somyot Poompunmuang, former police chief and former Thai football boss, Police Major General Thawatchai Mekprasertkul, Police Colonel Veeradol Taptim, Nate Natsuk, former deputy attorney general, Chainarong Saengthong-aram, a public prosecutor, Thanit Buakhiew, Chuchai Lertpongadisorn and Associate Professor Dr Saiprasit Kerdniyom.

Both Mr Somyot and Mr Thawatch face charges of malfeasance and nonfeasance.

They are accused of violating Criminal Code Articles 83, 86, 157 and 200. In addition, they will be charged under Articles 123/1, 65 and 172. These refer to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) Acts of 1999, 2011 and 2020, respectively.

Serious criminal charges of dishonesty, neglect and corruption to be brought against those at the heart of an alleged conspiracy to assist Boss Vorayuth

Meanwhile, Mr Veeradol faces charges of violating the Criminal Code’s Articles 83, 157 and 200. In addition to Articles 123/1, 65 and 172 of the NACC Acts of 1999, 2011 and 2020, respectively. Prayut pointed out that the accused previously worked as an investigator at the Thonglor Police Station

He stands accused of being dishonest in his handling of the investigation to assist Mr Vorayuth.

Mr Nate, the deputy attorney general, who became prominent in 2020 meanwhile is also to be charged. He faces a charge of dereliction of duty. In short, that he helped Mr Vorayuth evade justice.

On this basis, he will be charged with violating the Criminal Code’s Articles 157 and 200. In addition to this, he will be charged under Article 172 of the 2018 NACC Act.

The remaining four suspects are civilians who were embroiled in the case. They stand accused of helping the authorities manipulate evidence to undermine the case against Mr Vorayuth.

Consequently, they are to be charged under Articles 86, 157 and 200 of the Criminal Code. They will also be charged under Articles 65 and 172 of the Anti-corruption Agency Acts of 2011 and 2018 respectively.

Scion hit the unfortunate police officer on his motorbike and dragged him for a considerable distance to his death. Conflicting reports of the car’s speed

On September 3rd 2012, the Red Bull scion was driving a silver Ferrari supercar. That morning, he hit and dragged the police motorcyclist along the road to his death. Initially, police investigators reported he was travelling at 177 km an hour, a key issue that was later disputed.

Subsequent reports, emerging years later, suggested the suspect was only driving at 76 km per hour, under the 80 km per hour speed limit.

Over the past 12 years, this case has severely tarnished Thailand’s reputation and confidence in the rule of law. This holds true for both domestic and international audiences.

Following a thorough investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), the Attorney-General’s office has finally decided to act. It is to bring charges against officials.

In short, eight people were allegedly involved in facilitating Vorayuth’s evasion of justice. This occurred in the days and weeks after the tragic incident in 2012.

In particular, in 2017 just before ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya fled Thailand on a private jet. This was days before he was to face a court hearing. 

Heir to a $27 billion fortune charged in April 2017 with three offences. Two have lapsed due to the Statute of Limitations. So will the key charge in 2027

The wealthy scion was eventually only charged with three offences on April 27th 2017. 

Before that, the heir to a fortune estimated at $27 billion, had already flown the coop. Previously he had been granted bail after his arrest in the hours following the accident. His father paid $15,000.

At this time, only one charge of reckless driving causing death awaits the fugitive. The others expired under Thailand’s statute of limitations. The last one will expire in September 2027.

Among the accused in Tuesday’s shock announcement are prominent figures in law enforcement. These include former National Police Chief Police General Somyot Poompunmuang. 

The list also includes the former commander of the Police Forensic Science Division, Police Major General Thawatchai Mekprasertkul.

These high-ranking officials are alleged to have abused their authority. Prosecutors will argue they manipulated evidence and weakened the case against Vorayuth.

Joint efforts between police, prosecutors and experts are alleged to have taken place to undermine the criminal case against Vorayuth up to the 2020 decision

Furthermore, former Thonglor police officer Police Colonel Veeradol Taptim and former Deputy Attorney General Nate Naksuk are also facing charges.

Both are alleged to have purportedly played roles in aiding Vorayuth’s escape from prosecution. Their alleged actions include neglecting duties and colluding with others to obstruct justice.

The remaining suspects include individuals from various backgrounds.

At length, they include a politician and a university lecturer. These people were accused of collaborating with authorities to manipulate evidence in Vorayuth’s favour.

Expert stands by evidence that Red Bull Boss Vorayuth’s Ferrari was travelling at 177 km/h at the scene

At one point, then deputy attorney general, Mr Nate, dismissed all charges against the Red Bull heir.

This was the 2020 decision which provoked an explosion of public anger. In short, for a brief period that year the ‘boss’ was free to return to Thailand without fear of arrest. 

Parliamentary enquiries, police internal probes and National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) investigations have gone before. 2020 report was critical

This long-running saga has seen parliamentary enquiries and subsequently a damning report alleging corruption at the highest level. At the same time, police have already been disciplined following earlier findings of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

The explosive report on the affair was submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office in August 2020. Former Chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, Vicha Mahakun, was scathing in his conclusions.

These latest charges stem from new findings of the NACC.

Indeed, it has identified a total of 19 people suspected of involvement in Vorayuth’s attempt to evade prosecution. Some of these are to act as witnesses for the prosecutions which are now to proceed.

Police General Somyot Poompunmuang, who served as President of the Thai Football Association, is the big fish in today’s bombshell. The former top cop is alleged to have used his influence to help Vorayuth avoid prosecution. 

Similarly, Police Major General Thawatchai Mekprasertkul is accused of using his position within the forensic science division to tamper with evidence. He allegedly attempted to weaken the case against Vorayuth.

Charges brought are of a serious nature and go to the heart of the cover-up and corruption that has already been confirmed by the landmark 2020 report

Police Colonel Veeradol Taptim, who was stationed at Thonglor police station at the time of the incident, similarly faces charges. In particular, this relates to his alleged involvement in altering evidence to aid Vorayuth’s escape.

Former deputy attorney general Nate Naksuk is accused of dereliction of duty and abusing his position to shield Vorayuth from legal proceedings.

The former prosecutor has long since vehemently denied the charges against him.

The other suspects include Chainarong Saengthongaram, Thanit Buakhiao, Chuchai Lertphongadisorn, and Associate Professor Dr Saiprasit Kerdniyom. At length, they stand accused of assisting in the manipulation of evidence to weaken the case against Vorayuth. 

These individuals come from diverse backgrounds but are alleged to have collaborated to obstruct justice.

Critics point to Vorayuth’s evasion of justice for over a decade as a black mark for Thailand’s criminal justice apparatus.

They point to it as evidence of the challenges in holding the wealthy and well-connected accountable for their actions.

Scandal implicates a senior cabinet minister

The case has underscored the need for reforms aimed at addressing corruption and impunity within Thailand’s legal institutions.

In Tuesday’s report, the case against Minister of Education Police General Permpoon Chidchob is referred to the government. 

In September 2023, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) cited the senior cabinet minister for his involvement in the controversy. 

According to the NACC’s report, Police General Permpoon, who was a senior officer in the Royal Thai Police during the affair, played a ‘minor’ role in the controversy surrounding Vorayuth’s evasion of justice.

The report was sent to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s office, signalling possible repercussions for the newly appointed minister. These have not materialised.

National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) last year confirmed the senior cabinet minister’s role in the affair as a former police officer was a minor one

In response to the NACC’s findings in September 2023, Secretary General Mr Niwatchai Kasemmongkol clarified the matter.

He emphasised that the actions attributed to Police General Permpoon Chidchob, the cabinet minister, were relatively minor. 

However, the agency was obligated under the Prevention and Suppression of Corruption Act 2018. Therefore it reported its findings relating to the minister to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The controversy reached its peak in 2020. Back then, it was revealed that efforts had been made to alter evidence in Vorayuth’s favour. Significantly, this included downplaying his use of cocaine before the fatal incident. 

The damning report delivered to the Prime Minister’s Office in August 2020 by former Anti-Corruption Commissioner Mr Vicha is relevant. Certainly, it uncovered extensive evidence of corruption within the prosecution of Vorayuth.

Explosive report on the Red Bull scandal exposing ‘corruption’ due at the Prime Minister’s office

Despite being placed on the Interpol Red Notice list in October 2020, Vorayuth’s name has since again been removed from the list. Previously it was published in 2017 but then removed in 2018. It is still missing without a comprehensive explanation

Case raises disturbing questions. Not least why isn’t the Red Bull heir arrested as he is known to be at large in Europe. Where is the Interpol notice?

The case, even after today’s announcement, continues to raise disturbing questions.

Key to this is the lack of effectiveness of international efforts to bring him to justice. The case has fueled public scepticism about Thailand’s commitment to combating corruption and upholding the rule of law.

This has been fueled by regular news reports of the wanted man attending international events, particularly in Europe without being arrested. Similarly, the fugitive appears to be able to travel without fear of being detained.

This has been attributed to the extraordinary wealth and power of one of Thailand’s richest families.

‘This family is not only powerful in Thailand, but they are very powerful worldwide too,’ Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai political pundit from Kyoto University told the AFP news agency.

Analysts suggest that the fugitive may be in France or Austria, the headquarters of the Red Bull drinks empire.

‘The perception of different justice systems for different segments of society. This cripples people’s trust in the Thai state’s capacity to carry out its responsibility to protect human rights for all Thai people,’ an Amnesty International Thailand spokesman declared in 2022.

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Further reading:

Interpol Red Notice for ‘Boss’ Vorayuth as Police authorities in Bangkok seek to bring him to trial

Assistant Attorney General in Red Bull case named as a senior prosecutor to central Bangkok district

Murder charge against ‘Boss’ Yoravuth should have been weighed after mowing down policeman

Explosive report on the Red Bull scandal exposing ‘corruption’ due at the Prime Minister’s office

Police witness in Red Bull case had talks about witness protection with department at the Ministry of Justice

Prosecutor appears before House committee as Chairman worries for safety of expert witness in the case

Criminal case against Boss Vorayuth descends into chaos with mounting review panels and extra lines of enquiry

Boss to be charged again with reckless driving causing the death of a policeman after review of the case

Red Bulk Boss Vorayuth case witness dies riding his motorbike early on Thursday morning in Chiang Mai

Expert stands by evidence that Red Bull Boss Vorayuth’s Ferrari was travelling at 177 km/ph

Strong new evidence suggests that there was no basis to prosecute Red Bull driver ‘Boss’ Vorayuth

Anger at news that Red Bull heir is free to return to Thailand after charge is dropped by Bangkok prosecutor

Prosecutors urge police to track down location of Red Bull heir to allow for extradition proceedings against him

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