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Thailand

Thai police forced to reopen Red Bull case

The decision has done little to allay concerns that police are trying to clear a fugitive billionaire at all costs

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

Updated: August 03, 2020 05:14 AM GMT
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Thai police forced to reopen Red Bull case

Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya has been leading a jet-setting lifestyle abroad since fleeing Thailand.

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Public outrage has forced the Royal Thai Police to take another look at the case against a super-wealthy man accused of killing a policeman in a hit-and-run incident in 2012, yet their efforts have done little to allay concerns that police were trying to clear the accused at all costs.

Police announced last week that the attorney-general had dropped all charges against Vorayuth Yoovidhya, an heir to the Red Bull multibillion-dollar fortune, who has been a fugitive from justice since 2018 when finally an arrest warrant was issued for him.

The decision effectively cleared Vorayuth of any wrongdoing, although he has never faced a day in court despite overwhelming evidence against him.

Vorayuth, 35, crashed his Ferrari at very high speed into a policeman on a motorcycle in Bangkok on a night in October 2012, killing him instantly.

He fled the scene but later confessed to running over the officer, according to police, but was released hours later on bail of 500,000 baht (US$16,000).

He failed to appear in court repeatedly and when an arrest warrant was finally issued for him in 2018 he fled the country and remains abroad where he has been leading a jet-setting lifestyle, at times posting on social media about his doings and whereabouts.

The decision to drop the case against the young billionaire has been cited as yet another example of the wanton impunity that the rich and powerful enjoy in Thailand, with the authorities refusing or failing to hold them accountable for alleged crimes.

It has also transpired that his billionaire family has donated 300 million baht to the police and government in recent years, although officials have said the donations have had no bearing on their investigation.

“In dropping charges against Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya, the Thai police and the Thai government have once again boldly revealed their corrupt souls,” one commenter observed.

“Absent shame or mitigating circumstances they have defined their version of justice, integrity and dictatorial rule by law in this abominable decision.”

In response to widespread outrage at the prosecution’s decision, a senior officer has said police would re-evaluate the merits of the decision.

Yet police then caused further outrage by arguing that a trace of cocaine that was found, along with alcohol, in Vorayuth’s blood sample after the crash was part of his dental treatment.

Pojjanart Poomprakorbsri, president of Thailand’s Dental Council, insisted in a media interview last week that contrary to police’s claims Thai dentists did not use cocaine for anesthesia.

“Cocaine was used to induce anesthesia in dental treatments in the past, but it has adverse effects on blood pressure,” he explained.

The unidentified dentist who was providing treatment for Vorayuth in 2012 has also denied using cocaine for treating patients.

Police then changed tack and said that after all there had been no cocaine or any other illicit substance found in the billionaire’s blood sample taken shortly after the crash.

The about-face drew both plenty of ridicule and condemnation from irate Thais, tens of thousands of whom have taken to social media to condemn police.

“Money has once again dictated that justice in Thailand is very warped,” an expatriate living in Thailand said in a letter to the editor published by the Bangkok Post newspaper.

“If I or anyone else would be involved in a hit-and-run, we’d be tried, found guilty and sent to that horrible prison in Bangkok to serve out the rest of our lives behind bars. Shame on the police, the government, and all others involved in letting this spoiled rich kid off the hook.”

In another troubling development, a key witness to the hit-and-run accident died last week in a motorcycle accident in the northern city of Chiang Mai. Police said the man died as a result of a “regular accident.”

“Looking at the CCTV footage, it’s an accident,” police spokesman Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen said on July 30. “But the autopsy is ongoing and investigators will continue to investigate. We aren’t ruling anything out yet.”

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