Panel finds ‘injustice’ in Red Bull scion’s hit-and-run case

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Vicha Mahakhun, centre, receives a petition from Dr Taejing Siripanich, secretary-general of the Don't Drive Drunk Foundation, who called for a drink driving charge to be pressd against Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhya, at the Council of State in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
Vicha Mahakhun, centre, receives a petition from Dr Taejing Siripanich, secretary-general of the Don’t Drive Drunk Foundation, who called for a drink driving charge to be pressd against Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhya, at the Council of State in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

The chairman of the prime minister’s committee reviewing the aborted hit-and-run case of Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhya said his panel saw “injustice” and the “shadow of corruption” in past handling of the prosecution.

Vicha Mahakhun, a former member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission who heads the committee, on Wednesday outlined his panel’s progress, with the 30-day working deadline due on Aug 31. He was being interviewed on CU Radio.  

Officials had decided to press charges against Vorayuth, but the process had been delayed for 7-8 years and there had been as many as 14 petitions for justice before charges were dropped, he said.

“There were definitely flaws, otherwise it would not have taken so long. How can there be 14 petitions for justice? For the past 7-8 years the case was about to reach the court, but in the end that did not happen,” Mr Vicha said.

“This contradicts the principles of the justice system. That is, delaying the justice system is injustice. Lawyers are well aware of this… There is the shadow of corruption.”

Mr Vicha said the police officer in charge of foreign affairs matters at the time had asked Interpol to issue a Red Notice for Mr Vorayuth, and had been transferred soon after contacting Interpol.

He said he discussed the findings of his committee with the national police chief on Tuesday, and in response the police sought a new arrest warrant for Mr Vorayuth.

Mr Vicha said his committee would look into whether there was any abuse of power in the way public prosecutors handled the case. Otherwise, prosecutors could say there was no new evidence to justify the revival of the hit-and-run case.

Mr Vorayuth, 35, also known as Boss, drove the Ferrari that hit and killed Pol Snr Sgt Maj Wichian Klanprasert, 47, in the early morning of Sept 3, 2012.

He crashed into the rear of the police motorcycle on Sukhumvit Road. He then fled the scene to his home nearby.

He delayed hearing charges seven times. It was not until April 27, 2017, that prosecutors finally charged him with reckless driving causing death and failing to help a crash victim.

He fled on a private plane two days before he was due to face the charges.

A speeding charge was later dropped when the one-year statute of limitation expired. A second charge, failing to stop and help a crash victim, expired on Sept 3, 2017.

The third and most serious charge, reckless driving causing death, would have remained on the books until 2027, but in June the charge had been dropped.

Mr Vorayuth is the son of Chalerm Yoovidhya, whose family co-owns the energy drink megabrand Red Bull and ranks second on Thailand’s richest list, with a net worth estimated at US$20 billion (about 617 billion baht).

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