Thai prosecutors suggest drug charge against Red Bull scion

BANGKOK (AP) — Facing renewed public outrage, prosecutors in Thailand said yesterday that police should file drug charges against a scion of the Red Bull energy drink fortune in connection with the 2012 hit-and-run death of a police officer.

An Office of the Attorney General committee also suggested that the charge of causing death by reckless driving against Vorayuth Yoovidhya might be restored after a re-examination of the evidence. Prosecutors dropped that charge late last month, igniting a fresh uproar over a case that critics said highlights the impunity wealthy Thais enjoy.

The committee is one of several that were set up to investigate how and why charges had been dropped against Vorayuth, whose family is listed by Forbes magazine as the second richest in Thailand, with an estimated wealth of USD20.2 billion.

“The committee can assure you that the case hasn’t ended,” a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, Prayuth Bejraguna, said at a news conference.

Vorayuth had been accused of roaring down a Bangkok street in his Ferrari at speeds of up to 177 kilometres per hour when he struck a police officer patrolling on a motorcycle. The officer and his mangled motorcycle were dragged for several dozen metres before his body fell to the road.

Police followed a trail of fluid to the Yoovidhya family’s nearby property. The car, which they found there, had a shattered windshield and its bumper was dangling. At first, a chauffeur was blamed for the accident, but Vorayuth later admitted to being the driver. He turned himself in and was released on bail the same day.

His lawyers managed to repeatedly put off any court appearances until April 2017, when a warrant was issued for his arrest a few days after he had left the country. His Thai passports were later revoked.

Despite the legal threats hanging over him, Vorayuth managed after the accident to lead a busy globetrotting life, flying in private Red Bull jets to attend Formula One races, go snowboarding in Japan and cruising in Venice, among other activities.