Thailand police get arrest warrant for Red Bull heir

Current whereabouts of Vorayuth Yoovidhya, accused of a deadly hit-and-run accident in 2012, remain unknown.

Red Bull heir
Yoovidhya's current whereabouts are unknown to the police [File: EPA]

A court in Thailand has issued an arrest warrant for the heir to Red Bull energy drink fortune who is accused of a deadly hit-and-run accident.

Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya is accused of fleeing the scene of a 2012 crash involving his Ferrari after allegedly hitting a police motorcycle that resulted in the officer’s death.

Friday’s warrant could move the case forward. Vorayuth was charged with speeding, hit-and-run and reckless driving that caused the death of the policemen in 2012.

He missed prosecutor orders to report to court on Thursday, the eighth time he has missed a summons since legal proceedings against him began in 2016.

His current whereabouts are unknown.

Yoovidhya’s family, half-owners of the Red Bull empire, has an estimated wealth of more than $20bn and are the fourth-richest in Thailand.

Police spokesperson Krisana Pattanacharoen said the court had approved the arrest warrant on two charges: hit-and-run and reckless driving.

“He will be processed like any other suspect who is evading an arrest warrant,” said Krisana. “There are tens of thousands of these suspects.”

Police said Vorayuth disputes the reckless driving charge, claiming the officer swerved in front of him. 

For many in Thailand, the case has become a byword for the special treatment enjoyed by elites in a justice system notoriously bent by cash and influence.

It is the first warrant against Vorayuth, who has spent years ducking hearings on charges, complaining through his lawyer of unfair treatment or citing duties abroad.

Expired charges

He was 27 at the time of the crash and has freely dipped in and out of Thailand over the past five years. Several charges against him, including the speeding charge, have expired during that time.

The more serious charge of hit-and-run, which carries a penalty of up to six months in prison, expires September 3.

The reckless driving charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years of imprisonment, expires in 10 years if left unchallenged.

Thai police chief, Chaktip Chaijinda, said his force is exploring applying for the extradition of Vorayuth. 

“Whenever he steps into Thailand, we should be able to get him,” Chaktip told reporters. “Initially, I learned he is hiding in England where we have an extradition treaty.”

Vorayuth grandfather Chaleo Yoovidhya co-founded the Red Bull brand with Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz in the 1980s in the kingdom’s most celebrated rags-to-riches tale.  

Source: News Agencies