Thai pros­e­cu­tors want drug charge for Red Bull scion

Times Colonist - - World -

BANGKOK — Fac­ing re­newed pub­lic out­rage, pros­e­cu­tors in Thai­land said Tues­day 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 say 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 $20.2 bil­lion US.

“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. His con­tin­u­ing jet-set lifestyle pro­voked wide­spread pub­lic anger when it was re­vealed by an As­so­ci­ated Press in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

That anger was reignited lat month with the sud­den news that the most se­ri­ous re­main­ing charge against Vo­rayuth was be­ing dropped. Sev­eral lesser charges had al­ready ex­pired.

No spe­cific rea­sons were given for why the charge was dropped, but an of­fi­cial memo leaked to Thai media cited two new wit­nesses say­ing they had seen Vo­rayuth’s car trav­el­ling safely within the speed limit and that the po­lice of­fi­cer had reck­lessly cut in front of him.

Of­fi­cials at Tues­day’s news con­fer­ence said they would ask for a re-in­ves­ti­ga­tion of whether Vo­rayuth was speed­ing.

“I can as­sure you that the? Office of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral is seek­ing the truth and is nei­ther aban­don­ing this case nor con­sid­er­ing it closed,” said Chan­chai Cha­lanon­ni­wat, a mem­ber of the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s com­mit­tee.

The com­mit­tee ac­knowl­edged that a fresh in­ves­ti­ga­tion might also ex­on­er­ate Vo­rayuth.

Last week’s death in a mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent of one of the new wit­nesses in the case added a fresh turn to the case. Although there ap­peared to be no sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances in­volved, it now has it­self become the ob­ject of a spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion, with the vic­tim’s body or­dered seized for ex­am­i­na­tion.

In ad­di­tion to the new in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s com­mit­tee sug­gested that a charge of us­ing Class 2 drugs be lodged against Vo­rayuth. The of­fence is pun­ish­able by up to three years im­pris­on­ment and a fine.

News emerged last week that when Vo­rayuth was tested after the ac­ci­dent, traces of chem­i­cals were found in his sys­tem in­di­cat­ing co­caine, but that po­lice did not pur­sue charges after be­ing told it came from an anes­thetic used in dental work. Dental ex­perts re­sponded that drugs used for dental work con­tain chemical com­pounds dis­tinct from those found in co­caine.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.