A panel of prosecutors yesterday (4th August) recommended charges of cocaine abuse and reckless driving causing death for Red Bull heir Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya.
The dramatic turnaround on Vorayuth fatal hit-and-run case in Bangkok in 2012 came from a review of the prosecution by a working group of the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) and was announced by OAG spokesman Prayut Petcharakhun. Earlier a deputy attorney-general and an acting police chief decided not to arraign him on the charge of reckless driving causing death.
Mr Petcharakhun said that Nate Naksuk, deputy attorney-general responsible for cases with justice complaints, had initially made a sound decision against arraignment based on available evidence and witnesses.
Although police investigators initially believed Vorayuth had driven his Ferrari car at 177 kilometres per hour, they later reduced the estimated speed below 80kph. The change came after the suspect’s repeated appeals for justice and more evidence and witnesses were gathered.
Mr Petcharakhun also mentioned the account of late witness Jaruchart Maadthong, who said he saw a man driving a pickup truck at the crash scene at 80kph and saw the crash victim cut in front of him on his motorcycle, and then heard the noise of a crash behind. The witness gave his story days after the crash.
Mr Petcharakhun said that prosecutors’ working group found later that Sathon Wicharnwannarak, a physics lecturer of Chulalongkorn University who worked for forensic police, had concluded that the speed of the Ferrari at the time of the crash was about 177kph. However, the conclusion had not been included in the police’s investigative report relating to the case.
The statute of limitations on the charge will not expire for another seven years.
Regarding the alleged cocaine abuse, Mr Petcharakhun said that a blood sample taken from Vorayuth’s blood on the day of the crash indicated that he had abused cocaine. However, police had not raised the matter in their past investigative report on the case, he said.
Police and prosecutors omitted the charge of driving under the influence of alcohol because a test showed the Red Bull heir drank after the crash – because his blood alcohol level was so high, he would have been unable to drive.
Charnchai Chalanonniwat, deputy director-general of the OAG’s Department of Criminal Litigation, said the blood test showed benzoylecgonine and cocaethylene.
Neither chemical was a narcotic in itself, he said, but benzoylecgonine would emerge after cocaine use, while cocaethylene resulted from the use of cocaine and alcohol.
Mr Chalanonniwat and Mr Petcharakhun said that the new evidence found by the working group justified the fresh investigation in the hit-and-run case.
Vorayuth, 35, also known as Boss, drove a black Ferrari that killed Pol Snr Sgt Maj Wichian Klanprasert, 47, in the early morning of 3rd September 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 3rd September 2017.
The third and most serious charge, reckless driving causing death, would have remained on the books until 2027, but on 23rd July, CNN revealed the charge had been dropped.
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 B617bn).