[imagesource: Bangkok Post file photo]
You may not be familiar with Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, but you are familiar with his family.
Vorayuth is heir to a fortune estimated to be worth in excess of $26 billion. His grandfather, the late Chaleo Yoovidhya, created the Red Bull energy drink.
Chaleo died in 2012 and Vorayuth continued to live like you’d expect most 20-somethings who will inherit billions to live – he sat in VIP enclosures at Formula One races and cheered on the Red Bull racing team, he owned multiple sports cars, and he travelled in luxury from one corner of the globe to the other.
Just the one issue – here’s VICE:
In the early hours of Sep. 3, 2012, the then-27-year-old sped at over 100 mph through the streets of Bangkok in his black Ferrari. He struck Wichien Klanprasert, a police officer on his motorcycle responding to a robbery call, dragging his body for around 100 meters, refusing to stop as he sped home.
A trail of brake fluid led investigators to his damaged sports car, nestled in a mansion in one of Bangkok’s most affluent neighborhoods belonging to one of Thailand’s richest families.
Tests conducted after the crash revealed that Yoovidhya’s blood contained traces of cocaine, although this was initially left off the charge sheet.
At first, the family’s chauffeur was arrested and police did their utmost to pin the crime on anybody but the man who was actually behind the wheel.
Vorayuth initially dodged prosecution, fearing he may be held accountable for a crime that, wait for it, he admits he committed.
Following his arrest, he was released on $16 000 bail and then successfully managed to have the trial delayed for a full five years. His legal team claimed on multiple occasions that he was either sick or overseas.
I detect a whiff of Jacob Zuma about this guy. Much like JZ, during that time Vorayuth was too ill to appear in court, he was regularly pictured living it up.
Then, in 2017, he finally went into hiding. We are just under a month away from the 10th ‘anniversary’ of the deadly hit and run and Vorayuth remains elusive. The longer he does so, the less likely it is that he will ever face actual justice.
Thai criminal law has certain limits, you see:
On Tuesday, a spokesperson of the Office of the Attorney General confirmed that one more of Vorayuth’s crimes had expired. His charge of cocaine consumption has now officially lapsed due to a new narcotics law that came into force in December last year, reducing the statute of limitations from 10 years to just five.
This means that all but one of Vorayuth’s charges—which also included speeding, drunk driving, and fleeing the scene of an accident—have expired.
The only remaining charge, reckless driving causing death, carries a sentence of up to 10 years in jail.
There’s a race against time on that front because there’s a 15-year statute of limitations on the crime. In other words, come 2027, Vorayuth will be home scot-free.
The case is viewed by many in Thailand as the epitome of how the country’s elite are able to escape the criminal justice system.
Even the deceased policeman’s family have been bought, accepting three million baht (around $96 000) to agree to not initiate criminal or civil charges against Vorayuth.
That doesn’t shield him from a case brought by Thai prosecutors. They just don’t seem all that keen to push hard on that front.
For example, after the positive cocaine test following the deadly crash, police claimed this was omitted from the charge sheet because cocaine had been used as a component of his dental treatment. Dentists rubbished this claim.
Reports suggest Vorayuth may currently be hiding out in Austria. If he can hang tight and lay low for another five years, it’s lights out and away he goes.
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