Thailand Drops All Charges Against Red Bull Heir in Deadly Crash

BANGKOK — The police in Thailand said they had dropped the last remaining charges against a wealthy playboy on Friday, eight years after he struck and killed an officer with his Ferrari and fled the country.

The announcement ended a yearslong drama that included the issuance of an international arrest warrant for the heir to one of the country’s most storied companies and largest fortunes and a public outcry over the seemingly separate system of justice for the country’s richest people.

Just before dawn on a dark Bangkok street on a September night in 2012, a speeding Ferrari struck and killed a motorcycle police officer. The driver fled the scene, but a trail of leaking engine fluid led the police to his door — and the damaged Ferrari — a short distance away.

The police arrested the driver, Vorayuth Yoovidhaya, the grandson of the inventor of the Red Bull energy drink and heir to one of Thailand’s greatest fortunes. The police said at the time that he had been intoxicated and admitted that his car hit the officer, Wichean Glanprasert.

But in a case often cited as an example of the special treatment received by Thailand’s elite, Mr. Vorayuth was never brought to justice. He fled the country and has been living in luxury for years.

On Friday, the police said they were dropping the last charge in the case, reckless driving resulting in someone’s death, and were withdrawing Thai and Interpol warrants for his arrest.

Credit…Associated Press

A police spokesman, Col. Krisana Pattanajaroen, said the police had followed all proper procedures in the case.

“It’s quite normal,” he said. “We strictly followed the protocol here.”

The process of withdrawing the arrest warrants will be completed soon and Mr. Vorayuth, 37, who goes by nickname “Boss,” will be able to return to Thailand if he wishes.

“After that, he’ll be free,” Colonel Krisana said.

During the investigation, Mr. Vorayuth repeatedly ignored police summonses. He fled the country in 2017, shortly before the first arrest warrant was issued. Three charges — speeding, hit-and-run driving and reckless driving causing damage to another person — were dropped earlier because the statute of limitations had expired.

Soon after the crash, Mr. Vorayuth’s family paid the police officer’s family nearly $100,000 in compensation and Mr. Vorayuth resumed his jet-set lifestyle, traveling around the world on private Red Bull jets, keeping a Porsche in London and staying in luxury hotels.

Prosecutors decided to close the case last month, but news of the decision did not surface until this week.

In a June 18 letter to Mr. Vorayuth, a police deputy director of investigations, Lt. Col. Thanawut Sanguansuk, informed him of the decision. “This case is therefore terminated in accordance with the legal process,” the letter said.

The outcome was what the family of Mr. Wichean, the motorcycle officer, expected long ago.

Mr. Vorayuth “is powerful, has many connections and a lot of money,” the officer’s older brother, Pornanand Glanprasert, said in a 2013 interview.

“If you are common people like us, I think the case is already finished,” he said. “He is going to try very hard not to be charged — or at the very least to get a suspended sentence or no punishment at all.”

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