Almost six years have passed since Red Bull heir Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya allegedly slammed his Ferrari into a Thonglor policeman, Pol. Sen. Sgt. Maj. Wichean Glanprasert, dragged his body along the road and fled the scene.
The fatal hit-and-run case is yet another chapter in the comedy of errors that the Thai justice system.
Last April, Boss, 33, failed to meet with prosecutors to hear charges for at least the sixth time and has not been seen in Thailand since.
The influential young man has never been arrested, despite years of skipping court dates claiming he was either sick or had to attend an event.
And while statutes of limitations run out on key charges this year, it’s widely assumed he’s hiding, possibly abroad, or quietly living locally, only going out in disguise.
Within weeks of the accident, The Associated Press found, Vorayuth was back to enjoying his family’s jet-set life, largely associated with the Red Bull brand, an energy drink company co-founded by his grandfather.
He flies around the world on Red Bull jets, cheers their Formula One racing team from Red Bull’s VIP seats and keeps a black Porsche Carrera in London with a custom plate: B055 RBR. Boss Red Bull Racing.
He’s not hard to find.
Last month, social media clues led AP reporters to Vorayuth in the sacred city of Luang Prabang, Laos, where he and his family enjoyed a $1,000-a-night resort, visited temples and lounged by the pool.
Critics say inaction in this case epitomizes longstanding privilege for the wealthy class in Thailand, a politically tumultuous country that has struggled with rule of law for decades.
The Yoovidhya family attorney did not respond to AP’s request to interview Vorayuth. Police say Vorayuth is once again on notice to show up and hear the charges.
Vorayuth and his siblings grew up in a private, extended family whose fortune expanded from millions to billions. His brother is nicknamed Porsche, his sister Champagne. Vorayuth received a British education at a $40,000-a-year boarding school.
In rural Thailand, police Sgt. Maj. Wichean Glanprasert didn’t have such opportunities, but he was ambitious. The youngest of five, he was the first to leave their coconut and palm farm for the city, the first to get a government job, to graduate from college.
He paid for his parents’ medical care and supported a sister through cancer. He had no children, but planned to put his brother’s kids through college.
Their lives collided pre-dawn on Sept. 3, 2012, when Vorayuth’s Ferrari roared down Sukhumvit Road, one of Bangkok’s main drags. The bloody accident scene made national headlines for days.
The policeman’s family grieved, but they figured at least there would be justice. Wichean was a police officer. Certainly the system would hold his killer responsible.
“At first I thought they’d follow a legal process,” said his brother Pornanan.
Now he’s not so sure.
While Vorayuth’s case has been on hold since 2012, his carefree lifestyle has not.
More than 120 social media posts show Vorayuth visiting at least nine countries since Sgt. Maj. Wichean’s death.
He’s cruised Monaco’s harbor, snowboarded Japan’s powder, and celebrated his birthday at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London.
At the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Osaka, he posed wearing robes from Hogwarts School’s darkest dorm, Slytherin House.
Friends and cousins posting about him have hundreds of thousands of online followers.
His lifestyle — soaking in an Abu Dhabi pool, dining in Nice, France, holding a $10,000 bicycle in Bangkok — is supported by his family’s billions.
Vorayuth’s grandfather, Chaleo Yoovidhya, was known as a modest, private man who grew up in poverty, the son of a duck seller.
Before Vorayuth was born, Chaleo partnered his company T.C. Pharma with Austrian entrepreneur, Dietrich Mateschitz, investing $500,000 each to carbonate and market a caffeine-powered syrupy energy drink popular in Thailand. In 1987, Red Bull Energy Drink went international.
Red Bull is now sold in 170 countries. It has its own media company, race cars and jets, and sponsors concerts and extreme athletes. Forbes estimates Vorayuth’s father Chalerm Yoovidhya’s net worth at $9.7 billion.
Today in his small apartment, Sgt. Maj. Wichean’s brother keeps a few photo albums of him. Pornanan says Thailand runs on a “double standard.”
Last month on Instagram, a friend posted a group shot, guys taking a snowboarding break at Japan’s majestic Annapuri ski resort.
“ran into little bull @bossrbr lets catch up tonite dude” says a friend.
“Snow snow snow,” chimes in another.
“Wof wof,” says bossrbr. – The AP News Information Research Center in New York contributed to this report.
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