Reporter: Prim Kamolyabutr & Lulu Lamey
August 3rd 2020
“Survival of the richest” is a phrase that was proven quite true, when the heir to the multi-billion dollar redbull business paid his way out of all blame for an extensive murder crime.
37 year old Vorayuth Yoovidhya, grandson to Red Bull’s co-founder, and his family currently own approximately 50% of the multi billion dollar empire.
The 37 year old man is the grandson of Chaleo Yoovidhaya who co-founded the Red Bull empire in 1984. Their family now own about half of this extensive business. When Chaleo died in 2012, he was the second richest man in Thailand (according to Forbes magazine) with a net worth of 160 billion THB and an estimated wealth of 660 billion THB. This story proves that his grandson, the heir to one of Thailand’s greatest fortunes is just as untouchable as Chaleo was himself.
September 3rd 2012 - Just before dawn on the dark streets of Bangkok, a Ferrari speeding up to 177 kilometers per hour struck and killed a Thai police officer, Wichian Glanprasert.
Police Sergeant-Major, Wichian Klanprasert was riding his motorbike along Sukhumvit Road when he was hit by the Ferrari that dragged his body for several hundred meters before he fell to the road with the Ferrari speeding off ahead.
After fleeing the scene, investigating officers followed a trail of leaking engine brake fluid leading to a luxury home only a short distance away from the horror scene. The Ferrari that was found there had shattered windshields, with it’s bumpers dangling, badly dented and damaged. Although he was not the one driving the night of the crime, officers first detained the family’s hired driver as their main suspect and he was blamed for the accident. Vorayuth later admitted to being the one driving the car during that night.
When he was tested, it was found that he had excessive alcohol in his blood and had been intoxicated, but he insisted that it was only from drinking at home after the accident had already occurred. He turned himself in and got arrested but released shortly afterwards after paying about THB 480,000 bail the same day.
Repeatedly, he was called by authorities to face charges but his lawyers managed to put off any court appearance until 5 years following the accident. Their excuses being he had work commitments overseas, and that he was “ill”.
However in April 2017 a warrant was issued for his arrest a few days after he left the country, which revoked his passports. These extreme actions still didn’t stop him and “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” stated the US News.
However, when news of the lavish lifestyle Vorayuth continued to live reached the ears of the public, it provoked widespread anger.
As the crime was revealed publicly in an investigation, Vorayuth fled the country many times to avoid the issues, paid large sums of money for bail and repeatedly failed to meet police to face his charges after he recklessly drove under the influence and killed an innocent man. A crime that would serve a lifetime in prison, had it been committed by someone less fortunate.
After bribing almost 100,000 US dollars, all three of Vorayuth’s lifelong charges were dropped and arrest warrants were withdrawn. Authorities then closed the case and Vorayuth was free to continue his effusive lifestyle, flying from one private beach to another, dining at only the finest restaurants and spending the summer months relaxing on the front deck of a yacht.
Although the case might be closed, the anger and frustration from the Thai public is not over. The extreme wealth of the red bull family was not only used to eliminate charges against Vorayuth, but also to compensate more than 2 million TBH for the death of the police officer to his family.
Many people feel that this case is a perfect example of the extreme wealth divide in Thailand and corruption that takes place behind the scenes. It is felt amongst the public that certain people are given loopholes and justice is not served fairly because of corruption and bribery. Even the brother of the police officer killed stated that “It hurts me a lot. It shows no justice for the poor. Thailand has a very wide gap between the rich and the poor in every aspect, and this case is a clear example.”
If such as awful crime can be disregarded once with no consequence, what is to say it won't happen again?
This case is just one of many examples where money is used by the unphasable elite to cover for mistakes and take away responsibility. What’s more is that this issue is not just relevant in Thailand but all over the world. Many countries, even the ones you would least expect, have major issues with corruption when it comes to the law.
Yet it could be our generation who finally step up and fix these moral issues so that justice systems around the world are civil and equitable, and the seemingly separate wealth benefits cannot change a crime.
“Charges Dropped against Red Bull Heir over Policeman Death.” BBC News, BBC, 23 July 2020, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-53521586#:~:text=Charges%20dropped%20against%20Red%20Bull%20heir%20over%20policeman%20death,-23%20July%202020&text=Charges%20have%20been%20dropped%20against,capital%2C%20Bangkok%2C%20then%20fleeing.
Olarn, Kocha. “All Charges Dropped against Red Bull Heir Accused in Death of Police Officer, Thai Police Say.” CNN, Cable News Network, 23 July 2020, edition.cnn.com/2020/07/23/asia/red-bull-vorayud-yoovidhya-charges-dropped-intl/index.html.
Paddock, Richard C., and Muktita Suhartono. “Thailand Drops All Charges Against Red Bull Heir in Deadly Crash.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 July 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/07/24/world/asia/thailand-crash-red-bull-heir.html.
VEJPONGSA, TASSANEE. “Charges Dropped Against Thai Red Bull Heir in Fatal Crash.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 24 July 2020, 6:22 am, www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2020-07-23/thai-police-charges-on-red-bull-heir-dropped-from-12-crash#:~:text=Prosecutors%20in%20Thailand%20have%20dropped,in%20a%202012%20car%20crash.&text=Police%20Lt.%20Col.%20Thanawuth%20Sanguansuk,Vorayuth%20Yoovidhya%20have%20been%20dropped.