BANGKOK – A Bangkok court on Friday approved an arrest warrant for an heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune accused of a deadly hit-and-run accident, Thai police said, moving the case forward after almost five years without charges being pressed.
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Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya is accused of fleeing the scene of a 2012 crash in his Ferrari after allegedly fatally hitting a police officer on motorcycle patrol. His family, half-owners of the Red Bull empire, has estimated wealth of more than $20 billion.
The state prosecutor asked for police action after Vorayuth missed Thursday's deadline to answer a summons, and police applied for the warrant Friday morning.
Police spokesman Krisana Pattanacharoen said the court had approved the arrest warrant on two charges, hit-and-run and reckless driving.
"He will be processed like any other suspect who is evading their arrest warrant," said Krisana. "There are tens of thousands of these suspects."
The case has drawn attention as an example of the impunity of Thailand's rich and well-connected, who are able to avoid or delay justice in a way that ordinary Thais wouldn't be able to.
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Vorayuth's current whereabouts are unknown.
"Whenever he steps into Thailand, we should be able to get him," national police chief Gen. Chaktip Chaijinda told reporters Friday ahead of the warrant being granted.
Vorayuth had been a no-show for meetings with prosecutors on several occasions, complaining through his attorney of unfair treatment or citing duties abroad. A recent Associated Press report revealed that he's been living lavishly, traveling to Formula One races, snowboarding in Japan and cruising in Venice.
Vorayuth failed to show up when ordered to face criminal charges of speeding, hit-and-run, and deadly, reckless driving. Police say Vorayuth disputes the reckless driving charge, claiming the officer swerved in front of him. The speeding charge expired after a year. The charge of hit-and-run, which police say carries a penalty of up to six months in jail, expires Sept. 3.
The reckless driving charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, expires after 10 years if left unchallenged.
Chaktip said police would also follow their usual procedures to secure Vorayuth's arrest if he is abroad, though the possibility of extradition depended on the countries involved.