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All charges dropped against Red Bull heir accused in death of police officer, Thai Police say

Andrew Cuomo

Charges have been dropped against the heir to the Red Bull energy drink empire, Vorayuth Yoovidhya, relating to a crash that killed a policeman in 2012, Thai police say, in a case that drew attention to the power of wealthy Thais.

Colonel Sampan Luangsajjakul of the Royal Thai Police told CNN “we were informed by Office of Attorney General about their final decision not to indict Mr. Vorayuth Yoovidhya on June 12. So we have proceeded to inform him (Yoovidhya) about the decision and the revocation of arrest warrant.”

A letter sent to Yoovidhya at his home in Bangkok by Thonglor Police Station and seen by CNN says: “Office of the Attorney General have decided to acquit Mr. Vorayuth Yoovidhya on all charges.” National Police Commissioner “has not objected the decision” and “we have proceeded to revoke arrest warrant.” The document didn’t elaborate.

Yoovidhya, 28, was behind the wheel of his Ferrari on September 3, 2012, when it collided with an on-duty policeman on a motorbike in downtown Bangkok leading to the death of the police officer. Yoovidhya was subsequently charged with drunk driving, negligent death and committing a hit and run.

Police Sgt. Major Wichien Klanprasert was responding to a robbery call when his motorcycle was hit by what a witness described as a black sports car at 5 a.m., Bangkok Police said at the time.

Investigators followed the path of leaked oil from the crash scene to Yoovidhya’s home, according to Maj. Gen. Parinya Jansuriya.

Dozens of police surrounded the mansion before entering with a search warrant, where they found a badly damaged black Ferrari with a wrecked front and its air bags deployed.

Yoovidhya admitted driving the car and hitting the motorcycle, but he claimed he was suddenly cut off by the bike, Police Maj. Gen. Aunuchi Lekbumrung said at the time.

He was released on a bond of 500,000 baht, about $16,000.

Yoovidhya is a prominent member of one of Thailand’s richest families. His grandfather, Chaleo Yoovidhya, formulated the energy drink Krathing Daeng, or Red Bull, that first became popular with Thai workmen. He teamed up with Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz in 1987 and together they built an international drinks brand.

The Yoovidhya family’s fortune was estimated at $13.1 billion by Forbes in 2017 and Vorayuth’s father, Chalerm, is Thailand’s second-richest person with a fortune of $20.2 billion.

The case provoked outrage in Thailand in 2012 with online forums denouncing the Thai justice system for its perceived leniency towards defendants with money and connections.

An alleged attempt to cover up the crime — which involved police arresting a suspect who pretended to be driving his Ferrari at the time of the incident — led to the suspension of a police officer and sparked even more anger.

Vorayuth Yoovidhya also allegedly paid the family of the victim Thai baht 3 million ($97,000) in a bid to stall a civil lawsuit, police said.

“I’m so shocked and very sad. I am just stunned,” said Ubol Thongsanin, one of Wichien’s sisters, as she visited the scene of the crash in 2012.

Chalerm Yoovidhya attended evening services for the officer at the local temple after the incident, said Natthanan Klanpraert, the victim’s sister-in-law.

The suspect and his mother also stopped by the temple, but the victim’s family was not around, she said.

CNN has reached out to Red Bull for comment.

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