Thai prosecutors have delayed the indictment of the Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhya, suspected of killing a policeman with his Ferrari years ago. Authorities reassured the public of their commitment to the case.
The 31-year-old Vorayuth was granted another delay for his court appearance on Thursday, prolonging a five-year legal saga that caused outrage in Thailand. The reason, according to the authorities, was that the hit-and-run suspect was on a business trip in England.
"We cannot indict him because the suspect is not present," said spokesman Prayut Bejiraguna, adding that the hearing was rescheduled for late April.
"He was supposed to come in today, but, on March 23, he requested a postponement pending witness testimony for allegations against his speeding," he added. "We need to allow him that. He deserves a fair trial."
The suspect, Vorayuth, is the grandson of the late Red Bull co-founder Chaleo Yoovidhya, and son of the fourth richest billionaire in Thailand, according to Forbes. He is suspected of hitting a police officer on a motorcycle with his Ferrari in 2012 and speeding away, dragging the officer's body for about 100 meters down a Bangkok street. The officer died of his injuries.
Housekeeper was first suspect
The police found a trail of petrol leading from the crime scene to the Yoovidhya family mansion.
Initially, the family claimed the housekeeper was driving the car. However, the narrative soon fell apart and the officials named Yoovidhya as a suspect for several offenses, including reckless driving causing death, speeding, failure to help the victim and report to the police.
However, the police have not issued a warrant for Yoovidhya's arrest and he has not yet been formally indicted. He has also evaded scheduled court appearances multiple times, with the family lawyer justifying the absences by saying Yoovidhya was ill or had business responsibilities abroad. He has missed a total of eight appointments in the last 12 months, according to Reuters new agency.
Authorities threaten a warrant
The repeated delays enraged the Thai public, reinforcing the impression that the authorities have different standards for the country's rich. This week, the AP news agency reported on Yoovidhya's visits to F1 races, cruises in Venice and ski trips to Japan, with Thai media showing images of the suspect in his black Porsche in London.
Two of the charges have already expired and the hit-and-run charge is set to expire by September if there is no prosecution. This would leave only the charge of reckless driving causing death, which expires in 2027.
On Thursday, the prosecutors' spokesman Bejiraguna vowed that the authorities would issue an arrest warrant if Yoovidhya failed to report "using the same excuses."
"He will be prosecuted," Bejiraguna added. "We are not neglectful of the case, which is being followed up closely every month."
dj/sms(AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)