FILE – In this Wednesday, April 5, 2017, file photo, Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull, walks to get in a car as he leaves a house in London. Police in Thailand say they have begun the process of requesting an arrest warrant for the heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune accused of a deadly hit-and-run accident almost five years ago but never charged. National police chief Chaktip Chaijinda announced that the effort to arrest Vorayuth began Friday, April 28, in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)
BANGKOK (AP) — Police in Thailand on Friday began the process of requesting an arrest warrant for an heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune accused of a deadly hit-and-run accident almost five years ago but never charged.
“He will turn into an individual who is evading an arrest warrant like in any other case,” national police chief Gen. Chaktip Chaijinda said in describing the effort to arrest Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya.
The state prosecutor asked for police action after Vorayuth missed Thursday’s deadline to answer a summons, and an officer at Bangkok’s Thonglor police station, which has jurisdiction in the case, said the prosecutor’s request was received Friday morning.
Police must submit a request for the warrant to a court, which decides whether to issue it.
“Usually (the court) approves it very quickly but it’s their decision,” Chaktip told reporters.
Vorayuth 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 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.
Vorayuth has 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’s current whereabouts are unknown.
“Whenever he steps into Thailand, we should be able to get him,” said Chaktip. Police would also follow their procedures to secure his arrest if he is abroad, he said, adding that possible extradition is up to the countries involved
Vorayuth has 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 more serious charge of hit-and-run, which police say carries a penalty of up to six months in prison, expires Sept. 3.
The reckless driving charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, expires in 10 years if left unchallenged.