BlackFacts Details

The Red Bull heir, a crashed car and the scandal that angered Thailand - L.A. Focus Newspaper

According to police, a trail of oil leaking from the sports car led investigators to the luxury home of one of Thailand's wealthiest families, the co-owners of the Red Bull energy drink empire.

The man driving the Ferrari, police say, was Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, the heir to a family fortune that Forbes estimates to be worth $20.2 billion.

Vorayuth was subsequently charged with five criminal counts, including speeding, hit-and-run, and reckless driving causing death, but the case stalled for years as the billionaire scion repeatedly missed or postponed prosecutors' summonses. Authorities believe he left Thailand in 2017.

For years, the family of the police officer killed in the crash, Sgt. Major Wichien Klanprasert, were left in limbo.

Then on July 23, Colonel Sampan Luangsajjakul of the Royal Thai Police confirmed that the Office of Attorney General (OAG) had decided to drop all charges against Vorayuth, who police have confirmed was aged 30 at the time of the accident, not 27 as they previously said.

The decision to drop the charges thrust the case back into the spotlight — and angered Thais who have long felt that the country's legal system unfairly favors the rich.

Some called for a boycott of Red Bull products. Others said the decision not to prosecute Vorayuth was the latest and most blatant confirmation of a perceived culture of impunity of the elite in Thailand.

"The public sentiment is that there are different standards when it comes to the rich and the poor."Ekachai Chainuvati, law lecturer at Siam University in Bangkok

"The public sentiment is that there are different standards when it comes to the rich and the poor," said Ekachai Chainuvati, a law lecturer at Siam University in Bangkok.

Since then, public pressure has mounted, prompting multiple inquiries by the OAG, police, the lower House of Parliament and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, who vowed to "ensure justice in Thai society without dividing it along social class lines."

From there, the story has veered wildly — from the death of a key witness to the OAG's decision to instruct police to investigate Vorayuth for two potential charges that could lead to his indictment.

Through it all, the young heir and his immediate family have maintained their silence. But at a time of reignited protests for political change, many people are demanding more accountability for the actions of the rich and powerful at the very top of Thai society.

A life of luxury

Better known by his nickname "Boss," Vorayuth grew up in one of Thailand's most prominent families. His grandfather, the late Chaleo Yoovidhya, created the Red Bull energy drink — a fizzy mix of vitamins, sugar, and caffeine — and built it into a global empire.

Born to impoverished Chinese immigrants in northern Thailand, the self-made billionaire started his career selling pharmaceutical supplies. In 1956, he founded his own company, TC Pharmaceutical, which developed over-the-counter drugs for headaches and fever. Chaleo soon became convinced a bigger market was out there for energy drink

Politics Facts