x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Red Bull heir suspected in Thailand hit-and-run death

Bangkok's top police official, Lt Gen Comronwit Toopgrajank, said he took charge of the investigation after a lower-ranking policeman initially tried to cover up the crime by turning in a bogus suspect.

BANGKOK // A grandson of the creator of the Red Bull energy drink is suspected of driving the dark grey Ferrari that struck and killed a policeman and then dragged the officer's body down a Bangkok street in an early-morning, hit-and-run accident, police said today.

Police took Vorayuth Yoovidhya, believed to be in his late 20s, for questioning after tracing oil streaks for several blocks to his family's gated estate in a wealthy neighbourhood of the Thai capital.

Bangkok's top police official, Lt Gen Comronwit Toopgrajank, said he took charge of the investigation after a lower-ranking policeman initially tried to cover up the crime by turning in a bogus suspect.

Lt Gen Comronwit himself led a team of officers to search the compound of late Red Bull founder Chaleo Yoovidhaya, one of Thailand's wealthiest men before he died this year, and confiscated a dark grey Ferrari with a dented front bumper as part of their investigation.

The victim, Sgt Maj Wichean Glanprasert, 47, was killed during a pre-dawn motorcycle patrol. Thai media reported that the car dragged the officer and his motorcycle for several dozen metres as it sped through the residential neighbourhood.

Lt Gen Comronwit said he suspended the police officer who attempted to subvert the investigation.

"A policeman is dead. I can't let this stand. If I let this case get away, I'd rather quit," he said. "I don't care how powerful they are. If I can't get the actual man in this case, I will resign."

Mr Vorayuth belongs to the third generation of the Yoovidhaya family, which is ranked 4th the richest in Thailand this year by Forbes magazine, with a net worth of US$5.4 billion (Dh19.8bn).

Chaleo, the co-creator of the energy drink with the Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz, passed away in his 80s in March, leaving his heirs a wide range of businesses, including shares in the globally popular brand, hospitals and real estate.

The family also co-owns a company that is a sole authorised importer of Ferrari cars in Thailand.