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Police to issue arrest warrant for Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhaya

By Peter Shadbolt, CNN
September 3, 2013 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
Thai police inspect a Ferrari allegedly belonging to Vorayuth Yoovidhya, grandson of the creator of Red Bull energy drink, September 3, 2012.
Thai police inspect a Ferrari allegedly belonging to Vorayuth Yoovidhya, grandson of the creator of Red Bull energy drink, September 3, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Thai prosecutors poised to issue an arrest warrant for Vorayuth Yoovidhaya
  • Red Bull heir accused of reckless driving in hit-and-run accident involving a policeman
  • Lawyers say Yoovidhaya is currently in Singapore receiving medical treatment
  • The case sparked outrage last year with online forums taking aim at the Thai justice system

(CNN) -- Thai prosecutors were poised to issue an arrest warrant Tuesday for the grandson of the creator of the Red Bull energy drink who failed to appear in court this week over a fatal hit-and-run case that sparked nationwide anger.

Prosecutors allege Vorayuth Yoovidhaya, 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.

He is charged with reckless driving causing death, speeding and failing to stop following an accident.

Thai police told CNN that Yoovidhaya's lawyer had informed prosecutors his client was in Singapore receiving medical treatment for a bout of influenza he contracted while on a business trip and would not be in Thailand for his scheduled court hearing.

Thai prosecutor Ruecha Krairiksh said his no-show meant that the speeding charges would lapse but the more serious charges of reckless driving and failing to stop would still apply.

Red Bull heir arrested in Thailand

The reckless driving charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail under Thai law.

"We can't indict him because the suspect is not present. This means the statute of limitations for speeding will expire because the incident occurred on September 3, 2012," Mr Ruesha told The Nation newspaper.

He said he would ask the court to withhold bail because of his failure to present himself in court and for postponing meetings with prosecutors.

His case provoked outrage in Thailand last year 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 outrage.

We can't indict him because the suspect is not present
Ruecha Krairiksh

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

The defendant is the grandson of the Chaleo Yoovidhya who formulated an energy drink called 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.

According to Forbes magazine, the Yoovidhya empire is worth $7.8 billion, making them the fourth richest family in Thailand.

Chaleo died in March 2012, leaving his heirs a vast estate based on his 49% stake in the iconic drinks brand, as well as interests in hospitals, real estate and sports teams.

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