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Interpol Calls For Arrest Of Fugitive Red Bull Heir, Thai Police Say

Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, whose grandfather invented Red Bull, walks to a car in London in April. Vorayuth has spent years dodging criminal charges over the death of a Thai policeman. On Monday, Interpol issued an international request for his arrest.
Matt Dunham

The heir to the Red Bull fortune has been dodging Thai police for nearly five years — and Interpol has issued a new alert, calling for member nations to locate him and hand him over to authorities.

Vorayuth Yoovidhya, 32, is the grandson of the man who invented the wildly popular energy drink. In September 2012, he allegedly hit and killed a Thai policeman — dragging the officer and his motorcycle behind his Ferrari for "several dozen meters," as The Associated Press reported at the time.

One police officer attempted to pin the crime on someone else, a police spokesman said, but the cover-up effort was foiled. It wasn't much of a mystery, after all — Vorayuth's engine was leaking after the crash. Police just had to follow the trail from the first police officer's mangled body to Vorayuth's compound, where the Ferrari sat with a badly damaged bumper.

But for nearly five years, Vorayuth — who apparently goes by the nickname "Boss" — has dodged any punishment through the simple tactic of not showing up for court proceedings.

"It's been widely assumed that he's hiding, possibly abroad, or living a quiet local life, only going out in disguise," the AP wrote this March. "He isn't."

Instead, he was living the life of an international playboy:

"Within weeks of the accident, The Associated Press has found, Vorayuth, then 27, was back to enjoying his family's jet-set life, largely associated with the Red Bull brand ... He flies around the world on private Red Bull jets, cheers their Formula One racing team from Red Bull's VIP seats and keeps a black Porsche Carrera in London with custom license plates: B055 RBR. Boss Red Bull Racing.

"Nor is he all that hard to find. Just last month, social media clues led AP reporters to Vorayuth and his family vacationing in the ancient, sacred city of Luang Prabang, Laos. The group stayed at a $1,000-a-night resort, dined in the finest restaurant, visited temples and lounged by the pool before flying home to Bangkok."

Now, he's an internationally wanted playboy.

In May, two days before he was due in court, Vorayuth took his private jet to Singapore and "disappeared," the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Police issued an arrest warrant and the Thai government canceled his passport.

Earlier this month, The Bangkok Post reported that Interpol had sent out a "blue notice," asking member nations to help locate Vorayuth.

There was new urgency to police efforts: The Red Bull heir originally faced three charges, but the statute of limitations has already expired on his speeding charge. And the statute of limitations for the second charge, of fleeing the scene, is coming up soon: It expires on Sept. 3. (There are 10 more years on the last charge, of fatal reckless driving.)

A police spokesman "insisted police are not stalling the process ... as suggested by some," the Bangkok Postreports. Among other thing, Thai authorities were asking Interpol to raise that "blue alert" to "red," which asks other countries to actually arrest and extradite the suspect.

On Monday, the Thai police said that the "red alert" had been issued, the AP reports. Participation in a "red notice" is voluntary, Interpol notes.

Vorayuth's case has drawn attention to the apparent impunity of the extremely wealthy in Thailand. "Justice has failed," read one headline in the Bangkok Post in 2013. An AP piece from 2016 called Vorayuth a "famous untouchable," one of a generation of "deadly rich kids" causing fatal crashes and dodging any punishment.

The Red Bull fortune that has so far insulated Vorayuth from punishment was inherited from his billionaire grandfather, Chaleo Yoovidhya.

NPR reported on the source of Chaleo's fortune in 2012, when the beverage creator died:

"He actually invented what would become Red Bull in the 1970s. Originally, it was marketed to truck drivers and blue-collar workers in Thailand. But in 1982, an Austrian businessman was about to make future generations of teenagers, clubbers and extreme sports aficionados very amped up.

"Dietrich Mateschitz tried the Thai energy drink known then as Krating Daeng, and he loved it. Mateschitz tracked down Chaleo Yoovidhya and the rest is history ...

"Yoovidhya was born the son of poor Chinese immigrants. His parents raised ducks to make a living. Red Bull made him a multibillionaire, Thailand's third richest man and the 205th richest in the world."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.
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