BANGKOK — Chief of a committee that spearheaded the effort to prosecute a billionaire scion accused of a deadly hit-and-run in 2012 said Wednesday his works are not influenced by any political entities.
Vicha Mahakhun, who leads the panel appointed by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, said he was not instructed by any government figure or politicians to pursue the charges against Red Bull fortune heir Vorayuth Yoovidhya at all costs.
He also said different experts were allowed to give their own estimates of the speed Vorayuth was believed to be driving when he crashed and killed a policeman in 2012.
Read: Prayut Tells Police to Speed Up ‘Boss Red Bull’ Extradition
“I am not pressuring any agency, especially the prosecutors, to indict him again in this case,” Vicha said. “If new evidence is found, one can always revive the investigation.”
He went on, “It’s not interference, but a personal opinion, and it must go through the procedures within the prosecutor’s agency … Personally, I think that if officials work in a weak and corrupt system, it’d lead to problems. Therefore, I think another thing we must prioritize is legal reforms.”
The prosecutors earlier this month indicted Vorayuth for the second time on charges of reckless driving leading to death and drug use. All charges against the billionaire were dropped in July on the grounds of insufficient evidence, causing much uproar on social media.
Investigators previously said an expert testimony indicated Vorayuth was driving at 80 kmph when he crashed into Sgt. Wichian Klanprasert’s motorcycle when he was on a patrol in Bangkok’s Thong Lor district. Wichian died at the scene.
However, other experts told the police recently that Vorayuth could be going as fast as 179 kmph in his Ferrari at the time of the deadly crash. Vicha said the investigators listen to opinions from various specialists as part of their work.
Saiprasit Koetniyom, director of the automotive safety department at King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok and Chulalongkorn University physicist Sathon Vijarnwannaluk were the experts interviewed in the latest investigation, Vicha said.
Some reports previously said police officers Somyot Abniam and Suraphol Detrattanavinai were summoned to give their testimonies on the post-crash damage found on Vorayuth’s Ferrari.
The point of contention is the difference between the ongoing investigation into Vorayuth and the Victoria’s Secret brothel accused of money laundering and human trafficking. The prosecutors dismissed cases against both parties, but the government only set up an investigation committee to inquire why Vorayuth was not indicted.
When asked about the discrepancies, especially the fact that assistant police chief Permpoon Chidchob did not contest the decision to drop the charges, Vicha said he has no details, but added that there’s no need to set up an investigation panel in every case.
“I believe the Prime Minister thought about it seriously, and he recommended that Boss’ case should be a lesson in investigating cases like Victoria’s Secret and other criminal cases,” Vicha said. “But it depends on the Prime Minister’s decision.”
He continued, “He [Lt. Gen. Permpoon] might not have been aware of the details in the case. So the police must carry on the investigation themselves.
The committee chief also said no politics were involved, dismissing some reports on social media that accuse the officials of bowing to pressure from certain coalition parties.
“It’s a personal matter and a private issue,” Vicha said. “It’s not because he’s Bhumjaithai Party’s man, because Bhumjaithai Party didn’t appoint him. I believe Lt. Gen. Permpoon is a professional policeman.”
Vorayuth is believed to be residing overseas; he was last seen in Taiwan in 2018. Police said they will ask the Interpol to issue a Red Notice on Vorayuth in a bid to extradite him to Thailand.