In this April 5, 2017, photo, Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull, walks to get in a car as he leaves a house in London. Interpol on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, issued an international request for the arrest of the billionaire heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune, stepping up the hunt for the fugitive Thai playboy wanted in allegedly killing of a traffic policeman in a 2012 hit-and-run incident in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
In this April 5, 2017, photo, Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull, walks to get in a car as he leaves a house in London. Interpol on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, issued an international request for the arrest of the billionaire heir to the Red Bull energy drink fortune, stepping up the hunt for the fugitive Thai playboy wanted in allegedly killing of a traffic policeman in a 2012 hit-and-run incident in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Director-General of South Bangkok Prosecutor's Office Suthi Kittisupaporn talks to reporters at South Bangkok prosecutor's office in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, April 27, 2017. Prosecutors in Bangkok say Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhya has again asked for a meeting with them to be postponed, so further delaying attempts to lay charges against him in connection with a fatal hit and run accident more than four years ago. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Director-General of South Bangkok Prosecutor's Office Suthi Kittisupaporn talks to reporters at South Bangkok prosecutor's office in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, April 27, 2017. Prosecutors in Bangkok say Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhya has again asked for a meeting with them to be postponed, so further delaying attempts to lay charges against him in connection with a fatal hit and run accident more than four years ago. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this Nov. 26, 2016, photo provided by XPB Images, Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, second left, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull, walks with his mother Daranee, second right, at the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi. Vorayuth is accused of killing a Thai police officer in a hit-and-run in 2012, yet he still has not appeared to face charges. (XPB Images via AP)
In this Nov. 26, 2016, photo provided by XPB Images, Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, second left, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull, walks with his mother Daranee, second right, at the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi. Vorayuth is accused of killing a Thai police officer in a hit-and-run in 2012, yet he still has not appeared to face charges. (XPB Images via AP)
In this Sept. 3, 2012, photo, Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, left, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull, is escorted by police in Bangkok, Thailand. Vorayuth is accused of killing a Thai police officer in a hit-and-run in 2012, yet he still has not appeared to face charges. (Thai Daily News via AP)
In this Sept. 3, 2012, photo, Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, left, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull, is escorted by police in Bangkok, Thailand. Vorayuth is accused of killing a Thai police officer in a hit-and-run in 2012, yet he still has not appeared to face charges. (Thai Daily News via AP)
An image posted to the Instagram account of Porpeer Salin Suyarnsettakorn on July 2, 2015, and displayed on a computer in Bangkok on Monday, March 27, 2017, shows Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull, standing next to a black Porsche with customized license plates in London. Vorayuth is accused of killing a Thai police officer in a hit-and-run in 2012, yet he still has not appeared to face charges. (Photo via AP)
An image posted to the Instagram account of Porpeer Salin Suyarnsettakorn on July 2, 2015, and displayed on a computer in Bangkok on Monday, March 27, 2017, shows Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull, standing next to a black Porsche with customized license plates in London. Vorayuth is accused of killing a Thai police officer in a hit-and-run in 2012, yet he still has not appeared to face charges. (Photo via AP)

Bangkok - On September 3, 2012, Vorayuth Yoovidhya's Ferrari hit a police motorcycle in central Bangkok, dragging the officer and his vehicle some 200 metres and leaving the victim dead on the road.

Five years on, Vorayuth still has not answered for his crime. On the surface, the incident seems like just another hit-and-run case. But many say Vorayuth's status as an heir to the Red Bull fortune, estimated by Forbes magazine earlier this year to be worth at least $12.5bn, has something to do with the unusual tardiness of Thai authorities to bring him to justice.

"I've never seen a case like this before," said Rhonarong Kawpechr, a prominent Thai legal expert. 

In this Nov. 26, 2016, photo provided by XPB Images, Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, second left, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull, walks with his mother Daranee, second right, at the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi. Vorayuth is accused of killing a Thai police officer in a hit-and-run in 2012, yet he still has not appeared to face charges. (XPB Images via AP)


"Cases like this normally take three to four months for prosecution. What have the authorities been doing all this time?" Rhonarong added.

For the past five years, the case against Vorayuth, 32, who was charged with speeding, reckless driving causing death and fleeing the scene without helping the victim or reporting the incident to the police, has stalled in many ways.

First, police wrongly targeted Vorayuth's driver. A chief investigator at the time reportedly did so because of his close connection with the Yoovidhya family, ranked by Forbes as Thailand's fourth-richest family. Then Vorayuth's lawyer repeatedly asked prosecutors to postpone the trial, citing reasons ranging from Vorayuth's health problems to his business travels abroad. Each request was approved.

Such delays led to the expiration of the statute of limitation for the speeding charge, which was valid for one year and carried a fine of 1,000 baht ($29).

An image posted to the Instagram account of Porpeer Salin Suyarnsettakorn on July 2, 2015, and displayed on a computer in Bangkok on Monday, March 27, 2017, shows Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, whose grandfather co-founded energy drink company Red Bull, standing next to a black Porsche with customized license plates in London. Vorayuth is accused of killing a Thai police officer in a hit-and-run in 2012, yet he still has not appeared to face charges. (Photo via AP)



Now it appears that another charge will slip away too, as the one for fleeing the crime scene is set to expire after five years, on September 3. If found guilty of this count, Vorayuth could face a maximum of six months in prison.

But Vorayuth fled Thailand in late April, three days before prosecutors finally issued an arrest warrant for him. The heir has not returned to Thailand since then and his current whereabouts are unknown.

Many delays to seek his extradition have ensued, with prosecutors saying they could not proceed with an extradition request because documentation was not properly translated.

The repeated delays, together with authorities' multiple excuses, have caused public anger at perceived flaws in the judicial system - namely that it favours the rich and powerful.

Director-General of South Bangkok Prosecutor's Office Suthi Kittisupaporn talks to reporters at South Bangkok prosecutor's office in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, April 27, 2017. Prosecutors in Bangkok say Red Bull heir Vorayuth Yoovidhya has again asked for a meeting with them to be postponed, so further delaying attempts to lay charges against him in connection with a fatal hit and run accident more than four years ago. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)



"This only reaffirms the belief that powerful people can intervene in the Thai judicial system," Rhonarong said. Public outrage intensified with media reports earlier this year showing Vorayuth travelling around the world in Red Bull jets and continuing to enjoy an extravagant lifestyle.

Many took to social media to mock the energy drink giant's Thai slogans: "Targets are there to crash in to," and "The real men of Red Bull."

Although many in Thailand have given up hope over what they call a double standard in the country's judicial system, Vorayuth still faces one more charge - reckless driving causing death, which will expire in 2027 and carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

Interpol has now issued an international alert, a so-called "blue notice" that seeks to "collect additional information about a person's identity, location or activities in relation to a crime."

"I think [Vorayuth] will get out of it again. But I haven't lost all hope, as we still have 10 years left for the other charge," said Porn-anan Klanprasert, the brother of the victim, Vichian Klanprasert.

Shortly after the crash, the Yoovidhya family asked Vichian's family to drop a civil case against Vorayuth by offering them financial compensation, Porn-anan said.

The victim's family initially demanded 8 million baht ($240,000), citing the amount Vichian would likely receive for his pension once he retired from the police force. But the amount was negotiated down to 3 million baht.

"They said it's too much. Their lawyer told me they would like to spend money wisely despite their fortune," Porn-anan said.

"I have forgiven him. I'm not holding a grudge. But I want to see him enter the justice system," he said, adding that Vorayuth might not be found guilty at all if he comes back to Thailand and faces charges.

"This is not just about justice to my family but also justice to Thai society, which deserves a fair judicial system without a double standard that only favours the rich and powerful," he said.

- DPA