Wealth and impunity

30 09 2019

Fugitives from justice were mentioned by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in his inept talk at the Asia Society. He only means Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra. But there’s also the long story of billionaire fugitive Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya that The Dictator ignores.

In a story for The Walrus, Martha Mendoza recalls how the rich get away with murder.

It was back in early September 2012, when playboy Vorayuth “roared his Ferrari down Sukhumvit Road” and “slammed into motorcycle cop Sergeant Major Wichean Glanprasert, dragging the officer, along with his tangled bike, down the block.” Vorayuth fled the scene and hid in a family compound. His family have accumulated a wealth of more than$13 billion through their Red Bull enterprises and by hoovering up all kinds of other investments that almost magically fall into the copious laps of the tycoons in Bangkok.

Party time for Boss (clipped from The Daily Mail)

Police followed a trail to the family mansion but were initially denied entry. The family tried to have a chauffeur take the blame, “but Boss later admitted to being the one behind the wheel.” He turned himself in, was granted bail and fled the scene again. So far none of the court cases have gone anywhere as Vorayuth is “unavailable.” The police, government and the family’s friends seem unconcerned. No one is held responsible for the death. Boss lives the high life with impunity.

Having set the scene, we just cut-and-paste from Mendoza’s excellent story:

… Within weeks of the incident, Boss was back to enjoying his family’s jet-set lifestyle: he flew around the world on private Red Bull jets, cheered the company’s Formula One racing team from Red Bull’s VIP seats, and kept a shiny black Porsche Carrera in London with custom licence plates—B055 RBR, or Boss Red Bull racing.

… Boss is reported to have at least two passports and a complex network of offshore accounts, and with these tools, he’s able to travel the world with impunity. More than 120 photos posted on Facebook and Instagram, as well as some racing blogs, show Boss visiting at least nine countries…. He’s cruised Monaco’s harbour, snowboarded Japan’s fresh powder, and celebrated his birthday at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London. This means that while authorities say they’ve had no idea where Boss was, his friends, family, and all of their followers seem to have had no doubt about his whereabouts and the good times he’s been having.

… During the time Boss hid in plain sight, an Associated Press (AP) investigation into his whereabouts simultaneously exposed how the Yoovidhya family has spent decades hiding its assets in offshore accounts.

… As the business expanded, Chaleo Yoovidhya began hiding his assets. In 1994, he set up a shell company called Golden Falcon Trading Company in the British Virgin Islands. The Panama Papers, an international collaboration among journalists that began in 2016 to sift through leaked documents that identify the offshore financial dealings of the world’s wealthy, disclosed that ten of Chaleo’s children were shareholders.

The Yoovidhya family’s efforts to hide assets show how billions in private wealth can be moved around the world with minimal regulation to avoid tax and other legal constraints. The extent of the family’s confidential deals was inadvertently exposed by Boss and his social-media-loving cousins during his time on the run: they had posted photos of Boss walking into a London townhouse, and they even included the address….

An investigation into the five-storey brick home showed that it is the address Boss’s father, Chalerm Yoovidhya, gave when incorporating Siam Winery Trading Plus in the UK in 2002, and that his mother, Daranee Yoovidhya, used when opening a food-related business there in 2006. But, according to AP, the listed owner of the home, and at least four other multi-million-dollar properties in London, isn’t the Yoovidhyas—it’s Karnforth Investments, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, according to the Panama Papers.

… [T]he main shareholder of the energy drink’s UK business is another British Virgin Islands company called Jerrard Company.

Here’s where it gets complicated: an investigation by AP revealed that Karnforth has just one shareholder, which is Jerrard. And Jerrard is held by a third offshore company, which controls a fourth, called JK Fly. Who owns JK Fly? Karnforth. The Yoovidhyas’ offshore companies overlap with nominee directors—people legally paid small amounts to sign forms and attend directors’ meetings in lieu of the true owners, whose names remain confidential.

According to AP, documents from the Panama Papers show that, for years, money has flowed back and forth between these various entities. For example, in 2005, Jerrard loaned Karnforth $6.5 million US to buy two London properties. In 2012, Jerrard cancelled the mortgages, giving Karnforth ownership of the properties. Since 2010, JK Fly has owed Karnforth, its sole shareholder, about $14 million US in an interest-free loan to purchase aircraft.

… In 2010, and again in 2013, the papers [Panama Papers] show that auditors at Mossack Fonseca’s head offices in Panama—the company that arranged the Yoovidhya’s network of companies—raised concerns about Karnforth and Jerrard. Documents verifying the true owners were missing.

[W]hile other governments were swift and aggressive in responding to Panama Papers revelations, that has not been the case in Thailand. More than 1,400 Thai individuals were identified in the documents, but according to AP, the government calls the reports rumours….

Law professor Viraphong Boonyobhas, director of Chulalongkorn University’s business-crime and money-laundering data bank in Bangkok, would not speak directly about the Yoovidhyas or any other Thai person or company, saying he feared for his legal and physical safety….

Corruption is defined by the abuse of power for private gain. It erodes public trust and undermines institutions. In Thailand, many residents assume the wealthy elite can break the law with impunity. Over generations, people have grown used to giving mandatory “gifts” of cash to judges, police, and government officials in exchange for building and business permits, as well as favourable court decisions. They’ve watched as rich and influential families win lucrative contracts and avoid prosecutors.

Here’s who gets arrested in Thailand: citizens gathering for nonviolent protests to denounce the coup-installed junta government, bloggers posting social-media messages critical of the king, journalists carrying bulletproof vests and helmets for protection at riots that at times turn deadly.

The policeman’s family grieved but figured at least there would be justice.

They didn’t get it and they know the justice system “runs on a ‘double standard’…”. In Thailand, “the justice system has two tracks: one for the elite and one for everybody else.”


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2 responses

6 10 2019
Judiciary exposed | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Supreme Court have been politicized. Most Thais understand that the judiciary’s standards are double standards. Justice is certainly not […]

2 05 2020
Sufficiency manure | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] The report concentrates on the Yoovidhya family’s efforts. (Where is their murderous son?) […]

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