BANGKOK -- The billionaire family of a Red Bull energy drink heir accused of killing a police officer in a hit-and-run accident paid the officer's siblings about $100,000 in a deal aimed at avoiding a civil lawsuit, police said Wednesday.
Vorayuth Yoovidhya, 27, is charged with driving a Ferrari that struck the officer and dragged his body down a Bangkok street earlier this month.
The Yoovidhya family paid the officer's siblings 3 million baht ($97,000) last week, police Lt. Col. Viradon Thubthimdee said. He said the settlement will protect Vorayuth from a civil lawsuit.
"We sometimes call this a `funeral fee.' If the victim's party is satisfied with the amount of money, then they will not seek compensation through a court," Viradon said.
The payment, however, does not protect Vorayuth from criminal charges of causing death by reckless driving and fleeing to avoid arrest. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in jail and a fine of 20,000 baht ($666).
The payment from the extremely wealthy family is also unlikely to quell public outrage over the incident and an initial attempt to cover up Vorayuth's alleged involvement by arresting a bogus suspect.
The family was ranked fourth richest in the country this year by Forbes magazine with a net worth of $5.4 billion. They own a wide range of businesses, including shares in the energy drink brand, hospitals, real estate and the sole authorized importer of Ferrari cars in Thailand. The car involved in the accident was valued at about 30 million baht ($1 million).
"3 million baht is too little ... how could a sports car be more expensive than a man's life?" a commentator said on a popular Thai Web forum, pantip.com.
"His wrecked Ferrari should have been sold and the money should be added to the compensation money," another forum user wrote.
It is not uncommon for the rich and privileged to get away with crimes in Thailand.
Investigators are waiting for forensic test results before possibly adding more charges against Vorayuth, including speeding, drunken driving and drug use. No date has been set for a trial.
Deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner Anuchai Lekbamroong answers questions from reporters regarding the arrest of Vorayuth Yoovidhya, a grandson of the creator of the Red Bull energy drink, at the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Bureau in Bangkok, Thailand on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
In this photo taken on Sept. 3, 2012, Thai police officers look at a motorcycle and a Ferrari car that involved in a hit-and-run accident during the investigation at Thong Lor police station in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo)
A Thai police officer examines a damaged Ferrari in the garage of a home of Chaleo Yoovidhaya, the creator of the Red Bull energy drink on Monday, Sept. 3, 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo)
Vorayuth Yoovidhya, a grandson of late Red Bull founder Chaleo Yoovidhaya, is taken by a plain-clothes police officer for investigation on Monday, Sept. 3, 2012, in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo)