Chinese billionaire and JD.com CEO Richard Liu will not face sexual assault charges, say Minnesota prosecutors
- He was arrested August 31 on suspicion of felony rape and released
- Liu expresses ‘deep regret and remorse’ after prosecutors decide it is ‘highly unlikely’ any charge could have been proven beyond reasonable doubt
Chinese billionaire Richard Liu Qiangdong will not face felony rape charges in the US as prosecutors announced on Friday that their investigation turned up insufficient evidence to follow through.
Liu, the 45-year-old founder of Beijing-based e-commerce site JD.com, was arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on August 31 after a woman accused him of rape while he was attending a university business programme in August. Liu was released the next day and returned to China hours later.
“It was determined there were profound evidentiary problems which would have made it highly unlikely that any criminal charge could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” according to a statement released by Minnesota’s Hennepin County Attorney’s office.
“As we reviewed surveillance video, text messages, police body camera video and witness statements, it became clear that we could not meet our burden of proof and, therefore, we could not bring charges,” the statement quoted Hennepin County lawyer Mike Freeman as saying.
“Because we do not want to re-victimise the young woman, we will not be going into detail,” Freeman said.
Liu would have faced a prison sentence of up to 30 years if he was charged and convicted. JD.com has said Liu was falsely accused. The company’s shares plunged nearly 16 per cent in two days of trading on the Nasdaq exchange after Liu’s arrest, and have since fallen another 24 per cent.
“We are pleased to see this decision,” JD.com said in a statement on its website.
Liu posted a statement on his social media account saying his interactions with the woman had hurt his family, especially his wife. He said he felt “deep regret and remorse”, and hoped his wife could accept his “sincere apology”.
The lawyer for the student said the woman was planning to sue, in a statement issued after Minnesota prosecutors decided on Friday not to charge Liu. Lawyer Wil Florin said a civil jury should determine whether Liu, JD.com and their representatives “should be held accountable for the events of that night”.
Liu was in Minneapolis to take classes at the University of Minnesota, where he was enrolled at the school’s Carlson School of Management to complete the American residency of a US-China business administration doctorate programme.
Liu’s accuser is a 21-year-old student at the university. She has not been publicly identified.
She accompanied Liu and some of his associates to dinner at a Minneapolis restaurant on August 30 and rode to her home with him afterwards, according to background provided in the prosecutor’s statement.
“In the early morning of August 31, a fellow student and friend of the woman’s, called the police. Officers arrived at the woman’s apartment where they spoke to her and to Liu,” it said.
“Based on the information they learned from the woman that night, officers ended the call and took Liu back to his hotel. Liu was arrested later that day at the University of Minnesota,” according to the statement.
Headquartered in Beijing, Liu’s JD.com is one of the biggest online e-commerce platforms in China, based on transaction volume and revenue. The company was included in this year’s list of companies being honoured at the World Internet Conference for its achievements in smart supply chain management.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s statement said its decision “had nothing to do with Liu’s status as a wealthy, foreign businessman, nor did the county attorney’s office consider rumours involving Liu or the victim after the investigation was complete”.
The billionaire has kept a low profile since he returned to China, compared to his appearances before his arrest in August.
Liu did not attend last month’s World Internet Conference in the picturesque canal-lined town of Wuzhen, an event promoted by China’s top leaders including President Xi Jinping. The tech founder took part in a forum in last year’s edition of the conference.
Liu was not among the top private business leaders invited to meet with Xi at a symposium last month, which included the founders and chief executives of Tencent Holdings, Baidu, Xiaomi and Alibaba Group Holding.
He was also not among the Communist Party’s list of private entrepreneurs honoured for their contributions on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up. In late September, he was a no-show at the AI World 2018 conference in Shanghai.
Before the arrest, Liu made his first appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January. Speaking at a lunch for about 50 people including Adidas Group chief executive Kasper Rorsted and Walmart’s US chief Greg Foran, Liu told those gathered about how he overcame poverty and came to start and build JD.com.
Alibaba, which competes with JD.com in e-commerce, is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.
Additional reporting by Associated Press