JD.com founder, CEO Richard Liu was detained on rape allegation, say US police

JD.com founder and CEO Liu Qiangdong Photo: IC

Liu Qiangdong, the billionaire founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of China’s e-commerce giant JD.com, is being investigated on a rape allegation in the US, the Minneapolis Police Department said on Tuesday as they continue to probe the incident.

Liu, who goes by Richard Liu in the English-speaking world, was arrested and released without any charges and without requirement of bail in what was initially described as “criminal sexual conduct” involving a Chinese student at the University of Minnesota, where he was enrolled to complete the American residency of a US-China business administration doctorate program.

Liu has returned to China since, and the police did not find evidence of wrongdoing after an investigation, according to a statement released by JD.com on Monday.

On Tuesday morning, Liu appeared at JD.com headquarters in Beijing, where he attended a signing ceremony with its business partner Ruyi Group.

A group photograph released by JD.com shows that Liu is smiling and flanked by Qiu Yafu, chairman of Ruyi, and executives from both companies.

Minnesota police said the investigation is continuing.

“The investigation for the rape allegation against Liu Qiangdong is ongoing under the sex crimes division of the Minneapolis Police Department and has not been presented to the prosecutors,” said John Elder, public information officer for the department.

Asked why Liu was allowed to leave the country, Elder said he had not been charged with a crime. However, he said the police were “confident that we’ll be able to connect with Liu as it becomes necessary”.

Elder added that the results of the investigation could be announced as early as Friday.

Police have not outlined specific accusations against Liu, according to lawyer Joseph Friedberg, whom JD.com confirmed as representing the billionaire.

Friedberg said that his team was awaiting details from the authorities before deciding on the next steps, and that he did not think there would be charges filed, according to media reports.

Shares of JD.com slumped about 6 percent, a 19-month low, on the Nasdaq in premarket trade on Tuesday as investors weighed the possible impact of Liu’s weekend arrest.

JD.com, backed by Walmart, Google, and Tencent, is China’s second-largest online shopping site, competing with larger rival Alibaba.

Liu founded the company about two decades ago. JD.com has been listed on the Nasdaq since 2014 and has grown to a valuation of around $45 billion. The site sells everything from appliances and apparel to groceries, and has a sprawling logistics network for quick delivery.

Liu has a net worth of $7.9 billion, according to Forbes.

Liu’s incident has sparked intense discussions on the Chinese social media. Many web users are circulating Liu’s mug shot online and speculating about the details of his case.

“I believe Liu was falsely accused. How could a famous entrepreneur like him do such a shameless thing? He must be the victim of a conspiracy designed to discredit a prominent tech company with potential to compete with US groups,” one Weibo user nicknamed Bingdian said.

Liu and his wife, Zhang Zetian, who is 19 years younger than Liu, are one of the most high-profile couples in China’s business circles. Zhang shot to fame after their marriage and is known in China “Sister Milk Tea” after a photo of her in her schooldays holding a cup of milk tea. The couple have a young daughter and are frequently seen together in public.

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