he billionaire founder of one of China’s largest internet companies was arrested last week in Minnesota for alleged sexual misconduct, spending the night in jail before being released the following afternoon.
Liu Qiangdong (Richard Liu), the 44-year-old founder and CEO of JD.com, was brought into a police station in Minneapolis at 11:32 pm on August 31st on suspicion of “criminal sexual conduct.” He was then released at 4:05 pm on September 1st.
Founded by Liu in 1998, JD.com is Alibaba’s primary rival and China’s second-largest e-commerce company. Boasting backers that include Google, Walmart, and Tencent, the company claims 300 million active users and a net revenue of 362.3 billion yuan ($53 billion) in 2017. Liu’s own net worth is estimated at $7.33 billion by Bloomberg.
Over the weekend, JD.com released a statement on Weibo defending Liu, claiming that the company’s founder had been falsely accused and that police had found that no misconduct occurred. In addition, JD.com also threatened legal action against those publishing false reports and rumors.
But, contrary to the company’s statement, Minneapolis police have not actually cleared Liu of wrongdoing and have instead said that they are currently investigating the allegation against him. However, police have not set any travel restrictions on Liu.
Liu was apparently in Minneapolis because he is enrolled as a student at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management in its Doctor of Business Administration China program. As part of their residency, participants in the program were in town from August 26th to September 1st, a school spokeswoman told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Though police have released no details regarding the allegations against Liu, the Financial Times has reported that the case involves Liu and a Chinese student at the university, rumors that have also been spreading on Chinese social media.
Liu’s arrest comes as the billionaire is still trying to distance himself from a sexual assault that occurred at a party he hosted in his luxury Sydney penthouse in 2015. Liu was not charged or accused of any misconduct, however, he did end up losing a legal battle earlier this year to keep his name out of the records and the press.
Liu is married to 24-year-old Zhang Zetian, an internet icon who rose to nationwide fame when a photo of her holding a cup of milk tea went viral. “Milk Tea Sister” and Liu met while they were studying in New York City and later married in Australia. They have one daughter together.