ollowing a lurid months-long saga, JD.com founder and CEO Richard Liu will not face criminal charges in the United States after being accused of rape by a 21-year-old Chinese university student.
The 45-year-old e-commerce billionaire was arrested in Minneapolis on August 31st on suspicion of “criminal sexual conduct – rape -completed.” He was released the following day without bail or travel restrictions. Soon, he was on a plane back to China.
However, the investigation into the accusation against Liu continued. On September 21st, local police turned their findings over to the prosecutor’s office of Hennepin County. For months, Chinese netizens have waited for a decision from prosecutors.
That decision finally came on Friday with Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announcing that criminal charges would not be pressed against Liu.
“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,” Freeman said in a statement. “Because we do not want to re-victimize the young woman, we will not be going into detail.”
Soon after the decision was released, Liu posted his own statement onto Weibo, apologizing first to his wife for what he called his “interactions” with his accuser. “I feel deep regret and remorse,” he wrote. “I hope she can accept my sincere apology.” Liu went on to add that he will now rededicate himself to his work to make JD.com an even better company in the future.
Liu was in Minneapolis in August as part of a weeklong summer residency for an expensive business PhD program offered to elite Chinese professionals by the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
According to an investigative report from the local Star Tribune newspaper, the anonymous student, a volunteer who had helped the program’s members during their time in Minnesota, had accused Liu of encouraging her to drink at a farewell party before using his car to drive her home. The student claims that Liu followed her into her apartment and started pulling off her clothes. When she protested, the student said that Liu responded by telling her that she could be the Wendi Deng to his Rupert Murdoch.
“We were battling against each other on the bed and finally I escaped from him and went back to the living room and put the bra back on again,” the student told police. “Finally, he just threw me onto the bed. He was on me. He was heavy. I tried to push him away. But he was on top of me… and then he raped me.”
While Liu will not face criminal charges, the student’s attorney has strongly suggested that he will be tried in civil court where there is a lower standard of proof.
“A civil jury will determine whether Mr. Liu, JD.com and their representatives should be held accountable,” said attorney Wil Florin in a text message to Bloomberg. “If anyone cares to know why victims of sexual assault are hesitant and fearful to come forward to authorities seeking justice for what has been done to them, look no further than the manner in which this was handled. On her behalf, we will not permit her dignity to be simply swept under the rug.”
Such a civil trial would not bode well for JD.com, which has already seen $15 billion of its market value wiped out since September. Liu’s arrest has been one of the hottest topics of conversation on Chinese social media this year with his mugshot plastered on all corners and with netizens gossiping over what this means for the tycoon’s high-profile marriage to Zhang Zetian, a 24-year-old internet icon dubbed China’s “Milk Tea Sister” after having first caught the nation’s eye in a viral photo showing her with a cup of milk tea in hand.
The two have been married since 2015 and have a daughter together. They made their first public appearance together following Liu’s arrest at the royal wedding of Princess Eugenie at Windsor Castle in October.