Minnesota police briefly arrested the CEO of e-commerce giant JD.com, and one of China’s richest men, on suspicion of sexual misconduct. The businessman has been released pending complaint.
Liu Qiangdong, founder and CEO of JD.com, an online shopping site that has drawn investments from Google and Walmart, was arrested by Minneapolis police on Friday about midnight and released the next afternoon. The billionaire has been dubbed the “Jeff Bezos of China” and has been a prime challenger to Jack Ma’s Alibaba e-commerce empire.
No complaint has been filed against Liu, who goes by the Americanized name of Richard in the US. As grounds for his arrest, Hennepin County records list “probable cause,” which is American legal speak for a “reasonable” amount of suspicion that the allegations are probably true – but not in itself enough for a criminal conviction.
The details and severity of the offense Liu had been implicated in has not been revealed.
Liu, whose net worth of $ 9.4 billion earned him the Forbes rank of 18th richest Chinese man last year, was released without bail and is free to leave the city, state and even the country, police said.
Police spokesman John Elder told the Wall Street Journal, that law enforcement is “confident” that they will be able to reach the Chinese national “as the time becomes necessary.”
After the CEO’s release, JD.com issued a statement on Chinese social media network Weibo on Sunday, arguing that allegations against the company’s CEO were “false” and police quickly determined that there were no merit to the claims, allowing Liu to continue his business trip as originally intended.
The company warned it “will take necessary legal action against false reporting.”
However, the commentary section has been immediately flooded with screenshots from the sheriff’s office jail roster, with users calling the company out for misrepresenting the police report in an attempt at damage control.
While the businessman himself has not issued any comment regarding the allegations or the purpose of his trip to Minnesota, the University of Minnesota has confirmed that Liu was studying for a doctor degree and traveled to Minnesota to complete the residency part of his business leadership curriculum among other students. The program Liu had signed up to was established in a partnership with a Chinese university.
Although Liu has never faced allegations of being involved in any sex crime before, his name got in the news in connection with a sexual assault of a woman in his estate in Australia in December 2015. Liu’s party guest Longwei Xu was found guilty of indecent assault on a woman in July this year. During the proceedings Liu requested that the prosecution hide his identity in the court papers, arguing that mentioning his name in connection with a rape trial would have marred his reputation.
However, the Sydney Morning Herald unmasked the billionaire in July after successfully overcoming Liu’s suppression bid in court.
JD.com has been regarded as one of Alibaba’s main competitor. In June, Alphabet’s Google invested $ 500 million into the company, providing it with an access to markets outside Asia by allowing it on its shopping service.
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