With a net worth of over $7 billion, Liu 'Richard' Qiangdong, founder and CEO of Chinese e-commerce company JD.com, is China's 20th richest man.
Liu's fortune is derived from his 15% stake in JD.com, China's second-largest e-commerce company. JD.com had more than 220 million active customers and 157,830 employees at the end of 2017, according to its 2017 annual report. It had revenue of 365 billion yuan ($53.7 billion) in 2017.
According to arrest records, Liu Qiangdong, who uses the English name Richard, was arrested in Minneapolis and brought in at 11:32 p.m. Friday on an accusation of “criminal sexual conduct” and released just over 16 hours later.
As Bloomberg reports, Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder declined to provide any further details about the reasons for the arrest, but said authorities decided not to keep Liu in custody and haven’t imposed any travel restrictions on him while conducting their investigation.
“We are very much in the infancy of this investigation,” Elder said. Authorities may decide not to charge Liu at all, he added.
“There are no travel restrictions on him at the moment and he’s not charged with a crime at this time.”
Upon release, the billionaire flew swiftly back to the 'safety' of his home country, China. According to JD.com's official Weibo (social media) account, the company claims that US police found no misconduct in their probe, but failed to explain how that assertion squared with the police's own statement of an ongoing investigation.
As Bloomberg reports, police haven’t outlined specific accusations against Liu, said Joseph Friedberg, who JD confirmed as representing the billionaire. His team was now awaiting details from the authorities before deciding on next steps, and Friedberg wouldn’t elaborate further.
“No one has told him or us what the accusations are,” he said in a phone interview.
“If he were to be charged -- and I don’t think there is any possibility of that -- he would certainly come back to face charges.”
Most intriguingly, however, Bloomberg points out that earlier this year, a guest at a party Liu hosted in downtown Sydney was convicted of sexually assaulting a fellow guest after the event. There was no accusation of any misconduct by Liu. The billionaire lost a legal attempt to keep his name out of the records. Over the weekend, JD said it will take legal action against the publishing of untrue reports or rumors.
Liu's net worth has fallen dramatically in the last few months (from over $10bn to 'just' $7.3bn currently) as the share price of his company has plunged relative to other tech stocks...
And, as Mark Natkin, managing director of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting, notes, things may be about to get worse after these allegations: "Investors may treat the stock cautiously for the next short while as they wait to see how this issue is resolved."