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 after Alibaba.
As we reported over the weekend, arrest records showed that 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 an unknown “criminal sexual conduct” and released just over 16 hours later at which time he flew back to China.
Now more details have emerged over the arrest and as Bloomberg reports, the JD.com founder is under investigation for a suspected rape in a weekend incident that led to his arrest in Minnesota, local police say.
Liu Qiangdong, who uses the English name Richard, is a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota and was in Minneapolis for his studies, the college confirmed. The case involves a Chinese student at the school, according to the Financial Times and the Star-Tribune.
Police responded to a location Friday night, found Liu and another individual, took photos and arrested the CEO, Elder said. Police declined to specify the location.
After the Chinese billionaire was arrested over "criminal sexual conduct" he was then released just 16 hours later, according to arrest records. Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder said the case is being investigated as a rape, but authorities decided not to keep Liu in custody and haven’t imposed any travel restrictions while conducting their investigation.
Upon his release, Liu, 45, returned to China and was at work Tuesday.
According to Bloomberg, police have the authority to hold a suspect for 36 hours, not including Sundays and holidays, without a charge, but if the investigation is expected to take longer, they can release a suspect earlier, Elder said. Police said they are confident they can reach Liu when necessary, he added.
“We are very much in the infancy of this investigation,” Elder said. Authorities may decide not to charge Liu at all, he added.
As we reported on Sunday, JD previously said on its official Weibo social media account that U.S. police found no misconduct in their probe against Liu. It didn’t explain how that assertion squared with the police statement about an ongoing investigation. In the Weibo post, the company had said Liu will continue a scheduled business trip.
Police haven’t outlined the accusations against Liu, said his attorney Joseph Friedberg. The lawyer, who JD confirmed as representing the billionaire, said Liu was neither questioned nor told why he was under arrest. Elder, the police spokesman, said it was “absolutely” standard practice to tell people what they were accused of when arrested.
“I find it to be preposterous,” he said of the claim that Liu had not been informed of accusations against him. “However, if there is a concern about the way our officers behaved we certainly would encourage them to exercise their client’s right to file a complaint about it.”
Friedberg, who said Liu appeared confused during a brief meeting, couldn’t confirm that the case involved a Chinese student at the university. Liu is registered as a student at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management in its Doctor of Business Administration program. Participants were in town from Aug. 26 through Saturday as part of their residency, a spokeswoman for the college said. Liu remains registered at the university, according to spokeswoman Caitlin Hurley.
“I’m very confident that there will be no criminal charges,” Friedberg said. “They realized that this whole thing was ridiculous and they turned him loose. They didn’t ask for his passport, they didn’t ask for any bail.”
“You can take that as gospel,” he added. Elder said however that the lack of bail or travel restrictions had no bearing on the potential seriousness of the charge.
Following the news of the CEO's arrest - and release - JD’s ADRs declined 6% to $29.43 at the close Tuesday in New York.
“Investors may treat the stock cautiously for the next short while as they wait to see how this issue is resolved,” said Mark Natkin, managing director of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting. “But I suspect it will likely not come to much and that it won’t have any major long-term impact on the stock.”
His wife Zhang Zetian is also famous in China, with some 1.5 million followers on Weibo. She was dubbed “Sister Milk Tea” after a photo of her holding the drink went viral on social media in the country.
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 and has plunged relative to other tech stocks.