FILE - This 2018 file photo provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office in Minneapolis shows Chinese billionaire Liu Qiangdong, also known as Richard Liu, the founder of the Beijing-based e-commerce site JD.com, who was arrested Aug. 31, 2018, in Min

Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP, File

No US charges against Chinese billionaire in alleged assault

December 21, 2018 - 4:28 pm
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota prosecutors said Friday that Chinese billionaire Richard Liu will not face charges after a woman accused him of rape while he was attending a University business program in August.

Liu, founder of the Beijing-based e-commerce site JD.com, was arrested Aug. 31 on suspicion of felony rape and released within hours. He returned to China.

Prosecutors said that "profound evidentiary problems" would have made it "highly unlikely" that any charge could have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

In a statement, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that as prosecutors 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."

Liu was in Minneapolis for a weeklong residency as part of the University of Minnesota's doctor of business administration China program. The four-year program in the university's management school is geared toward high-level executives in China and is a partnership with Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management.

Liu's attorneys have said he is innocent. JD.com has said Liu was falsely accused.

Liu, known in Chinese as Liu Qiangdong, is a prominent member of the Chinese tech elite, with a fortune of $7.5 billion. He is part of a generation of entrepreneurs who have created China's internet, e-commerce, mobile phone and other technology industries since the late 1990s. The son of peasants, Liu built a Beijing electronics shop into JD.com, China's biggest online direct retailer, selling everything from clothes to toys to fresh vegetables.

He has continued to lead the company since his arrest.

On the night of the alleged attack, Liu and other executives went to Origami, a Japanese restaurant in Minneapolis. The alleged victim, a Chinese citizen who is studying at the University of Minnesota on a student visa, went to the dinner as a volunteer and, her attorney Wil Florin said, felt coerced to drink as the powerful men toasted her.

Text messages reviewed by The Associated Press and portions of the woman's interviews with police show the woman claims Liu dragged her into a vehicle and made advances, despite her protests. The woman texted a friend: "I begged him don't. But he didn't listen." She said he raped her at her apartment.

The alleged victim has not been publicly identified. She is still enrolled at the university, Florin said.

Liu had recently tried to distance himself from sexual assault allegations against a guest at a 2015 party at his penthouse in Australia. Liu was not charged or accused of wrongdoing, but Australian media reported he tried unsuccessfully to get a court to prevent the release of his name in that case. The guest was convicted and sentenced to prison in October.

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