JD.com’s billionaire CEO Richard Liu was arrested by Minneapolis police late Friday night on suspicion of alleged sexual misconduct. He was released yesterday afternoon around 4 p.m.
Today, JD.com, one of China’s largest online retailers, issued the following statement: “During a business trip to the United States, Mr. Liu was questioned by police in Minnesota in relation to an unsubstantiated accusation. The local police quickly determined there was no substance to the claim against Mr. Liu, and he was subsequently able to resume his business activities as originally planned.”
John Elder, public information officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, tells us the investigation remains active but he wasn’t able to share many further details, telling us he isn’t aware of when Liu arrived into the Minneapolis metropolitan area and that he isn’t authorized to say when the complaint against Liu was received. As for why Liu was detained for 16 hours instead of the 36 hours the local police department is authorized to hold a person before charging them or releasing them and continuing an investigation, Elder said the investigator “decided it wasn’t necessary to hold onto him, that we can conduct a fair and thorough investigation” without having Liu in custody. Elder added that more people are typically held the duration than released, but that it’s “not uncommon.”
According Minnesota’s state statute, sexual misconduct is defined as a range of things that can lead to anything from a felony charge to a gross misdemeanor charge. Among these is a sexual act with a person under 13 years of age, if the actor is more than three years older than the complainant; a sexual act between someone who is under 16 years of age with an actor who is more than four years older; circumstances at the time of a sexual act that cause the complainant to have a reasonable fear of imminent great bodily harm; an accomplice who uses force or coercion to induce an act with the complainant; and if the actor knows or has reason to know that the complainant is mentally impaired, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless.
Asked if JD’s statement in any way interferes with the police department’s investigation, Elder says it does not. “People can say whatever they’d like. As with any investigation, this is a case and we’ll bring it through to fruition just like we do every other case.” This means deciding whether or not, based on the police department’s investigation, to refer the case for charge to either the city attorney’s office or the Hennepin County attorney’s office, which would then file paperwork through a district court.
JD.com’s rise in China has largely been unstoppable, though its newest quarterly earnings report fell short of Wall Street expectations, owing in part to heightened competition from rival Alibaba. The company, which claims to have more than 300 million customers, is regularly profiled by local and international media outlets, with the love life of Liu a particular point of fascination.
Not all of that attention has been desirable. Liu, who was married in 2015 and has two children, reportedly tried to distance himself from a sexual assault that was alleged to have taken place the same year at his penthouse in Australia. According to the New York Times, one of his guests, a property development professional, was found guilty of seven charges, including having sex with his accuser without her consent. Though Liu wasn’t accused of any wrongdoing, the Times reports that he asked an Australian court to prevent the release of his name by citing damage to his marriage and business. Last month, a judge rejected that request.
Like many of China’s new titans, Liu grew up poor. In a sit-down last fall with the Financial Times, he said he’d only tasted meat once or twice a year before going to college at age 18, instead eating corn-based products for months at a time, including “cornmeal porridge for breakfast, corn pancakes for lunch and dry cornbread for dinner — cornbread so tough it made your throat bleed.” The rest of the year they ate sweet potatoes. Today, the 45-year-old is reportedly worth nearly $8 billion.
In talking with the FT, Liu acknowledged JD.com’s fierce battle for customers with Alibaba without referring to the company by name. “Within five years I’m 100 percent sure we will be the largest B2C [business to consumer] platform in China — we will surpass any competitor.”
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