MINNEAPOLIS/NEW YORK-With the Chinese billionaire Richard Liu at her Minneapolis area apartment, a 21-year-old University of Minnesota student sent a WeChat message to a friend in the middle of the night. She wrote that Liu had forced her to have sex with him.
“I was not willing,” she wrote in Chinese on the messaging application around 2 a.m. on August 31. “Tomorrow I will think of a way to escape,” she wrote, as she begged the friend not to call police.
“He will suppress it,” she wrote, referring to Liu. “You underestimate his power.”
This WeChat exchange and another one have not been previously reported. One of the woman’s lawyers, Wil Florin, verified that the text messages came from her.
Liu, the founder of Chinese ecommerce giant JD.com Inc, was arrested later that day on suspicion of rape, according to a police report. He was released without being charged and has denied any wrongdoing through a lawyer. He has since returned to China and has pledged to cooperate with Minneapolis police.
Jill Brisbois, a lawyer for Liu, said he maintains his innocence and has cooperated fully with the investigation.
As the second-largest e-commerce website in the country after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, JD.com has attracted investors such as Walmart Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and China’s Tencent Holdings.
‘It Was a Trap’
Liu was in Minneapolis briefly to attend a business doctoral program run jointly by the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and China’s elite Tsinghua University.
Liu threw a dinner party on August 30 for about two dozen people, including around 20 men, at Origami Uptown, a Japanese restaurant in Minneapolis.
Liu, who Forbes estimates is worth about $6.7 billion, ordered sashimi by pointing his finger at the first item on the menu and sweeping it all the way down to indicate he wanted everything, one restaurant employee said.
Security video footage from the restaurant shows the group toasted each other throughout the night. Later the woman told a second friend in one of the messages that she felt pressured to drink that evening.
“It was a trap,” she wrote, later adding “I was really drunk.”
The party ended around 9:30 p.m. The tab: $2,200, the receipt shows.
Liu and the woman then headed to a house in Minneapolis. But they did not go in. Liu and the student were seen outside the house before Liu pulled her into his hired car, a person with knowledge of the incident said.
They ended up back at her apartment, according to sources with knowledge of the matter. According to the police report, the alleged rape occurred at around 1 a.m.
The woman subsequently reached a fellow University of Minnesota student who notified the police. Minneapolis police came to her apartment early that morning while Liu was there, but made no arrests, another source familiar with the situation said.
In a WeChat message with one of her friends, she asked her friend why the billionaire would be interested in “an ordinary girl” like her.
“If it was just me, I could commit suicide immediately,” she wrote. “But I’m afraid that my parents will suffer.”
By Friday morning, she also wrote to one of her two friends that she had told several people about what had happened, including the police, a few friends and at least one teacher.
Later than day, the student went to a hospital to have a sexual assault forensic test, the source said.
Police officers arrived at a University of Minnesota office shortly after an emergency call around 9 p.m that night. The student was present at the office, alongside school representatives, and accused Liu of rape, the source said.
Liu came to the university office around 11 p.m. while police were there, according to the person familiar with the matter. As an officer handcuffed him, Liu showed no emotion. He was released about 17 hours later.
Within days, Liu was back in China, which has no extradition treaty with the United States.
By Koh Gui Qing and Lawrence Delevingne