Minnesota prosecutors will not charge the billionaire chief executive officer of China’s JD.com Inc, Richard Liu, after he was accused of rape by a University of Minnesota student during a recent U.S. visit, authorities said on Dec. 21.
Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said there were “profound evidentiary problems which would have made it highly unlikely that any criminal charge could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In a statement, Freeman said that after an investigation by Minneapolis police and a review by four senior sexual assault prosecutors, it was clear his office could not meet its burden of proof, and therefore could not bring charges.
“Because we do not want to re-victimize the young woman, we will not be going into detail,” Freeman said.
The 45-year-old Liu, who grew JD.com from a humble electronics stall to an e-commerce giant with 2017 net revenues of $55.7 billion and maintains tight control of the company, was released without charge about 17 hours after he was arrested on Aug. 31. He quickly returned to China, where he has continued to run the company. His representatives have maintained his innocence after the woman from China studying at the University of Minnesota accused him of rape.
JD.com shares extended gains on Friday after news spread of the decision not to prosecute, and closed up 5.9 percent.
The case has attracted extreme interest in China.
The decision not to bring charges was a big relief for Liu, who could have faced as many as 30 years in prison under Minnesota law if convicted of first-degree criminal sexual misconduct.
On Friday, Freeman said the three months it took his office to review Liu’s case was not unusual for a sexual assault investigation, especially one in which no one was in custody.
A lawyer for the student who accused Liu blasted Friday’s decision, saying it showed why victims of sexual assault feared coming forward, and questioning why prosecutors waited to issue a release until late on the Friday before the Christmas holiday.
The investigators “never met this victim; they never spoke to this victim; they never sought to meet with her lawyers,” the attorney, Wil Florin, said in a statement. “Her story will be told. On her behalf we will not permit her dignity to be simply swept under the rug.”
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Florin’s statement.
Usually based in Beijing, Liu made the U.S. trip for a weeklong residency program at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, which runs a doctor of business administration program with China’s elite Tsinghua University.
On the evening of Aug. 31, Liu went to a private dinner at a local restaurant. The alleged victim, who was sitting beside Liu and was the only woman among the ten people in the party, is a 22-year-old Chinese student and model attending the same university.
After the diners consumed 32 bottles of wine late into the night, Liu offered to drive the alleged victim back to her apartment.
The victim called the police to report that she had been raped and Liu was arrested early the next day.
The University of Minnesota said it had no comment on Friday’s announcement by authorities.
The decision to not prosecute followed criticism of Minneapolis authorities, including Freeman’s office, for what some see as a failure to pursue sexual assault cases adequately.
Liu’s public activities go beyond conventional business.
Liu is known to be a vocal advocate for the Chinese Communist Party. Liu has a seat in the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and has given talks about communism.
He is a member of the China Democratic National Construction Association, an organization that promotes the Chinese Communist Party’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
The Chinese regime may be affording Liu preferential treatment and has been paying close attention to Liu’s case. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a Sept. 3 press briefing that the Chinese Consulate General in Chicago was keeping an eye on the case, and was in contact with the relevant U.S. organizations for updates on the situation. It is rare for Beijing to take such public interest in the fate of a Chinese businessman overseas.
Moreover, news about Liu’s arrest is censored in China. While Liu’s mugshot spread quickly across social media, all state-owned media removed their reports on his case.
By Lawrence Delevingne & Koh Gui Qing. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.